Friday, May 19, 2006


Maybe it sounds too much like people complaining about horseless carriages or those newfangled talking picture boxes, and yeah, they've been around long enough I should be used to them by now, but seriously: every time you use a cell phone, Satan's grip on the human race becomes a little bit tighter.

Granted, I have no theological proof of this. But evil tends not to appear in grand, flamboyant ways. It's the little things, small examples of assholiness run amok, that give aid and comfort to the Prince of Darkness. Whenever some pinhead veers wildly from one lane to another because they're driving and talking on the phone at the same time, Satan (who I'm pretty sure resembles the late actor Laird Cregar) smiles. (As opposed to Sara Smiles, the Hall & Oates song, which was itself recorded by two of the devil's minions.)

You want more evidence? I was driving through Yuppieville the other day and I saw an annoyingly well-dressed, severely thin suburban housewife standing outside, ostensibly watering her lawn, while also talking on a cell phone. The thing is, her conversation was apparently so important to her that she was unable to pay attention to her other task, so she stood forever in one spot, the hose hanging limply in her hand, but still running, needlessly watering the hell out of one spot.

Okay, first of all, we've had plenty of rain recently. Did the lawn really need to be watered? But more to the point, didn't gardening used to be a relaxing, solitary activity? Wasn't it a nice way of getting some fresh air and sunshine, unencumbered by the hassles of modern life? By introducing a phone into this Edenic setting, aren't you a) depriving yourself of the opportunity to relax, and b) doing Satan's bidding? Yes, and yes.

More evidence? How about when I drop fifty, sixty, a hundred bucks for concert tickets, only to find myself stuck next to some jerkwad phoning his buddy two songs into the show. "Yeah, you should be here, man. It's fucking AWESOME!" Yeah, you know what would really be awesome? If you weren't here, pal. Why don't you call this guy after the show? After, you know, you've actually listened to the music instead of talking through it?

Has it really come to this? Has the human race actually lost the ability to just enjoy something without offering a running commentary on how much we're enjoying it?

Yeah, yeah, I know, cell phones are good to have in emergencies. I had car trouble on a back road the other day. If I'd had a cell phone, I could have called for help. Instead, I did what human beings used to be able to do--I just dealt with it. A gross simplification? Maybe, but the way people are tied to their phones you'd think the human race couldn't have functioned without them.

A recent proposal by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to ban cell phones in public schools--because kids were talking on them incessantly, totally blowing off their teachers--was met by indignant protests from parents. Without cell phones, how will we know where our kids are? How will we know if they're safe? What if there's another 9/11?

Ah, 9/11--is there anything it can't be used to justify? No, there's not, which leads to one more point: when people are used to using their cell phones in public, blathering on about intimate details in front of total strangers, or using cameras and recorders on those phones to record the behaviors of people they don't know, our sense of privacy erodes. So it's easy for the federal government to seize this opportunity to start eavesdropping on private conversations without bothering to get warrants.

Twenty years ago, an administartion pulling crap like that would have been brought down by public outrage. Now--feh. Privacy, schmivacy. Let them listen. We're happy with our cell phones. We have no secrets anymore. It's kind of a thrill, really, like when we talk loudly in a public place and everyone has no choice but to listen.

And they are listening. And Satan is smiling.