Monday, February 11, 2008

Cell mates

Sunday I broke down and purchased a cell phone...a tracfone. We've done fine without one, and this purchase is not so much about catching (quite tardily to be sure) the cell phone wave; rather, it 's just about having a security blanket for when we travel.
If I needed any reminder of what I really hate about cell phone culture, I got it Friday night at a reception I attended. I sat down at a table where there were four people already seated. I knew all of them well enough, and at first we all chatted amiably. For all of a minute and a half, that is. Then one of them, a woman seated to me left, I'll call her Mary, began telling us about her work at in the community. While she spoke, I noticed her hand slip inside her bag and pull out a phone. She brought the phone to her ear and without a pause, without even breaking the flow of her own commentary, she began speaking into her phone.
It took me a moment to realize that she was no longer talking to us, and when I did, I shifted my attention to an elderly man and his son across from me. Neither of them seemed fazed by the phone; in fact the younger man started up a fresh line of discussion about his own work administration. Then, bizarrely his hand moved in the selfsame fashion, producing a cell phone which he held at his ear. He continued speaking as had the woman, but just like her he was no longer speaking to us.
I looked at the old man, obviously hard of hearing and a bit withdrawn. To my right sat the old man's daughter-in-law. She seemed interested in watching her husband's phone conversation. So I figured I'd try the old man.
I asked him how he liked the high school team. The old man at first didn't seem to realize I was speaking to him. I repeated the question, "What do you think of the Tigers this year?"
There was suddenly a glint of recognition. He smiled and wagged his finger as if he had maybe quite a bit to say on the subject. I leaned in a little to hear him.
But then suddenly the old man's son thrust his phone in his father's face and said, "Johnny wants to talk to you." The old man's frowned for a moment but then he took the phone, pressed it to his ear and I could see all thoughts about the Tigers had been chased away. I sat there alone at a table of five people, two of them on cell phones, the other two watching the same cell phone conversation.
Well, this is lovely, I said out loud, knowing that no one was listening. Nobody was. I got up, said, "Excuse me," and left.
Charming, no?
K

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