Here's a little heads up. This post has some cu$$ing in it. It can't be helped. The first section is an essay about modern communications, but the second part is about one application of the cellphone. In that true encounter the main character does a lot of cu$$ing. If you are offended by foul lang&*ge, then pass up this p*$t. But I h&pe th@t you c#me ba*k.
TMI - Part One
Isn’t it amazing how quickly our society has become accustomed to cell phone technology? In some ways we are dependent on cell phones. When we first moved to SC in 1986 there was a single area code for the state – 803. Now we have three area codes to accommodate all of the new cell numbers. Almost every adult I know and every teen I know (and I am acquainted with many since we have 20 and 21 year old sons) have their own cell phone numbers. In my family we have 5 phone numbers. There is the number for our old landline, which has been the same since 1986, and four cell phone numbers.
People routinely talk on the cell phone wherever they are: in the grocery store, waiting for an oil change, in the checkout line in stores, on the road while driving, etc. Everywhere.
I remember when Heidi got her first car phone (aka bag phone). It was an amazingly large device compared to today’s cell phones. It hooked into the cigarette lighter in the car. We still called them cigarette lighters back then. The term accessory input came later. She said that she would only use it for emergencies since the cost per minute was outrageous. It started out that way too. She would call the police to report stalled vehicles on the roadside. That kind of thing.
Very soon the first true cell phones came out. Large by today’s standards. Simple too. It wasn’t long before they replaced pagers and people started calling everybody for everything. “Hey, where are you?” are the first words of almost all cell phone conversations nowadays. Back in the day you KNEW where the person was. At home, probably in their kitchen or bedroom since that’s where the phones were.
There are ringing cell phones wherever you go now: at the movies, at concerts, in church. You used to only hear the phone where there were phone jacks – at home and at the office. And there used to only be one ring. Now people’s ringtones reflect their personalities, their favorite songs. Such variety.
Phones are also a sign of status, right? How many megapixels does your camera have? How many gigs of memory? What’s the keypad like? How many apps? Now you hear questions you never heard just a few years ago… “How many bars do you have?”
A couple weeks ago I was stuck in traffic on my commute home and the drivers of the cars in front of me, behind me, to the right and to the left were all on their phones, I’m sure complaining to someone about the traffic snarl. Last weekend I was driving through Lexington. There was a woman next to me with her phone cradled between her shoulder and ear, applying mascara while looking into the mirror on the inside of her visor while she was driving. Now that’s confidence.
Think of Captain Kirk’s communicator from the old Star Trek series of the 1960’s. Only one ring tone, no pictures, no camera or video, no texting or email capability. He had to flip it open (at least he didn’t accidentally make butt calls). No GPS, no blue tooth, no other apps and Kirk only talked to Chekov or Scotty. The message was pretty much the same too – “Beam me up!” It was extremely limited by today’s standards. He might as well have been using Morse code and a telegraph for all that he could do.
TMI - Part Two
So it’s not surprising when you overhear a conversation as people talk on the phone near you. But many people are not used to old-fashioned phone manners. They are so accustomed to speaking on the phone wherever they are that they are oblivious to those around them.
For example, I was standing in line on Friday to pay taxes on our new used vehicle. The line was moving very slowly. Just behind me a woman came in talking on her cell phone. She was young and blond and pretty and had on a tight green t-shirt with the words Ask Me Again After You Get Me Drunk silk-screened on the front. Hmmm – an odd sentiment for such a public place.
She was speaking loudly, much louder than she needed to. But she was in her own world. The phone had cut her off from the rest of us in the room.
“I don’t give a f#$k what he said! That b*&ch is a f!@#ing wh*%#!”
Uh oh. It’s not like I am a prude. I didn’t have to cover my ears, but I really didn’t want to hear it.
“There is like NO WAY I am staying with Kevin,” she went on. He said I could like stay there. Can you believe it? He’s such an a@*hole. He said he’d even give me a break on the f*%#ing rent! That bas*#rd!” Now he is like f*@#ing someone else and he wants me to stay in the same house?! Well, he’s got another f@*%ing thing coming!”
Another guy, a graybeard like me, came in and stood behind her in line. “I’m like there is no way in H#%& I was staying there! And she’s all like sweet-faced like it was no big deal or nothing!”
Pause while the other party answered. “I know, right?”
Now she was gesturing with her free hand for emphasis. “And she’s all like, ‘No big deal’, and I’m all like whatever...” Pause to listen. “She must take me for a total loser!”
And in my mind I’m all like switch off the phone or like text message or something!Like spare us!
More people came in to wait in line behind us. There were no little ones so I didn’t say anything. The graybeard behind her caught my attention and rolled his eyes.“And she’s all like, ‘You can totally stay if you want to. I’m not like mad’. I’m like,“Whatever, b*#ch!’ It was all I could do not to punch her f@#*ing lights out! I’m like, ‘I’m outta hear!”
Blessedly, the person ahead of me in line had her problem straightened out. “Next in line please,” said the woman behind the counter. My business took less than a minute. Then I was off to the DMV.
There I had another fairly long wait. While I was filling out forms Graybeard came in. We smiled at each other knowingly. It’s funny how you can bond with a total stranger over a shared experience. “Well,” I asked. “Do you think she moved out of Kevin’s place?”
Graybeard grinned, “Whatever! Like of course. Do you think she was like a moron or something?” We exchanged a few words of camaraderie about the overheard conversation.
I love how easy it is to communicate in this new age. I do. I misplaced my phone and was without one for a couple of weeks and I found myself in many situations where I wish I had it and all of my stored phone numbers. It is convenient to get a call reminding me to pick up something at the store; comforting to just check-in after work.
But, honestly, along with this new freedom comes the baggage of being too much in other people’s lives. OMG! Just TMI!