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I had no idea cell phones were such a hot-button topic. Until I wrote
last week’s column

“Celling Out,”

I thought it could just me being cranky. Then, the same day that column
appeared, I happened to see an absolutely IRATE national survey, even
more extreme than my own petty personal wireless antipathies: 56 percent
of New Yorkers would prefer to VISIT THE DENTIST than sit next to
someone talking on a cell phone! Wow! Shades of “Marathon Man!” What a
visceral image that is!

Yet, ready or not, here they come! More than half of all Americans are
expected to have wireless phones by 2003, an alarming industry
projection by ***Cellular One*** http://www.cellularone.com. Like it or
lump it. That means without a doubt that we will be treated to galloping
rises in inappropriate use of cell phones, endless breaches of taste,
decency, and confidentiality. “Many wireless users need to improve their
phone etiquette and put people ahead of phone calls,” writes Frances
Ingraham in the Albany Times Union. Thankfully, if you believe behavior
maven Emily Post’s great-granddaughter-in-law Peggy — who advises
NEVER put a cell phone on a table during a meal — there’s allegedly an
entire branch of etiquette emerging around these insidious devices,
though you might never know it from your own observations.

The ensuing mail I’ve gotten from WND readers regarding the Technology
of Talk has been eye opening. Psychologists, legislative aides,
cartoonists, conspiracy theorists, all with something really pithy to
say about cell phones and larger issues of privacy, surveillance, and
other communications conundrums. Am I on a crusade? Maybe. Luddites of
the world, unite, before it is too late. Bring back carrier pigeons.
Bring back two tin cans on a string! Bring back tom-toms! Better yet,
bring back … authentic face-to-face conversation, the most arcane
artifact of all! Hurry up, please; it’s time!


PEEVISH

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of my pet peeves. I detest cell
phones, I detest people (all genders) banging their phones etc. on the
table for us all to inspect their wares. I detest walking down the
street while some loudmouthed moron talks to himself. I detest being in
a theatre, movie, restaurant while the dratted phone rings and
pratt-head carries on a loud conversation. If I wanted the phone I could
stay home!

Time to unite and get phones banned in restaurants, theatres, etc. Tell
restaurant owners the rest of us will leave/never return if they don’t
ban phones. In movies/theatres we will all publicly humiliate and drive
out the offender!

Ban the cell phone!!! Even the cute purple one!

Pam


RENT A SPY

Would you welcome a government agent following you around keeping track
of your every location? How about the government listening to your phone
calls? Sound exciting? How about the government doing all the above and
sending you the bill?

The electronics exist today for the government to use any cellular phone
in use or even turned on to locate you. See the movie U.S. Marshals if
you want to see it in use. I did not learn of it from that movie. I
already knew of it.

The NSA using its Echelon program has the ability to intercept any
phone, fax, or e-mail message. Using satellites and foreign governments
as allies, it can extend this surveillance to this country. Government
even has the arrogance to require phone makers to make it easier to
listen in. Such demands are being made by the Justice Department
regarding future legislation.

Welcome to the Brave New World of Slick Willie et al.

Preview of future attraction: computers are being developed today that
with video cameras will be able to recognize anyone in a public place,
so as to be able to follow people, keep records of their locations and
thus surveil everyone. Reno uber alles.

Why should this surprise you when Reno used “drug forfeiture money” to
buy the most secure cellular phone system in the world, sell it to the
Chinese military and have the DNC pocket the proceeds? Welcome to 1999.

John


COMMUTING HAZARD

Just read your column on cell phones, and I had to say, brava!

I have to commute close to an hour each way to work and have now learned
to identify those who are busy yammering on the phone by the
particularly stupid (but not yet fatal, to my witnessing) patterns of
behavior of the cars of these folks.

I keep swearing that I’m going to make up a sign saying, “GET OFF THE
PHONE,” both frontways and backwards (for rear-view mirrors) to hold up.
I think I could sell ‘em for a buck apiece and make a mint….

Vance


CONCERNED SPOUSE

Unfortunately, [my wife] is one of the people you described in your
column. She conducts a significant amount of business from her car. I
believe her life would be a lot less hectic if she would just stop
somewhere and retrieve her voice-mail and make her calls. It’s just a
matter of time before she has an accident, and you and I both know there
are no “accidents.” I worry about her all the time. You made some
excellent points; I hope people will read and heed them.

Bob


PENDING LEGISLATION

There is a bill pending in the New Jersey Assembly to bar cell phone use
while driving. Introduced in December of ’98, it seems to be dead for
now. Possibly because some of the state’s biggest employers are phone
companies. Ya think?

Stan


KNEW IT

I knew I hated cell phones (and I don’t have one) and not just because
they are connected with brain tumors and leukemia!

Meg


CELLULAR FUN

Any time I must pass a “celluliting” motorist on the right, my horn is
activated from the time my car nears his rear bumper until I pass his
front bumper.

This accomplished two things: First, it gets his attention. Second, it
makes me feel good knowing he will need to explain to whomever he is
talking to why someone is giving him the horn.

Next project: idiots who put their trash in the backs of their pick ups
and act like it is an act of God when the c— blows out!

Don


BUYING SELF-IMPORTANCE

Yep. Hisses me off too. Self-importance should be earned, not
purchased….

Fang


NOT YET

It’s OK for other people. Like being Catholic. As a mental health
counselor you might think I would want one. Actually, however, sometimes
I turn off my phone even at home. Someday I’m reasonably sure I’ll have
one. But at this point I think “for what !?” [So far,] no one has yet
hit me with a convincing cells-pitch.

Gordon


TOO PUBLIC

Yeah, I’m also not amused by public demonstrations of cell phone
conversations. My first reaction is, “Sure thing pal. You’re engaged in
some ‘real’ important conversation that just can’t wait.”

Scott


INTRUSIVE

Right on (or left on?). Why would anyone want these intrusions into
their daily life? I love being away from my obnoxious, invasive phone.

Jana


CELL SNOBBERY

I use to feel the same way about people talking on cell phones; I
thought it rude and exhibitionary. Now I also own one…. In fact, I
now use my phone in public. It makes my life much easier. When I need
to change plans last minute, or make plans, or if I forgot to call my
sister and now I’m out, etc., I do not have to scramble for a pay phone
and pay high prices on the pay phone. In fact, the cell gives me 200
minutes of uncharged calling anywhere in the country. This has lowered
my regular phone bill by $20 a month.

I now do not think those people rude unless they are loud, just like
anyone else in the street — even person to person chatting on the top
of their lungs is offensive. I now question my previous view of cell
users being show-offs. I wonder if it came from ego? The times they are
a changing.

Mickey


WAITING GAME

You wrote: “Can’t you wait? If one of the signs of adult behavior is the
ability to defer gratification, then cell phones legitimize or at least
symbolize a society’s impatience with itself. No, apparently you can’t
wait.”

That explains a lot of what we see going on around us these days. No
surprise that a country comprised of self-centered snots focused on that
which is within immediate grasp is having difficulty conserving that
which made it all possible.

I believe we are born with a small, round empty place in our soul that
we are compelled to fill in our lifetimes. Ever get the impression that
you’re surrounded by a bunch of damn frustrated angry toddlers
attempting to pound little square toy pegs into round holes with their
little toy hammers?

Steve


OVERBOARD?

Wow, really some people are hot over this issue. Very interesting. It
seems society will have to make adjustments. Banning their use in public
places is a dictator mind set. Maybe make designated places where they
are acceptable to use publicly. What about boom boxes — aren’t they
more annoying, or loud car radios, when waiting for the light to change
at 3 a.m.? I am woken up by loud car radios; no one on a cell phone ever
woke me up. But [banning] them seems overboard — it’s just someone
talking on the phone. What’s the big deal? Next will people want to ban
bright colored clothes: “Look, an exhibitionist!! Get him!”

Lenny


IS THIS A WATCH-BIRD, WATCHING YOU?

Hopefully, you [had] a good weekend. Were you alone? Cable TV exists
with the capacity to turn each TV set into a TV camera with the watching
being the watched. Now were you alone? Are you sure?

Jack

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