Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

16 January 2007

Why I Hate Cell Phones

My hatred of cell phones has already been documented. These people here in Guanaja just cannot do without their phones. The urgency with which they respond to a ringing telephone is hilarious. Just this morning, I had called Danette, the woman who does our accounting (but who lives/works down on the island known as Banacca Town, separate from our cay). My call went straight to her voice mail. Assuming she was busy and because it wasn’t all that important, I didn’t leave a message. I knew she’d see the call on the Caller-ID and call me back at her convenience.

I left my phone on charge in the main dining room and went down to the boathouse to check on some work being done. All of a sudden, here comes our cook Daniel, running excitedly down the path, my cell phone in his extended hand. And I thought to myself, Did somebody die? Is George Bush finally returning my call? The Pope? Did I finally win the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes?

“It’s Danette!” Daniel said breathlessly. (Oh, they are brother and sister, by the way.)

“Sorry Bob,” she said, laughing. “I was in the bathroom when I heard the phone ring, but I wasn’t going to answer it.”

“Good for you!” I said. “I wouldn’t have answered it either.”

Then I launched into a long tirade (wasting her minutes) about how our two foremen will stop their boats dead in the water if their cell phones ring – even though the trip they’re on may only take five minutes. By God, they HAVE to answer that phone! Miss a call? Heaven forbid! Let no call go to voice mail!

(Unlike driving a car, when you’re driving your boat you cannot hear on your cell phone very well, and the wind noise rushing past the mic will render conversation from your side useless. But we will have cars here eventually. I can only imagine how bad things will be then.)

She agreed wholeheartedly. More often than not, when I call her the phone either just rings off the hook or the call goes straight to voice-mail. Do I care? Not a bit. She always calls me back.

Remember the television series, “Star Trek?” If it had been a documentary, we would have seen an exchange like this:

SPOCK: “Bridge to Captain Kirk.”
KIRK (to himself, sighing): “Goddamit! Every time I come into the bathroom that stupid communicator goes off. What is there, a switch in here or something? Well I am not answering it. Screw ‘em, let Spock handle whatever it is.”
SPOCK (arching one eyebrow at the captain’s unresponsiveness and logically assuming that Kirk is “indisposed”: “Uhh, nevermind, Captain. It’s not important. Please get back to us when you’re finished dealing with the Klingons.”
KIRK (chuckling to himself at Spock’s lame half-human attempt at making a pun): “Boy we have good writing on this show. I hardly have to act at all! But then if that's true, why do I look like I'm working so hard at it?”

But no, “Star Trek” wasn’t real, sadly. And on t.v., actors never have to go to the bathroom. They do allow us to go to the bathroom, which is why commercial breaks were invented, of course. With all the crap on t.v., you’d think a bathroom scene would be perfectly appropriate.

And if series creator Gene Roddenberry had been from Guanaja, that scene would have gone something like this:

SPOCK: “Bridge to Captain Kirk.”
KIRK (immediately tapping the “Activate” button on his communicator): “Spock, I’m in the bathroom right now. But what is it? What can I do? How can I help? Are we being attacked?”
SPOCK: “No, Captain, please remain seated. But we do have another serious situation, something that demands your immediate attention. It appears that Lt. Uhura has a slight ear ache.”
KIRK: “Well, send her to sick-bay.”
SPOCK: “That would be logical.”
KIRK: “Yes, logical. Aren’t you supposed to be in charge when I’m not on the bridge? And anyway, didn't I tell you that I would only be gone for ten minutes?”
SPOCK: “Yes, Captain.”
KIRK: “Well…then…?”
SPOCK: “I just wanted to get your permission, Captain.”
KIRK: “Well, okay. Yes, you're right. Good-good. Thank you. Please keep me updated on any other events. Also, be sure to call me just as soon as the crew is done waxing the floor on the bridge.”
SPOCK: “Captain, that may be well after midnight. Even the stage hands will have gone home by then.”
KIRK: “Dammit man, I want to know!”
SPOCK: “Wilco, Captain. Spock out.”

Each “Star Trek” episode would have been three-hours long as the characters made such similar urgent communiques with each other.

And here in good old Guanaja, I still haven’t completely figured it out. I’m not sure what this obsession with making/taking calls is. Maybe it is a feeling of self-importance: “I need to be able to be gotten ahold of at any time of the day or night. And I need to be able to get ahold of anyone at any time of the day or night.”

Me on the other hand, I am so important that I do not need to make myself available to just anyone at anytime. You may not get ahold of me anytime you like. I know this sounds insufferably haughty or pompous, but enough of my time gets wasted every day just by trying to get things done here. I know how to use my voice-mail. Others can use it too. If I call you and I get your voice-mail, I assume that you’re in the bathroom. (Or maybe driving your boat and you don't want to stop...BWAAAAHAHAHAHAH...oh, I kill me.)

There are only a small handful of people whose calls I will take without fail: The Bossman (of course); my two foremen Devant and Lalo; Danette; and Roger, the head of the local power company (who’s our medevac coordinator). When I see those numbers on my Caller-ID I know it’s important. Anyone else – I’ll call them back. The trouble is, if someone calls you here, they will not stop at simply calling once and leaving it at that. They will call and call and call, every minute or two. By God, you WILL take my call! Oh, you think so, eh?

So why rehash all of this? Just more blog filler on an otherwise creatively slow day? Nope. Well, okay, maybe. But it is an endless source of amusement for me, seeing these guys and girls falling all over themselves just to answer a friggin’ phone. And I do like ranting about such stupid stuff.

Then today a friend sent me a story from CNN about a man who was severely burned in a California hotel room. The origin of the fire was traced to his cell phone! Now, they do qualify it by saying that the cell phone was “apparently” the cause. And it must be pointed out that the man was also apparently not using the phone at the time. Battery malfunction? Probably. I see a lawsuit in the making, probably being filed as we speak.

But a story like this…this one singular example…PROVES to me that cell phones are evil and must be removed from the planet at once.

Okay, I’m kidding obviously. I’ll be the first one to attest that cell phones are terrific tools, a wonderful invention. But they have their place and we must be judicious in their use.

Just don't try telling that to the people of Guanaja.


island girl said...

What I hate are the people who use their cell phones in public bathrooms. I am in there to do my business and I don't want to to have to listen to someone else's phone conversation.

Bob Barbanes said...

Island girl, there are many things in many places that I would prefer to *not* hear. Cell phone conversations is just one of them. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

But in my former life, it used to astound me how people would be in line at a grocery store, say, and be having a non-stop cell phone conversation all the way through the checkout process, without even acknowledging the checkout clerk! Pretty dang rude, if you ask me. (Haven't seen that down here in Honduras...yet.)

My generation viewed (and some of us still do view) the regular ol' telephone as an intrusion in our lives. We hated beepers, and the cell phone has become a necessary evil. On the other hand, younger people see being able to maintain such continuous and immediate contact with each other as a tremendous advantage. Like being there with the person without actually having to be there. In a way, I can understand it. Lucky for me, as schizophrenic as I am, I never have to worry about being alone (apologies to Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople for that line).

Cell phone mania: I wonder where it will all lead?

Anonymous said...

Pilot Bob:
Ok, ok. We get the point. But you should be a little more tolerant. After all, the folks in the good old U.S. of A. have had phones for all of their lives and don't know the discomfort of having to either communicate by VHF or not communicate at all!
I mean, 9 1/2 years ago when I arrived here there were a limited number of lines and phones. They worked poorly and service was bad. VHF was the only solution and then everyone and their brother knew your business (as if they don't now!)
The island only recently acquired cell phones, computers and internet cafes. What a wonderful thing for these people. But, like all people, they have a new "toy" to play with. Phone etiquette here is no better than in the states. People have not learned proper etiquette there either! I will never understand people going out to the theater, movies or restaurants and having to talk on their phone. Businesses are no better. You call a business now and your call is constantly forwarded and you never talk to a real person. Voice mail is frustrating in the states when I have important business to relay. Of course, I can understand using your voice mail here and that is your choice. There are plenty of times that this feature should be used.
So, lighten up. Give the islanders a break. They soon will tire of their new "toy" and be just as frustrated as you and will start to stop answering their phones. Also, they like to be recognized and this makes them feel important and essential. People here are tiny clams in a big sea and this makes them feel like the big shark!
Oh, by the way, when will you return my call? HA!
Your Island Friend, Sharon

La Gringa said...

Good rant, Bob. Now you are going to live longer!

Bob Barbanes said...

Ah Sharon. Give the islanders a break, eh? Yes, I could be more tolerant, but I'm trying to run a business here. And when I have 40 guys, all of whom seem to think it is their God-given right to contact me at any time of the day or night, weekday or weekend, for personal stuff, even when THEY are supposed to be working and not talking on a cellphone, I get a little testy!

Just yesterday I was given numerous messages to call two different people who were trying to get ahold of me (because they couldn't get through on my cell). "Very urgent!!" I was told. Uh-huh. All they wanted was to borrow money. Urgently, of course. And so I had to take time out of my Friday (our busiest day of the week) to deal with personal issues...AGAIN! People think that *their* urgency is *my* urgency and they are just wrong. And I'm getting so tired of it.

And so, as Leslie Gore sang in her 1963 Top-40 hit, (sing along with me now) It's My Bloggy And I'll Rant If I Want To, Rant If I Want To, Rant If I Want To!

Both of my foremen accept calls at literally all hours of the day. I am *trying* to stop this practice. But it's not easy. You're right, they're enthralled with their new toy.

In my former life, I lived in front of a computer and on the phone all day long. Believe me when I say that I'm well aware of how frustrating it can be to actually try to TALK to a real, live person. Huge waste of time. And I guess that is the crux of my complaint: People seem to think that time is not important. Not theirs, and certainly not mine. Like I say, hard to deal with when you're trying to run a business. I look forward to the day I can retire here and be so laid-back about everything that things like this won't bother me anymore. But for now they do.

Rant Mode: [OFF]

WolfieCR said...

when will they get tired of their new toy? obviously never .....and Bob let me tell you something...it could be much worse ....in Costa Rica the @#$@#$@#~!!!! disaster is the stupid text messages ..they cost 1/250 of a USD..so you could send 250 messages and it would cost 1 buck....the other day I almost killed my dad.......he sent me two messages within less than 5 minutes.......

unfortunately all I could think of was "if it is this frea!$@#$ urgent why dont you just call!" .......ah yeah....I was in the bathroom and didnt bring the cellphone with me

just remember, you are not crazy for thinking as you do regarding this and.....

its like when ANY plane lands.....anywhere in the US and you dont hear the usual "please remain seated till we arrive to the gate" because you hear hundreds of "hi...yeah I just got to the gate......"