July 1, 2016

Intermittent clouds

It’s a cell-out performance

Special to The Gazette

In a recent column, John Gladden put his perfect spin on cell phones, about which I, too, have strong feelings: their indiscriminant use has invaded every aspect of our lives. Safety purposes aside, for me they mostly represent a perverse need to be in touch with somebody, anybody, all the time.

It is disconcerting to see drivers with their hands stuck to the sides of their heads, as though they are nursing tooth or earaches (even more so when the other hand is fixing hair or makeup). Others look like aliens communicating through odd-looking things hooked to their ears. They make Mr. Spock’s pointed ears look normal. Furthermore, it is most disturbing to feel like an unwilling eavesdropper everywhere I go, even though there often is no way to avoid overhearing these conversations. I could carry on endlessly about why cell phones annoy me, but to be fair, I must share a recent experience that gave me another viewpoint.

I entered a grocery store and went to the produce section for corn-on-the-cob. Two women already were busy selecting and husking their corn over the barrel. One worked quietly, while the other, with a cell phone lodged between her tilted head and hunched shoulder, chatted as she husked.
I took my place next to the talker and began husking, wondering what, if anything, the quiet woman thought about the scene. I kept my attention on the job at hand because I knew if I looked up, my facial expression would reveal my true feelings.

They finished before I did, and I felt relief knowing I would no longer have to listen to the one-sided, inescapable conversation. What happened next caught me completely off guard.

The quiet one turned to the talker and rather predictably said, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation … ” She went on to say she and her husband were considering new windows (which the talker had been discussing) and she would be interested in knowing more about theirs. The talker gladly shared her experience, and in the brief conversation that followed, the two women compared quotes, costs, styles, even ages as reasons for undertaking a major work-saving renovation. For a moment, the extended conversation almost made me feel I was now listening in on a party line.

The cell phone, the instrument of choice in a modern day version of a party line, keeping people in touch with people, even ones we do not know — who’da thunk? They may be the bane of my existence, and I still have serious reservations about their often unnecessary use, but I will now at least concede that, perhaps for some, cell phones offer benefits I simply do not understand.

A recent Ballard Street cartoon succinctly summed up my perspective on their use. A women is busily punching buttons on her cell phone. The caption: “Audrey searches desperately for someone to call, before she’s left alone with her own thoughts.”

There must be a lot of people who are uncomfortable with their own thoughts.

Huston, who refuses to cell out, lives and writes in Medina.