Man Vs. Phone

I stood frozen in the aisle, enraptured by the gizmos and gadgets built into these newfangled high-tech cell phones sitting on the shelves. I was starry-eyed. It was the same kind of look that big guys at Denny’s give the dessert menu, or teenage girls at the Gap give the sales rack. Cameras. Text messaging. Video games. Oh my.

What I don’t understand is how these things get smaller and smaller, but keep adding new features. Soon we’ll see a cell phone the size of a quarter that moonlights as a laptop PC/CD/DVD player, compass, George Foreman grill and portable hammock.

I picked up a phone and inconspicuously set it to my ear. Uh oh. I realized what was happening. Here I was in Best Buy, wretchedly grasping a shiny silver Nokia like Gollum, seduced by the power of the One Cell Phone, but yet repulsed by its evil.

"Yesssss my preciouss", I hissed as I gently stroked the keypad. Then came the voices in my head. Hmm … maybe I should give in and get a cell phone. It can’t be that bad.

But as soon as the thought popped into my head, I snapped back into reality and recoiled in horror. It was an effort to keep from spitting up my Dr. Pepper. You see, some people uphold their virtue by making vows of chastity, and others promise to never drink or to do drugs. Me? As a young idealistic teen, I vowed never to buy a cell phone. It’s always been a matter of principle to my friends and I. Or was.

Just yesterday I had to sit outside a record store for an hour and a half because the people I was supposed to meet there were extremely late. A cell phone would have come extremely handy in the situation. But when my friend Jon mentioned it and said it was “Reason #18 to buy a cell phone,” I stared at him in horror like he just said, “Reason #18 to beat up infants.”

He’s getting old, I told myself. He’s got a real job and a longtime girlfriend; he goes to picnics with the girlfriend’s parents instead of baseball games with us. Yep, what a sellout. Me? I ain’t no sellout. I can spout out my anti-cell phone propaganda better than any Iraqi information officer.

Cell phones are annoying. It’s like magic—a cell phone rings in public: a movie, a grocery store, a church service, and the whole world screeches to a halt as if a bomb was about to go off. All you get is puzzled looks and murmured questions. "Whose phone is that?" "Is that my phone?" "No, it can’t be my phone. Whose phone is that?" "I bet it’s that guy’s phone over there." "Someone turn that phone off!"

Cell phones are rude. Ever been in the middle of a conversation with someone and they instantly answer every cell phone call and talk to that person for several minutes? Here’s the message to you: "This conversation suits me alright, but I’m

expecting a better one at any moment."

Oh, and other thing: please don’t give me the "But what about emergencies?" crap. Out of the 800 million cell phones out there, I bet only three have ever been used for emergencies. Okay, four. Unless you count the emergency of, "Oh look, honey! I’m at the baseball game! I’m on TV! Can you believe I’m on TV? Look, I’m waving! It’s me waving! See? SEE?"

Cell phones are for boring people who can’t stand to be alone with their own thoughts. They can’t endure the 20-minute commute home, so they feel the need to bother others for entertainment. Cell phones make us a slave to technology. It’s a small step away from wearing electronic tracking collars.

In my mind, my anti-cell phone arguments remain rock solid. So, why am I standing here considering buying one? Maybe it’s the peer pressure factor. Several years ago, cell phones were still generally looked upon with general disdain. They were big, clumsy devices used by rich guys with Roman numerals at the end of their names, or obnoxious big shot businessmen, barking out orders and scheduling "power lunches."

You’d see a guy ignoring his family at a restaurant, chatting away on a cell phone, and you’d shake your head vigorously and hum “Cat’s in the Cradle."

Back then, most people didn’t care if cell phones gave users brain tumors. But in 2003, cell phones have seeped into almost every household like digital cockroaches. According to a recent survey, over 50 percent of kids age 12-19 now have a cell phone. My dad has one. My roommate has one. My neighbor’s cat has one. I walk around in public and everyone is in a continual state of ringing, beeping, buzzing or emitting a MIDI version of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

But as a wise man once said, "If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do

it too … unless it was a Mountain Dew commercial?"

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Maybe.

Or maybe I’m just drawn to cool toys. Maybe I just want to be like Batman

with all of the snazzy tools on the utility belt. Or maybe … just maybe … all my anti-cell phone generalizations sound like the ravings of an bitter old man too set in his ways to accept new technology or new culture. But whatever it was, the impulse was slowly fading. Wiping beads of sweat of my forehead, I walked out of the store, never turning back.

I have beaten you, Foul Cell Phone—go back to the Abyss! Until next year, that is, when you come in a glow-in-the-dark model.

[Ryan Smith is a 25-year old reporter and freelance writer. He charges $2.95 after the first minute.]

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