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?

25 July 2010

Cellphone Rant Number...Four? Five?

Regular readers know of my love/hate relationship with the cellphone. My most recent post about them was back in February. Bear with me as I address the subject yet again.

I understand that cellphones are indispensable, and their proliferation is becoming more widespread. But I still think there should be limits. And currently society seems so infatuated and enamored with these little technological marvels that there seem to be no limits at all on their use.

Three of us were going out to eat this past Friday night: Erik, who is 35; Mark, who is 30, and antediluvian, 55 year-old me. The establishment of choice was the popular-if-overrated Bonefish, a chain which has from its opening 6 years ago enjoyed tremendous success in Pensacola’s fickle restaurant industry. On the weekend it’s always jammed, with the wait for a table sometimes as much as 45 minutes to an hour.

Erik said that he’d probably be late or might not even come, which is typical of him. I had planned on leaving my phone in my car, but against my better judgment brought it into the restaurant since I wanted to hear from Erik. Sure enough, he texted me that he was on his way just as Mark and I were being seated after a 30-minute wait. (My friends don’t actually use their cellphones as phones anymore. All they do is text each other.)

We ordered our drinks, and then while perusing the menu Mark began a lengthy texting session with a girlfriend. The waitress eventually came back and I spent some time with her discussing the appetizers and specials and such. Since Mark was still so immersed in what he was doing that he was oblivious to us, I ordered the appetizers. The waitress and I both looked and him rolled our eyes.

When Mark finally disengaged from his phone, he looked up with that expression on his face of someone who has just walked into a room, or had just woken up from a nap. “Oh, you’re back!” I said sarcastically. “I’m sorry,” he said with a smirk. “What appetizers should we order?” I told him that I had already ordered them. And of course, one of the two was unacceptable, so we had to call the waitress back and re-order.

Just about then Erik arrived. Claiming to not be hungry, he just ordered a glass of wine. His cellphone is always out, and he set it down on the table in front of him. But he would pick it up every couple of seconds as he was carrying on some Facebook “conversations” with friends. Mark too would periodically consult his phone for incoming messages. At times I felt as if I was dining alone.

You can tell people that they’re being rude, but the trouble is, young people (even supposedly grown men in their 30’s) do not see it as such. And you cannot convince them of it. They just laugh. Ha-ha, it's not rude! Yes, it is. And if I push the issue, then I'm the one being rude. Of course! Why didn't I see that?

I finished my meal quickly. We paid the bill and left. We split up cordially. I did not return my friends’ rudeness. I've really tried to not let inappropriate cellphone use make me angry, but fuck it, I’m done. I’m done associating with people who cannot separate their online or digital lives with reality. I’m done being with people who cannot lay their damn cellphones down for a single hour while they have dinner with someone else. (And also, I'm done being nice about it. Next time I'm in a similar social setting with people who are so obsessed with their phones, I'm simply going to leave.)

My new rule is that I’m not hanging out with anyone under age 40 anymore. It seems so “old fogey” of me, I know. But I’ve just reached my limit - had it up to here, as it were.

But wait! As it turns out, even that won’t work.

Ironically, a couple of days into the new week I had lunch with a fairly successful realtor here in town who is in his mid-40s. During lunch, even he kept pulling out his Blackberry to check it for messages and send texts. He would apologize each time, but he kept doing it. And when he wasn't actually using it, he'd put it on the seat next to him so he wouldn't have to keep fishing it out of his pocket.

I thought our infatuation with the cellphone would eventually abate. But I was wrong. People keep finding new uses for these…I guess we have to call them “personal communication devices” now. They are not considered an intrusion, and people feel no compunction whatsoever about whipping 'em out anywhere, anytime. So I’m fighting a losing battle, I know. There is no going back. Society has changed, and the cellphone is simply going to be a part of every aspect of our lives, like it or not.

And I don’t.


Redlefty said...

I'm 33 years old and I'm with you. If I'm out to eat with someone, then they come first!

We control the technology. It doesn't control us.

Rock on, old man! :)

p.s. -- this lifelong churchgoer actually had to look up "antediluvian". How had I never learned that word before?

Bob said...

Bob, I'm 52, and when we finally get to meet and go out for dinner/beers/whatever, I assure you there will be no cell phone in sight. I am 100% with you and let me tell you, I have three offpsring -- 24, 21 and 17 -- and when we're out to dinner or whatever, and they pull out the phone, I tell them that obviously they don't have time for dinner with me right now so we'll just reschedule. And since I'm almost always the one paying, it does the trick.

Maybe it's a generational thing, as you say, but as my late mother (who would have never gotten a cell phone) used to say, good manners never go out of style, period. If kids are obsessed with cell phones to the point of rudeness, it's becuase their parents have not taught them any better.

Bob said...

Oh and BTW, Redlefty, antediluvian is definitely a word worth knowing and has little, if anything, to do with going to church . . .

Bob Barbanes said...

Oh, but Bob, I get Michael's complaint- that being "antediluvian" means "...a period before the flood described in the Bible." Also used in a certain Donovan song called "Atlantis."

But I digress.

As for rude people whose parents have not taught them better- Houston, we may have a problem. My three most-recent dinner companions are certainly not kids- and they are fairly well-mannered in other aspects of their lives.

So it's kind of puzzling for me: They simply (and absolutely!) feel that using their cellphones at dinner is acceptable- not rude at all! If they have kids (God forbid!), those children will be brought up with the same attitude toward the technology, which is pervasive.

If I have people over to my house, my phones can ring off the hook for all I care. I don't even look at the Caller-ID. On the other hand, most of my 30-something friends do not have a problem answering any sort of phone (home or cell) during mealtime. Some, if they hear the IM beeper go off on their computer in another room, simply cannot bear the thought of *not* seeing what earth-shakingly important bit of information just came through. "OH MY GOD, SOMEBODY JUST SENT ME A MESSAGE! (Well aren't you important!)

But ranting about this e-volution is as useless as it is frustrating. Nothing will change; it will only get worse. People like me will become fewer and fewer as we die off.

Bob, your kids may not use their cellphones during meals in your presence, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that when they are with their friends the phones are always out.

Perform a simple experiment: Go to the mall and look around. People are fascinated and obsessed with their cellphones. Nothing I could ever say or do or write is going to change that.

In my wild fantasies, I envision my cellphone-obsessed friends (like the three with whom I will never again dine out) left to wonder why they have so few actual human companions who want to spend real time with them...go out to eat and stuff? And then I wake up. They don't care- they'll NEVER care. As long as they can text each other and keep in touch on Facebook, why in the world would they ever need to BE with anyone else??

Bob said...

Heh . . . even I didn't know the literal definition of that great word!

And you're probably right about my three . . . . but I at least take comfort in the fact that, somewhere in the back of their minds, they're hearing my voice . . . objecting.

Bob Barbanes said...

And hear your voice, they will!

But they'll still do it. For if they don't, they'll be the only ones among their peer group who don't. Being on the cellphone has become so widely accepted...so commonplace and such an integral part of our lives now that it is unremarkable by so many otherwise well-mannered peeps.

Sometimes I think: If ya can't beat 'em...

Debby said...

When I was filling out the paperwork for my new job, my boss asked, "What's your cell phone number?" in a matter of fact way, as if everyone had one. I gave him the number, but explained that my husband carried it, I had no reason to. I told him, "So, if I answer the phone, it's a sign that I've accidently put on Tim's pants."

Steve H. said...

My God...brother in thought. I carry a cell phone but don't like to answer it and tell people they are free to text me, just don't expect a response!

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob, I'm Pete - long time reader, first time commenter.
Cellphones:They're so damned handy for quick communication that here in Germany they are actually called a "Handy"! I was one of the last people to get one, but now it seems to have an unseen umbilical cord, and I feel "forced" to carry it with me. On occassions when I go out without it, I've had retorts like: "Why didn't you take your mobile* with you?", with a stupified tone, as if it were the most ridiculous idea, and only a fool would do such a thing.
Bob, I'm with you all the way, and love to hear someone else's view on the subject. It is rude, plain and simple.
We met with a friend at a cafe, and she had just purchased an iphone, which proceded to dominate the table, the conversation, and the surrounding tables. "Look at this game!", "Listen to this whistle!", and the dumbest "Press this Button" game I have ever seen. All designed, rather cleverly, I suspect, to keep people attached, addicted, and above all, sending those texts and making big bucks for the telecommunications companies.
I mean, if someone sends you a text, you simply have to reply, don't you?
Text messages invariably end in a question mark...