Cell phone or hell phone?

Cell phones. It’s hard to imagine our world without them. I know this will be hard for some of you to believe but there was a time not too long ago when there were no cell phones.

Back in those long forgotten days, I could enjoy going to movies or for a weekend walk in the park. Not anymore, because the calm silence is invariably broken by someone screaming on their phone or the always annoying ring tone.

I hate these things. I hate what they do to people and I hate people who say, "Oh I really need to take this." If it isn’t the Senate calling to tell you that the Martians have just landed and we can’t make it without your help, then hang the damn thing up.

The cell phone is really just a pacifier for adults. It’s our little blankie, something to make us feel safe and wanted. It also allows us to shut off from people even more than we usually do. I see students jump to their cell phones the instant they finish class like the president was waiting on hold for them to finish their biology lab. Would the world collapse if you didn’t make that call? Probably not, but then all the rest of us wouldn’t know how important you are.

We live in a society where people have forgotten how to talk to each other in person. Forget about trying to have a discussion with anyone – people are so insular these days that they can’t talk to anyone who disagrees with any part of their doctrine, be it political, religious or societal.

I know it sounds like a contradiction that people’s constant talking on their cell phones inhibits interaction, but just hear me out. When people talk on their cell phones they forget their basic understanding of what is acceptable in a civilized society. How many times have you been in a movie theater and had someone not only answer his phone, but actually start talking on it in the middle of the movie? I have been in the middle of class here at PSU and had people not only answer their phone but talk, and then check their voice mail. The cell phone has allowed people to be even more self-centered than usual.

With inventions like this we take the emphasis off of interaction and put it on information. Talking on cell phones is not the same as face-to-face communication. When you talk to someone in front of you, you need to focus on nonverbal communication and eye contact. You really need to talk to the person in a meaningful way. When you gab on a cell phone you are just going through the passage of information, most of it useless from what I hear of these one-sided calls. Most calls seem to be placed so people can yell "dude" at each other.

Cell phones are the perfect accessories for our instant gratification-obsessed society. God forbid you actually wait to talk to Jimmy about what he ate for lunch. Hell no, we’re Americans! We want to talk NOW!

This brings me to my next problem with these god-forsaken things. Why is it that people lose control over the volume level of their voices when answering cell phones? If your phone sucks so bad that you have to yell to be heard then maybe the technology just isn’t ready for prime time. The cell phone isn’t really that good when it is required to do its job anyway. Dropped calls, horrible reception – These things are not conveniences; they are annoyances.

These problems with cell phones are trivial when compared to how many deaths involve people talking on cell phones. One out of 20 traffic accidents is linked directly to cell phones. Twenty-six hundred people die every year because of them. According to DSA, an advocacy group that works with cell phones, people who are legally drunk are safer behind the wheel than somebody gabbing away on their cell phone. The Transport Research Laboratory in England found that driving while using a cell phone whether it was hands free or not, gave drivers the same level of mental impairment that having a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level did.

Let’s think about that: drunk driving – illegal. Talking on your cell phone – encouraged. And why not? Big business determines so much of what Americans care about already and the cell phone business is a multi-billion dollar a year racket. A multi-billion dollar a year racket fueled by the caring, loving, tree-hugging populace of PSU.

Next time you feel the need to talk on your phone in the middle of class, please don’t. One of these days someone will snap and do something unprintable to you and your beloved cell.

I wonder, do roaming charges apply for a call from the colon?

Jason Germany can be reached at [email protected].