Let's Bemoan The Cellphone by Marjorie Dorfman

What did we all do before the cellphone was invented? How did we manage to survive without having one of them attached to our heads? Read on for answers and hopefully, a laugh or two.

Let me begin by telling all of you out there that I own a cellphone and I'm proud. I resisted buying one for a long time (visions of brain cancer and a general discomfort surrounding machines operating in my head). One road emergency convinced me that I should have one, for life and death situations only, of course. To those who swear by them, wouldn't leave the house or be caught dead or indecent without them, I have one question to ask. What did we all do before the cellphone was invented? How did we manage to live before we were able to make instantaneous contact with anyone doing anything anywhere in the world? Didn't our cosmopolitan fingers just have to wait until we either got home for that important call or found a pay phone somewhere to relieve anxiety? And consider this. How much anxiety can one experience (even if very well practiced, like myself) about returning a phone call if one doesn't even know that one was made in the first place?

I contend that we did just fine before we discovered the cellphone or it discovered us. I also own an answering machine like everyone else, but still I found a way to get through puberty, reach adulthood, pay my taxes and live a productive life before it was invented. Businesses flourished and failed before these "convenience" inventions and will again. Consider the Stock Market, which apart from one teeny-weenie setback in October,1929 managed to pull itself up from ruin without any help at all from either the answering machine or the cellphone. Wars were fought, won and lost without call waiting, three way conference calls, caller ids and cellphones.

Don't get me wrong. I1m all for progress, even though I'm not a pilgrim. It does seem to me, however, that no matter how fast we dance, it is never fast enough. Whenever I hear a phone ringing at a table beside me in a restaurant (which happens often), I wonder what could possibly be so urgent that it can't wait until the gentleman or lady can swallow at least one little escargot, much less get home. And don't tell me it's the urgency of the deal. Many have been made and lost long before the cellphone and its creator were even a blink in his or her mama's eye (or wherever else it counts.) Just think of Donald Trump1s father, J.P.Morgan and Kaiser Wilheim.

Doesn't it make you wonder what will come next? Will it be formal cellphones attached with fancy studs for weddings, confirmations and bar-mitzvahs? Can we expect a rainbow spectrum of cellphones to match that special outfit for that special occasion? Will wash and wear cellphones to be used in the bath or shower or while swimming at the beach become a part of our uncertain future? And how about monogrammed and sequined varieties for the more extravagant among us? Need I go on?

Another problem whose ramifications haven't been considered is eavesdropping. In a crowded restaurant or on board a bus or train, I can't help but overhear at least one end of a conversation of the person on the cellphone seated beside me. What if they are planning something daring or nefarious? I could be an accessory without even matching the rest of my outfit! And so could you!

I fear other repercussions that only a sick mind could conjure. For a moment, consider how the human race lost its tail. Throwbacks from another age, you say? (Okay, maybe we never really had tails, but just humor me a little bit). Well, I can cover up a coccyx with clothes just as easily as the next person. I'm talking about something much deeper, darker and a bit higher; mutations and limbs becoming obsolete when no longer needed by the species to survive. What would happen if the universe in its grand design opted to create man with a head attached to what it can no longer live without? How would we parent children born with cellphones attached to the heads? What would Maria Montessori say and would she approve?

What really is the matter with this machine age? I think it has created a nation of lazy, impatient souls. Time will not wait for any of us, but we won't wait for anything either. We don't write thank you notes when an e-mail will do. We call instead of paying a visit; always we opt for the quickest solution. I'm not saying it's wrong, but everything has a price. How much, you ask? Well, I'd like to take the time to discuss that with you, but my cellphone is ringing and I must get off this roller coaster and answer it. It could be Kaiser Wilheim, even though he's been dead for almost ninety years. He came back to life probably because he has a deal to discuss with me that "just won't wait!"

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Copyright 2002