On cell phones

They are both a blessing and a curse. I bemoan the slavery to which we subject ourselves by owning and using these electronic chains, but I rejoice in the connectivity they provide. I can talk to a colleague in Bologna or a relative in Madrid. I can send a text when running late. Locate a family member in a crowd. Multitask to my heart’s desire. And yet I am a slave to my phone, constantly checking for messages. One thing that I will not do is talk and drive or text and drive. Talking on the phone in the car makes me a bad driver, but texting makes me blind, stupid and distracted while driving. The same tool that keeps me in communication with the world, can also kill me in a second if I let it. Driving and texting are not compatible. I also try to keep my conversation private, and I abhor people who think that just because they are talking to a third party that you cannot hear them. The other day, a woman talked to her sister about her visit to the gynecologist that morning. I heard all about the gory details of the exam, the doctor’s cold hands, and about a particularly nasty std that she will have to take antibiotics to get rid of. And she didn’t know there was a copay. No, she was not pregnant. I got up out of my chair and closed the door. Too much information. I hold my conversations in private, and I think it is extremely creepy to watch a man or woman walk through the airport and appear to talk to themselves. I am disturbed by people who weep into their phones. I don’t want to hear that conversation either. Sometimes I think that cell phones actually separate us from reality, that cell phones are really isolating, and that one might become addicted to phones and eschew real human contact. Rejecting a face to face interview, replacing a real interview with a phone conversation–the interaction is different, dehumanizing, isolating. Call me old-fashioned, but a phone has a purpose, getting or delivering information. When we substitute a phone conversation for real human interaction, we debase our humanity and marginalize ourselves. The phone becomes more important than the people to whom we are connected. A cup of coffee, a cold Arnold Palmer, a glass of beer, a little bourbon on the rocks can be a common place where we connect to others on a human level, face-to-face, watching gestures, looking into the eyes of our interlocutor. The cell phone is a tool that the user must control, but it is also a tool which must be controlled because it is only too easy to be controlled by it. The cemeteries and hospitals are only too full of people who let themselves be controlled by a simple electronic gadget.