Thursday, April 10, 2008

Can You Hear Me, Now? Good!

It’s funny—and scary—how technology changes society and personal behavior. One phenomenon I’ve noticed of late is that of full-grown men walking around in stores jabbering on cell phones. Business-related phone conversations I understand, but how about the chatty ones?

I was at Wetback-Mart the other day, buying a few groceries, when I saw two unrelated men—one of whom was of grandfatherly age—talking on cell phones. They wandered aimlessly down the aisles, with no buggy or visible merchandise, chatting. I especially enjoy when such folks block aisles and get in everyone’s way as they meander. Sorry, but when I’m in a hurry, and I’m weaving my shopping cart between Julio and Santa Anna as they stuff tv dinners down their pants and have their pregnant wives and twin broods of twelve children standing lookout, I’m not interested in hearing about how it made you feel when Bubba laughed at your favorite for a shoo-in at the local tractor pull. Or about that time on your annual hunting trip when a bear carved its initials in your backside because you forgot which end of the rifle goes “BANG!” Or your thoughts on re-mortgaging the house and selling the wife and kids to the Sudanese so you could buy that new-fangled “road hawg” for which you’ve been pining. See, I don’t give a Woodsy Owl hoot about your personal life, total stranger. However, I do care about the fact that I can’t get to the milk, as you lean on the cold case and sigh in reminiscence with Billy Bob about drinking everyone else under the table during Tuesday’s happy hour at Bazoonga’s Bar and Grill. Get a handle on reality, “guys.” You’re in a public place. The world is not a deserted stage for you and only you to play upon. This ain’t I Am Legend, and you ain’t Robert Neville.

Before the advent of cell phones, I never saw men standing around in public places—malls, grocery and department stores, and the like—involved in inane conversations on pay phones. Such luxuries were for calling someone for a ride, or other important purposes. Not getting the skinny on last night’s episode of American Idol-worshipper from Butch.

Now don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against cell phones; they’re useful tools. But remember the maxim everything to its season. There’s a time and place for it, fellers. How about sitting in your car in the parking lot, rather than shuffling along, head-down, in the middle of the walkway in a crowded store? There’s a revolutionary idea, dummy. It’s sad that you can’t run in Wetback-Mart and buy a six-pack and the new selection in Oprah’s Book Club (yecch!) without dialing Leroy’s house for some chitty –chat.

When I was a kid, we had a name for people who spent loads of time on the phone embroiled in ephemeral conversation, who seemed to have the receiver surgically attached to their ears.

“Girls”, we called them. I still do.

Now all you need is some bubblegum, Hank.

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