!!!Things That REALLY Piss Me Off
(It’s very legal and all too common) 
 “The new slavery”? (What the hell is he talking about?) Think about it for a minute. If you’re not more than 50 or 60 years of age at the time of this writing, you should be able to tell me without any hesitation what it is that has changed your life in the last ten years more than anything else…that one thing that controls your life and that you just can’t do without. (And no, I’m not talking about stool softeners or adult diapers!) This mystery thing I’m referring to is your cell phone, and don’t even think about trying to tell me that it doesn’t exert total control over you and your life because we all know that would be a total lie.

But what I find more than a little disturbing is not that we have become slaves to our phones, but rather that we have become unwilling slaves to other people’s cellular devices. Let me start with the bozo who thinks he needs to share his calls with those around him, and by “around him” I’m talking within a radius of….oh, I don’t know….like all the way to the next county! I don’t understand why some people feel they need to talk louder than normal when they are on their cell phone in a public place around other people. It must be a brain malfunction because it’s hard to believe that anyone with half a brain (it doesn’t matter which half) would not recognize that there are other people nearby who he (or she) is disturbing and who would rather be nursing multiple bleeding hemorrhoids than listening to them talk on their cell phone.

There are several things that really piss me off about cell phones, and here are just a few of them. How about the woman in the big, recent model Mercedes or the big BMW who is holding her phone up to her ear with one hand while trying to apply lipstick with the other hand, and all while driving. I say “her” because most men don’t use lipstick, and most men know how to pair their cell phones with their car’s Bluetooth, one thing apparently very few women can do! How many times have you seen a woman driving a new luxury car with her hand holding her cell phone up to her ear? And don’t tell me it’s because they didn’t get the Blue Tooth option. Even my wife’s Hyundai has Blue Tooth as standard equipment!

I’m always mystified by people who go to the gym and then do their workouts at half speed so they can talk on their phones. What’s so important that it can’t wait another half hour until they’re finished with their workout? But here’s my “biggy”, the one that makes me want to explode, and it’s something you’ll find mainly with the under 40 generation. Have you ever tried carrying on a conversation with someone while they’re typing madly away on their cell phone with their thumbs? Of course you have, and if you haven’t you must be either blind, deaf and dumb or a professional hermit. Just about everyone on earth has had this experience. When I talk to you, I give you my full attention, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the same in return. Barely looking at me while your thumbs flit around your phone’s keyboard in communication with someone else while you are supposedly engaged in conversation with me is an overt and conscious act of rudeness. Texting has become such a preferred mode of communication among the younger generation that it is not at all uncommon for two people in the same room to text one another rather than communicate verbally.

But there is something even more foreboding about the texting phenomenon trend that has gone largely unnoticed. There is a basic adage in biological evolution which simply put is, “Use it or lose it!” In evolutionary terms what that means is that if a living organism doesn’t use a component of its physical body over a long span of time, then it can expect to lose it through the evolutionary process. Case in point: Long ago in our deep evolutionary history, humans had tails. The key word there is had, but because we had no real use for them they slowly disappeared over time. The same may be said of fish many of whom at onetime may have had legs, but since legs detract from efficient hydrodynamic movement in the water, those legs shrunk and eventually totally disappeared from the anatomy of most fish. 

So, you might ask, how does all this relate to texting? Once again, it’s the “use it or lose it” principal, and if texting continues to dominate communication among our younger generation, you can reasonably expect that at some time in the distant future language, at least in the spoken form, will become obsolete and extinct. Yes, you heard me correctly. Because we will have gone to texting as our primary form of communication, verbal communication will slowly fade away and eventually be totally replaced by texting. Imagine a young couple in love sitting alone together outdoors on a blanket enjoying a perfect summer evening with the moon and stars shining brightly above….but without their phones. Holy crap! All they’ll be able to do is sit there and stare at one another! They won’t be able to talk with each other because they’ve lost the ability to speak.  

So the next time it happens that you’re texting while also having a conversation with me, I’m sure you won’t mind if I just stand up right there on the spot and take a leak! Is that any more rude than what you’re doing? Besides, you’re so focused on your phone and texting that you probably won’t notice anyway!
Let’s take a look at where the cell phone started about twenty years ago and where it has ended up today. The very first cell phones were called “bag phones” because they were kept in a bag….a very, very big bag! They were about the size of a World War II walkie talkie which even a really big elephant couldn’t fit in his pants pocket. From the bag phone we went next to the so called car phone which was not a portable device like a bag phone, but rather a hard installed accessory in your car which also involved drilling a hole through your rear window to install the antennae. There were a couple of really bad things about both the bag and car phones which significantly limited their usage. For one thing, the rates were somewhere around two dollars a minute, and you were charged for a full minute even if you talked for only a few seconds of a minute. None of that fraction of a minute stuff! 

But even worse than the outrageous usage costs was the fact that there were only a handful of locations where you could place or receive a call, and when you found such a spot with reception you pulled over to the side of the road immediately before you lost service. Such prime spots where you might have reception was almost always atop a mountain. A national map depicting those areas where service was available would have looked like a few (a very few) fine coffee grounds randomly scattered on a large scale map. Having a cell phone in those days was a real status symbol. It looked good, but there wasn’t a whole lot you could do with it unless you were prepared for the big bill you could expect to find in your mail each month. It was a bit like being all dressed up on Saturday night but with no place to go! (That’s actually George Gobel’s line, not mine!)

By the time we got to the early models of what were the first real cell phones (wireless phones, not in a bag or attached to a car) things had definitely improved, but battery life and the cost of these phones were still real issues. Car phones worked off of your car’s power supply, so battery life wasn’t a concern, but the trade-off was that the phone was attached to the car and, obviously, couldn’t be carried with you when you left the vehicle. The early cell phones did one basic thing and only that one thing….make and receive phone calls. They were, as the name suggests, phones, or to be more exact, “cellular phones”. But on June 29, 2007, all of that changed with the introduction for sale of the very first Apple iPhone which was almost immediately added to everyone’s gotta’ have Christmas list. I always thought that the iPhone was misnamed because it’s actually a hand held computer which also happens to have the capability of being able to be used as a phone as well. In fact, if you think about what most of us use our phones for during a typical day, I’d be willing to bet that you spend much more time, texting, reading and sending e-mails, playing games, checking the weather and playing with a variety of apps than you do carrying on actual phone conversations. So maybe the cell phone, and not our desk computers, should have been given the name “personal computer” because it’s a lot more personal carrying your cell phone around with you than leaving your personal computer on your desk at work or at home. 

One of the cell phone developments which always amused me was Blue Tooth ear pieces. So many people thought they were the ultimate in “cool” walking around in public with a Blue Tooth ear piece in their ear regardless of whether or not they were actually engaged in a phone conversation. They always reminded me of Lt. Uhura, the communications officer who always wore an ear piece on the USS Enterprise on the original Star Trek TV show. Those who wear ear pieces today probably do it so that they can maintain contact with the “mother” ship. You never know when you may be shipped out to Altarium 6, so you always have to be ready to receive the message!

Deep down inside I really long for the good old days….you know, the days before the fax machine or overnight mail or e-mail. Yes, I’ve said it….even e-mail! Those were the days when the only form of “instant” communication was a phone call from a regular old fashion land phone. When you were in New York and someone from your company’s Los Angeles office wanted to see the Schmaginsky file tomorrow, it was okay to laugh at them and call them a moron because everyone knew it wasn’t going to happen. Like I said….those were the good old days before Fed Ex, UPS and email when all of a sudden everything needed to be done immediately, if not sooner.  

But now we go back to the real world. When you hear that little ding coming from the next room, where you left your cell phone, signaling that you have received a new text or e-mail, there’s hardly a person who wouldn’t walk out on the dying words of a loved one to see who the e-mail was from. And that’s quite understandable because it could be something really important like an Applebee’s email ad for “buy one meal at the regular price and get half off a second meal of the same or lesser value”. That’s us, enslaved by a drove of stylish, hand held, digital devices which push our buttons ….even more than we push theirs! 

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