Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Hello? Hold On; The Drink Cart Just Stopped."

A few days ago, I saw a story on the New York Times site that indicated airlines are
starting to consider allowing the use of cellular phones while in flight.

Now, before I begin the fireworks, let me make something clear: I think cell phones are great. I personally own a cell phone and I no longer have a traditional "land line". Why? Because cell phones are exactly what they've been marketed to us as: highly convenient. Unfortunately for many people, they're *too* convenient.

Do we need to facilitate *more* convenience by allowing people to chat in mid-air? The most shocking part of the Times article is the numerous quotes from people who did NOT want to be able to be reached during their flights. Many business people who spend 10 hours a day on the phone actually look forward to a time when they don't have any choice but to turn off the phone and enjoy some relatively peace and quiet. They cherish the natural downtime that allows them to sleep, read, or work quietly on other projects. The response was borderline panicky when they were made aware of the prospect of their phone-free zone being hijacked.

But, rather than scoff at the notion and come to the realization that they could just turn their phones off while in flight (or anywhere else, for that matter), many said that they would never be able to escape their omnipresent communication device. Herein lies the problem: many people lack a general sense of discipline and self-control. They think that the inherent freedom in being able to communicate with anyone at any time is both necessary and beneficial. But what it has become for many is a set of self-imposed shackles from which they cannot free themselves.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. It is what this country is all about. But freedom that
infringes upon another person's rights needs to be put in check. And the rampant misuse of cell phones is going largely unchecked in our society. Everywhere you go, someone is talking on a cell phone: in the car; at work; at restaurants; at the movie theater; at the airport; walking down the street; at home; in the grocery store.

On the toilet.

Yes, even in the restroom. I walked into the restroom in my office building last week and moved toward the urinal. As I was preparing to do what one does in the restroom, I heard a faint, muffled voice. As my brain tried to decipher just what in the world that noise was and where it might be coming from, a loud, masculine voice projected from the closed stall door, apparently responding to the tiny voice I was hearing. I couldn't help but laugh when I flushed, hoping the person on the other end of the line could hear the ambient noise.

And that's the Catch-22. There is nothing inherently wrong with talking to someone while sitting on the pot. There is nothing inherently wrong with with taking a cell phone call at work. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a call at the airport. There is nothing inherently wrong with taking a call while walking down the street.

There *is* something inherently wrong with imposing your conversation on others without their consent. There is a general lack of courtesy when it comes to cell phone use. If I'm talking with you, face-to-face, and stop mid-sentence to start another conversation with the person who just walked up, you would be justifiably irked at my indiscretion. Yet, the same scenario plays out over and over again when you're talking to someone and you suddenly hear a catchy little jingle and the person you're talking to starts furiously digging in their pocket or purse, God forbid they should miss this one call. Suddenly, your ranking in this person's world has dropped a notch and, short of knocking the phone out of their hands, there is nothing you can do about it.

One might reasonably think that it is common sense to avoid making noise at the movie
theater. Yet, amazingly, there must be another species of people on our planet who don't turn their ringers off and continue to talk, laugh and carry on without a care for the $8 they or their fellow movie-goers just spent on the price of admission. I can't even begin to make sense of this behavior.

But the single worst abuse of personal freedom combined with cell phone use is the
simultaneous operation of both a two and one-half ton automobile and a cellular telephone. It's one thing to bump into someone while walking down the sidewalk or cut someone off with your grocery cart while talking on the phone. It's an entirely different animal when a split-second decision is made a split-second too late because one's attention has been diverted from the potentially lethal business of driving a car.

How is it that we've been able to systematically eliminate smoking in public places (which I whole-heartedly endorse) because it might, eventually, one day, somewhere down the road kill an innocent bystander, yet we continue to play Russian Roulette with the potential for instant injury or death at the hands of a distracted driver? We don't allow people to drive drunk because their ability to drive is impaired. We don't allow people to watch television while they drive because it distracts them from the task at hand. We don't allow people to wear headphones to listen to music while they drive because it cuts out one of the necessary senses involved in driving.

And now some states have considered banning cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18. Is this because teenagers are inherently poor at splitting their attention compared to their adult counterparts? I'd would argue that teenagers wouldn't do any worse. I recall myself as a teenager carrying on a conversation with my buddy in the same room, a conversation on the phone, playing a video game and listening to the radio all at the same time. But the quality of which I was doing any of those four things was surely not as great as it might have been had I been concentrating on just one of those items. The argument is that cell phone use distracts teenagers. Is it that much of a stretch to assume cell phone use distracts adults? If teenagers are so easily distracted, why don't we wait until they become adults before allowing them to drive?

What this whole issue boils down to is that there is a major lack of common sense, courtesy and self-control when it comes to cell phone use. Freedom is the cornerstone of this country, but freedom without boundaries is irresponsible at best, fatal at worst. So when you get on your next flight, go ahead and turn off your phone whether you're asked to or not.

You just might survive.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What Provoked My Interest Today, October 4, 2005

These are some of the things I thought about today, from the moment I woke up until the moment I laid my pretty little head to sleep:

It really is too bad that Meredith Hoenes has to be stuck bantering with that idiot Brett Anthony.


Fiona Apple has a new album coming out soon. I always liked her smoky voice and piano accompaniment, but she had fallen of the face of the Earth after her second album. I'm looking forward to checking out the new material.


My boss's mom had a stroke last night. He says she's recovering quickly. What I find most interesting is the constant optimism and good spirits of my boss. He came in to work at lunch time and started making fun of the Hans & Frans sound-alike that was jabbering on the speaker phone during a conference call. He never misses a beat.


My co-worker likes to eat yogurt first thing in the morning. He likes to take hundreds of little scrapes at the bottom of the cup when he's nearly done, extracting every last molecule of yogurt. I like to pull my teeth out one by one, sans anesthesia. Well, not really, but the effect is the same.


I'm sooooo glad my brother and his family came into town. It was fantastic hanging out with them, especially my niece. She's only nine months old, but I think she's gonna grow up fast. I've seen her three times and she's changed so much each time. I can't wait to get back out to Colorado and see them again.


I'm becoming less and less interested in claiming to be even a slight Republican. Not that I'm thinking of switching allegiances and looking to become a Democrat. I'm personally sick of all the contentiousness and sniping between the two parties. I can't affiliate myself with one or the other without provoking some sort or argument in my head, from my friends, or from what I read. I like to keep up on the opinions generated by both sides, but I've become more and more sickened by the arrogance and imperialism of the Republicans and the subversion and dissent of the Democrats. I'm tired of every single issue being a black-and-white, split down the middle tug-of-war. Is there anyone out there that doesn't follow one of two party lines like a lemming follows his buddy over a cliff? You've got to think so, but there doesn't seem to be anyone to represent a balanced view in our current political system. (If there is, please let me know.) Is George W. Bush the best president we've ever had? Of course not. Has he done some good things? Of course. Has he done some questionable things? I believe so. In the big picture, how is that any different than Clinton before him? Clinton accomplished many good things and screwed just as many things up. What happened to the days when once the president was elected, the public stood behind him? Not blindly following the president but also not wasting so much time and energy bitching and complaining and sabotaging. I've always believed that balance is a major theme in life and I'm not going to support either party until some sort of balance within one of them is restored.


Kansas City is getting an Arena Football team. The average ticket price is $20. No freaking way would I pay $20 to see an Arena Football game.


According to the New York Times, airlines may start allowing the use of cellular phones while in flight in the near future. This deserves a column of its own. Stay tuned...


I wonder how much difference there would be between Vladimir Guerrero and Barry Bonds if Vladi didn't swing at everything within his current zip code? He pounded a ball that was high and away in the 6th inning of tonight's game for a single to right. What happens if he lets that ball go and pounds a ball in the strike zone? I realize that he has reached base at a .390 clip over the course of his career, but he's only slugged over .600 twice. Wouldn't a slight reduction in batting average (but a possible increase in walks, keeping his on-base percentage nearly the same) be worth the added power?


I'm tired of the "Playoff Face" of every pitcher courtesy of FOX.


Why is it easier to drink cold water than lukewarm water?


Do you ever wonder what the media would talk about if certain things didn't happen? What would they fill their airtime with right now if Katrina and Rita had fizzled out in the Gulf of Mexico? Or if two Supreme Court seats hadn't opened up almost simultaneously? Would they just add a couple more murder/robbery stories? Or just wait around for Michael Jackson to "allegedly" molest some more kids? (UPDATE: Lindsay Lohan smashed up her car after being followed by paparazzi and Nick & Jessica are reportedly new residents of Splitsville. I now have my answer.)


The new Charles Schwab commercials are a little disconcerting. The new animation style they employ is very lifelike and (for some reason) very disturbing. Words don't do them justice. I'm sure they'll play these commercials hundreds of times during the playoffs. And I'll gradually be desensitized to the new Matrix being created by the evil computer hench-bots at Schwab.