Call me, Ishmael…

… I really need to talk to you about something. But no, you’re being a mobi-dick and just keep texting me all these articles about knot-tying and white privilege.

While that would make a hilarious idea for an updated story of Moby Dick, it kinda ties in with what I’m gonna ramble about today… cell phones.

There have been many hundreds of thousands of articles written on cell phone etiquette… none of which have been apparently read by the people that need them the most. This leads me to believe that the worst offenders can’t read. Bad logic, I know. When I rode to school on my dinosaur, I had no idea just how popular and prevalent cell phones would become. What follows, are the same issues I’ve noticed that are still hanging around from the days where cell phones were nothing but a gigantic, brick-sized battery attached to a radio that could make telephone calls:

Technology has advanced rapidly and efficiently. Our cell phones do the job of what could be called an arsenal of devices back in the ’80’s. So, why are we still yelling into them? Back when the first cell phones came out, they were almost literally chained to a car because of the battery needs… so, only the people that could afford a nice car could have one. It was a rare day to see someone at a stop light talking into a gigantic handset with a cord leading into their console. I remember seeing that once, in Boise, only because I could hear half of the conversation due to the guy’s excessive yelling. I had no clue as to the quality of those phones, or the connections they were able to make, but I just assumed that they came with a microphone that was located near your mouth… as that’s how regular phones worked. Jump to modern day, and I still see people screaming into their cell, voice jacked to 11, telling someone (and everyone in earshot) about how Bobby is a liar and can’t be trusted with Janice’s baby, and oh, did you hear about how Uncle David got arrested for disorderly conduct again? While we’ve gotten away from the form factor that specifically said, “This is the end you speak into.”, I’m pretty sure that there’s still a microphone, literally millimeters away from your mouth picking up every sound you could possibly make. No need to ‘make up for the distance’ with your voice, please.

I’ll be turning 45 soon. I’ve been around as technology has made leaps and bounds into the future. I’m assuming that anyone older than I am has been observing the same changes in the tech around them… so why do I still see people look at and use a phone like it’s the most confusing thing they’ve ever seen in their life? I’ve helped people pull up coupons to use at a store (a LOT)… and while the user experience may not be the friendliest, it requires knowledge of things we’ve done ever since the internet came into being. i.e. reading text, clicking links, and following instructions. I’ve seen people treat opening a browser on their phone as being akin to defusing a bomb for the first time. There was a joke about letting a toddler set your VCR at one point in time, because they grew up with the technology. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, we’ve all ‘grown up’ with cell phone technology. (I might be a tad harsh here, but I’ve also lived through 9 iterations of the Windows operating system)

There’s nothing quite like enjoying your day, only to have it be interrupted by a blast of cacophonous noise right behind you. Because of that major leap in technology, you can make your ringtone almost literally ANYTHING these days. While there are many people who are willing to stick with the default (how many times can you hear the Apple ‘marimbas’ before you want to tear your eyes out?), there are those who seek out the most annoying, loudest, brashest ringtone you could possibly ever want (my son included). It’s a ringtone, folks. It’s supposed to be something that grabs your attention… notifying that you’re getting a call, not the wailing of a thousand horns signaling the end of times. It’s also not the right venue to call out your political leanings or penchant for swearing like a sailor in public.

Obviously, I could rant on for days about every little thing people do with their cell phones that annoys me… which I would probably start segueing into computer use, followed by how people drive, closely tied to shopping habits… etc… Also known as the death spiral of bitching from an ‘old’ person.

Those seem to be my top 3 gripes about cell phones (and the people that use them). What are yours? Let me know in the comments.

See you tomorrow. (proverbially)


1 Comment

  1. I can only think of one gripe off the top of my head (maybe I’ll come back and post more when they happen to surface circumstantially). It’s a really simple one (in my opinion, but I’m probably going to rant on about it for a couple hundred words), and it boils down to people using them around other people – I suppose it’s sort of a cultural thing, because by and large nobody really flinches when someone brings their phone out or starts tapping at their screen (while you were under the impression there was some kind of social interaction happening between you and them). I don’t want to be petty about it. I don’t want people to never look at their phones. I just want some amount of decency around it. Like, ‘Oh, sorry, I *am* still listening and interested, I just need a second to respond to this’. Or, ‘Oops, sorry, I got distracted by a notification on my phone’. Instead, it’s totally glossed over and accepted . I think of the equivalent: imagine someone pulls out a book and starts flicking through a few pages. That’s what it’s like when you decide to flick through an email or an article or a newsfeed. Or: imagine someone pulls out a *laptop*. Yeah, you’re probably going to say something then, aren’t you? But the phone is so small, so “unobtrusive”, it gets a free pass. Well, I hate it. If you think it’s important that you check if you have a new email every ten minutes, fine – but just warn me that’s what you want to do. Maybe then I can ask you if you’re waiting on something important. Or maybe if you have no good reason, you can finally acknowledge that you’ve just devalued our interaction, because if we both just let it slide, nothing’s going to change.

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