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?

26 June 2008

Yet Another Cell Phone Rant

I guess I really don’t like talking to people on the phone all that much. It occurs to me that perhaps I really just don't like talking to people all that much.

But young people these days…and yes, I know just saying that makes me sound terribly old…but young people these days just loooove their cell phones. They talk on them constantly, yakking away incessantly, interminably. It seems that they cannot stay off their cell phones.

I flew up to New York City recently. As I waited for my flight to be called a young, 20-something guy was pacing back and forth in the gate area, talking on his cell phone to his girlfriend. I’m pretty sure it was his girlfriend because I heard him say (very loudly), “ARE YOU STUPID??” I’m not kidding. This gate conversation continued for a good 30 minutes (I like to be early). He was still talking on the phone, presumably to the same person, when he finally boarded the plane with the last few stragglers. I cannot say for sure when…or if…he finally shut the phone off. I thought to myself that he must have some kind of terrific battery in that phone. Mine never seems to last very long, even as sparingly as I use it.

Then the other day I was driving home from the airport. In the town of Milton, Florida I nearly bumped into a young Navy guy in a white Ford Explorer. (No, not the same guy-in-a-Ford-Explorer that I really did bump into some time ago.) This one was wearing a military flight suit and had obviously just come from the Whiting Field Navy Base. I nearly bumped into him because he began changing lanes from the right to the left – into a space occupied by my Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is not a small, hard-to-see car but it does have a nice, loud horn, thank goodness. This Mr. Ford Explorer/Navy Guy was busy talking on his cell phone and not paying attention to what he was doing, to wit: driving.

Mr. Navy Guy and I stayed even as we left Milton westbound on the four-lane Highway 90, and then southbound on two-lane Avalon Boulevard where he’d somehow gotten in front of me, a distance of perhaps five miles in heavy, stop-and-go traffic. The whole time I could see him holding the phone to his ear with his right hand, while his left hand was out the open driver’s window, gesturing animatedly (talking to his wife or girlfriend, I’m sure). He must have been steering with his knee, which explains why he almost ran into me during his inadvertent lane-change. We got onto I-10 and Mr. Navy Guy kinda/sorta accelerated up toward the speed limit and at that point I left him to carry on his highly-important phone conversation while being a hazard to all around him.

They have invented devices now that jam cell phones. Churches, auditoriums and movie theatres could certainly use them, if they weren't, you know, illegal (wink-wink). They blanket the crowd with a radio frequency that renders cell phones inoperative. What I want is a portable device that I can put in my car, so that I can jam the cellphones of the drivers around me. If someone marketed such a thing, I would buy it today. If it wasn't, you know, illegal.

I’m not exactly sure what it is about cell phones that I so dislike. Perhaps it’s because they are not user friendly. You have to hold the damn things up to your ear *just so* to hear them, and none of them seem loud enough for deaf ol’ me. Cell phone reception around Pensacola sucks to the point where dropped calls are still very common, no matter what people claim.

My friend Matt loves to call me while he’s driving. As we talk, our conversation is often accompanied and interrupted by various gaps, buzzes and other interference. Very frustrating, as in “extremely.” Plus, the microphones on most cellphones are what we in aviation call “area mics.” In other words, they don’t have to be close to the speaker’s mouth, and they’re not directional like the ones in our clunky old handsets used to be, if you remember those. These new ones pick up *all* noise and transmit it with the same volume as the person’s voice. Very annoying, especially if the person has their radio on or window open…or someone else in the car who’s also on his cell phone.

In fact, Matt got royally bitched-out the other day by his fiancée. He had just gone out to the store - a quick out-and-back. The trip had taken a little longer than it "should" have. Alisha was urgently trying to call him while he was on the phone with...me, now there's a surprise. Matt did not take her call, and she quite naturally assumed that he'd had a fatal accident. Those two cannot be out of sight of each other for more than five minutes without "checking-in" on the cell phone. The sad thing is (if that isn't sad enough) that I know plenty of other people who act the same way.

But I don’t much like talking on my home phone either. So maybe it’s not simple cellphoneophobia.

If you're going to see someone soon, you do *not* need to talk to them on the telephone.

Back to my original rant...err...topic. I see these people on these extended phone calls and I think to myself, “Who on earth could they be talking to for so long?” I try to think of someone with whom I’d like to have a long a phone conversation, and no names spring immediately to mind, present or past. I think if Jesus H. Christ himself called me up, after two or three minutes I’d still be, like, “Oooooookay Jesus, look, I gotta go."

My boss issued me a company cell phone with Southern Link service. It’s got this thing that everyone calls the “beep-beep” feature, which is basically just a walkie-talkie mode. It makes a little double-beep sound when you are summoned. My boss uses it a lot. A lot. The bad part is that he can easily contact me at his whim, whenever the mood or a thought strikes. The good part is that our conversations are mercifully short. A couple of back-and-forths and we’re done. They’re almost not like phone calls at all. It’s a good trade-off, believe me.

(Beep-Beep) "Hey, Bob."
"Yeah, man."
"Can you pick me up at nine tomorrow morning? We're going to Gulfport."
"Can do!"
"See you then."

Done. Quick and easy. Efficient. Almost surgical. I like that.

I don’t understand why people love talking on the phone so much. But I do know this: If a parent is having trouble communicating with a taciturn teenager, all that parent need do is call the child on his/her cell phone. The floodgates will open for sure!

You can thank me, but just don’t call me on the phone to do it.

How Stuff Works: Jamming Cell Phones


Redlefty said...

The driving comments sparked a larger societal thought in my mind. That perhaps our plugged-in population is often completely unaware of the present moment, our surroundings, the important "nowness" around us.

We miss out on the little joys and nuances of life because we cast ourselves off somewhere else through the power of Verizon.

Hmm... will have to think on it further.

I'm with you on cellphones in general. I'm only on my second model. Not fancy. Rarely used. Almost never used in the car.

Bob Barbanes said...

Michael, it's funny that you bring this up. I recently wrote to a reader that many young people I know always seem to be preoccupied with doing something "else" all the time. Whatever they're doing at the moment, they never seem satisfied to just "be." It's annoying, because I always get the impression that I'm keeping them from doing something...you know...important.

Me, I'm all about being in the now. I try to enjoy whatever it is I'm doing to the fullest: driving, flying, riding. Oh, I can multitask with the best of them (it's a lie I tell myself), but I choose not to, preferring to focus on this "nowness" of which you speak.

The now is great. Viva la now! Or as Coldplay would say, Viva La Vida ;)

David said...

My lunch trio was in a small local diner when a not so young woman entered with a young child.

The kid was unruly. Not the worst kid. He was bored and restless. He even amanged to get his head stuck between the rails of the chair back a la Eddie Munster. At least it kept him still for a while.

The woman was on the phone the entire time. Discussing details of her life, her day and her Dr's visits. She paused a few times to scold Johnnie or implore him to sit down and be still.

We three ate a little faster than usual and didn't speak of the scene at the table next to us.

When my buddy Ken had his fill he stood up and announced, "Well, I've had about all of her miserable life I can stand for lunch."

She never even blinked much less hung up.

40-Something Cell Phone Junkie