On Cell Phones

I think a lot of valid arguments can be made that cell phones are out of control. It’s gotten to the point that everyone seems to have one.

Or maybe I should say at least one. I had a real estate agent last year who carried two of them and a pager.

Is anyone really that important?

No matter where you go, you see someone with his cell phone pasted to the side of his head blabbing away, often oblivious to what’s going on around him. Or even funnier: apparently blabbing away to himself because he’s wearing some kind of fancy Bluetooth earpiece that looks suspiciously like communications head gear from the orginal Star Trek.

Do these people really need to be talking while they’re shopping for groceries, standing on line in the post office, crossing the street or — dare I say it — piloting their car through a crowded parking lot?

Does everyone need a cell phone? Even kids have them now. Heck, when I was a kid, it was a real treat to have an extension of the house phone in my bedroom. I didn’t have my own phone number, a number that would reach me any time of the day or night wherever I was.

Am I jealous of today’s kids and their cellphones? Hell, no! What’s so good about being reachable anywhere you are when you’re a teenager out goofing off with your friends?

I do, of course, have a cell phone. It’s for business — and I’m not just saying that. I set up my office phone number so I can forward it to my cell phone when I’m not at the office. People call that published number and reach me. I’ve booked more than a few helicopter flights on that phone.

And I do use the phone when I need information or need to tell someone something. Going to be late for an appointment? I call. Can’t find the street I’m supposed to turn on? I call. Need to know if we have any plans for next Tuesday night? I call. According to my phone bill, more than 80% of the calls I make last less than a minute.

The important word here is need. I use my cell phone when I need to. I don’t use it for idle chatter. There’s two reasons for that. First, I like to be comfortable when I’m chatting with a friend or family member. So I usually do it from home. Second, lengthy chats wear down the phone’s battery. A dead cell phone won’t meet my communication needs.

And no, I won’t buy the second battery pack. Or the colorful face plate or case. Or latest ring tone.

What’s with the ring tone thing anyway? I think that’s the most obnoxious part of cell phone usage.

We’ve all experienced this: You’re sitting in a restaurant with a friend/spouse/family, having a nice dinner, when the cell phone the idiot at the table behind you owns starts playing the cha-cha or the opening bars of a Def Leppard track or some digitized sound effect that sounds like a primal scream. He thinks its funny. Do you?

I don’t. I think it’s a selfish attempt to get attention at the expense of the people around him.

I read somewhere recently that people have no qualms about plunking down $10 for a ring tone but they hesitate when it comes to buying a new CD. (If anyone out there can find that piece online, please use the Comments link to share the URL; I can’t find it.)

My phone, a 1-1/2 year old Motorola flip phone, has a vibrate mode. Since I wear it on my belt, I feel it when it rings. If I don’t pick it up after a few moments, it plays a sound that’s kind of like a doorbell. A simple little chime. I’m not saying its not obnoxious — any sound a device makes in a public place is obnoxious — but it’s far less offensive than some. And frankly, every time I hear it in a public place and someone looks at me, I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to be seen as one of them. (And we all know who they are.)

Mike’s got one of those Razr phones. He says people are envious of him. The phone is extremely thin, has a built-in camera and e-mail features, and does more than my original computer did. (I’m sure it has more processing power, too.) But come on guys — it’s a phone. A phone.

I’d still have my original Motorola flip phone if it would work as well as the newer one. I liked it better. It was simpler and started up quicker. It was plain black and it didn’t have a color screen. It didn’t have to make a sound when you turned it on or shut it off. And it didn’t have a built-in camera, Internet capabilities, Bluetooth, and dozens of ring tones to choose from. It was a simple, small, easy to use phone. Like the original Princess phones. Although it no longer is connected to any network, it’ll still work for 911 calls. So I keep it and its car power adapter in my car, just in case I need to make that emergency call and my other phone is dead.

That’s what cell phones were originally for, isn’t it? Emergencies?

Anyway, what started this whole rampage about cell phones was an article I read on Slate.com about fiction where the cell phone becomes the villain. It’s called “Can You Fear Me Now? – The cell phone goes from annoying to evil” and it’s by Bryan Curtis.

Some of the stories aren’t that farfetched, either.

What do you think?