An open letter to the apparent anti-cellphone movement.

Let me begin by saying that I understand that there are things in life that have the ability to cause such a high degree of frustration that it seems impossible that there was any intent behind the act other than to piss you off. I, too, know the cathartic satisfaction of ranting and raving like a howling lunatic when such things work their way under my skin, so I understand the drive to scream at the top of your lungs to anyone who will listen about just how terrible things are, fully convinced that they are the foul seed behind the world’s ills. Hell, just scan through this site, and you’ll see me rail incessantly against a vast cornucopia of topics; it’s cheaper than therapy. By a damned far sight.

Although a city-wide food fight does sound like a helluva good time.

And cleaner than an... enormous... tomato orgy?

I’ve also had my fair share of unpleasant experiences with people on phones, so I understand the vitriol. I’ve called someone, only to realize that they were sitting in a movie theater (during the movie), and I’ve been in a theater when someone had to be forcibly removed (with pepper spray) by the police because he wouldn’t stop talking loudly on his phone after the manager asked him politely to shut up or leave. Back when I waited tables, I had someone look me dead in the eyes and growl “Can’t you see I’m on the phone,” when I had the gall to attempt to deliver his food (I politely complied with the request to leave him alone, and returned the food to the expo line to get cold and dry out while he finished his conversation), which was neither the first nor last time such a thing occurred. I’ve nearly been run off the road by people talking on cell phones, and I’ve been almost knocked off my feet by people texting without looking where they were going.


And don't even get me started on people texting in the tub!

With all that being said; enough already. Get over it. People are obtuse jackasses, with or without the aid of technology, and cell phones don’t exacerbate the problem. Correlation does not equal causation: just because someone’s an idiot on a cell phone doesn’t mean the cell phone made them an idiot, or that only idiots use phones.

And sort of juvenile. "Your head is a doodie!"

You never really think about it, but, taken literally, 'shithead' is a pretty disgusting term.

What makes this particular movement such a potential irritant is that there’s a solid kernel of undeniable truth at the core: that there are those among us who chatter away at completely inappropriate times, at excessive volumes, about wildly unseemly subject matter, completely oblivious to the fact that others are unable to avoid being privy to their conversation, while demonstrating a complete lack of awareness of their surroundings. I’m certain that an acceptable majority of us can agree that those people are, for lack of a more eloquent term springing to mind, shithead bastards, who should be forced to suffer some beautifully poetic form of Twilight Zone justice; perhaps being constantly bombarded by every inappropriate and inconsequential thought of everyone within a half-mile radius whilst being pelted with an erratic assortment of racquetballs and dodgeballs from all sides, at random intervals. Or, just maybe, have it pointed out to them that they are, in fact, being a shithead bastard who should dial it down a bit.

But I might squeeze one more in. *ahhhTHATSWHATSHESAID!* I'm so sorry.

...aaaand that's just about enough of that.

The problem with this seemingly growing anti-cellphone movement is that there’s a large number of its informal members who seem to be convinced, beyond the point of being reasoned with, that any use of a cellphone in any even remotely public area is an act of rudeness on par with randomly deciding to tackle a stranger and proceeding to shit directly on their chest without so much as a ‘hello.’ Yes, I’m exaggerating, but still; a very vocal portion of the population seems to view any public cellphone use as highly offensive.

In a poll, 41% of people surveyed specifically mentioned that someone talking on a cellphone in the grocery store is a pet peeve. Has our society reached such a critical mass of asshattery that nearly half of us just can’t stand it when someone has the audacity to speak in a grocery store? When the “silence [is] pierced by a person entering the store on her cell phone,” how, exactly, is that any more inherently offensive than someone walking through the door of a business while speaking to someone who’s with them? Because, if you keep in mind that a person speaking on a cell phone is doing nothing outside of communicating with another human being while (sometimes) holding their hand to their head, that’s precisely what forty-one percent of the population is saying is so indefensibly rude: talking.

I mean, really. That could have gone worse in soooooo many ways. Also, yes, I'm aware this is a photoshop.

This came up when I googled "offensive piercing." That's really just the best way that could have ended, now that I think about it.

This isn’t a purely American issue, although several states have had legislation on the books for a while now that bans cell phone use in cars. The government of India  is considering a series of legislative measures to ban certain cellular activities, including the use of phones near roadways, and the manufacture of any sort of camera in a cell phone ‘for the safety of women.’ I’m not even going to touch the ‘dangers’ of cameraphones, specifically, because it’s along the same lines. But before you hurt yourself leaping up to proclaim the roadway ban a brilliant idea, consider being stranded on the roadside, unable to call for help, because some bureaucrat decided it was in the public interest to jam reception near highways. Think back to the last time you were the passenger in a car, having to call someone to ask directions or confirm arrangements. The nerve!

Although, I must say, that hat IS dapper.

Despite the fact that he keeps up with modern technological trends, Uncle Sam's fashion sense never changed.

As I said, I don’t disagree entirely with the root of the argument, but I do think it’s being pushed to radical extremes, so what I propose is a list of concessions. Standards that we can mostly agree apply to general human behavior, whether or not an electronic device is involved. These should be things that have always been considered by society at large to be norms, and shouldn’t really be affected by technology.

  1. Don’t talk during a movie/lecture/live performance/et cetera. Cell phone or no, people won’t put up with it. If you have something you have to say, go do it outside. This is really just standard-issue common courtesy for any non-solipsistic existence, which is to say: you already know this if you’re not some ridiculously self-absorbed fuckwit whose response to the internal debate of whether or not to do something is always “Well, what are they gonna do about it?” If that’s your guiding star, do society an enormous favor and take a job as a crash test dummy.
  2. Pay attention when you’re driving. Again, this is something that, as a society, we should be highly embarrassed to have to say out loud. I’ve seen many a heavily distracted parent failing to maintain his/her lane because of kids in the backseat. I’ve been rear-ended (a couple of months ago, as a matter of fact) by someone having a heated discussion with his passenger. I’ve been cut off by people changing radio stations and lanes simultaneously. Cell phones or no, there are just plenty of people who can’t wrap their heads around the idea of watching the road; outlawing phone use won’t change that. Although it would get rid of the wealth of holier-than-thou ‘hang up and drive’ (or worse) bumper stickers out there (which is right up there with “WWJD” to be seen on the back of a car that’s just cut you off, because I’m fairly certain my conversation didn’t turn you into the jerk that just swerved in front of me without signaling, and I’m absolutely positive that Jesus wouldn’t try to run me off the road), so maybe there is something to be said for it.
  3. Use your inside voices, people. If you and your friends have to practically scream at each other to be heard, switch to text messages, learn sign language, turn up your hearing aids, or, I don’t know, stop talking over each other.
  4. Be aware of your surroundings. Watch where you’re going so you don’t ram into people, don’t divulge explicit details of your sexual conquests in church, and figure out what you’re going to order before you get to the counter.

Simple, right? These are all things that seem to be at the crux of any complaint about cell phones, but are really more about the underlying behavior that shouldn’t be affected one way or another by technology.

I’ve been stranded on the side of the road (with and without a cell phone, and let me tell you, it makes all the difference in the world), I’ve been called out of the blue about emergencies that can’t wait until I get home and check messages, I’ve been sent text messages about changes in plans that have saved me countless hours of wasted time, effort, and confusion, and I’ve had the ability to look up information that I otherwise wouldn’t have had until it was too late. That doesn’t make me an arrogant, self-important jerk who deserves the passive-aggressive scorn (which, I hate to be the one to break it to you, is at least as rude as the behavior that you think necessitates it) of everyone who comes near me; it makes me human. Shit happens, and the ability to communicate with any number of people instantly, nearly regardless of location is absolutely priceless. The day is quickly approaching (for many of us, it already has) where we will be unable to imagine how we ever got through our daily lives without such technology, and maybe that is a bad thing. There’s definitely an argument for the opinion that our technology is creating a greater divide between us, but where is the line drawn? Do we stop at land lines? Telegraphs? Pony express? What technology was developed that actually possesses the power to turn people from reasonable, rational individuals into slathering, brutish assholes?

There, but for the lack of an iPhone, go we.


Oh, and those states that banned cell phone use in cars? Cell phone bans have overall lowered the incidence of automotive cell phone use, but have still had absolutely no effect on accident rates.

So, there’s that.


~ by tazehim on February 5, 2010.

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