The Blog

Cell Hell Phone Fun

Or, How I finally caved in.

12:00 AM, Sep 15, 2006 • By LARRY MILLER
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Well, hate is probably too strong a word.

No, it's not. I hate them.

I know they've become as essential for all of us as deodorant and bottled water, and that without our phones, we would all sit very still for half a minute or so, then begin drumming our fingers, then roll our necks a couple of times, take a deep breath in and out, quietly whistle a bar or two of "Arriverderci, Roma," then suddenly vault up, screaming, and dive out the nearest tenth story window.

The ones who astonish me are the people who wear hidden, hearing-aid-sized models and strut down the street yakking to no one and looking for all the world like escaped mental patients. (By the way, do we even have mental patients who escape anymore? If so, do guards in all-white uniforms still chase them down with butterfly nets? You know, where by the time they catch the guy he's already talked himself into being the head of Ford or something? And everyone's shocked to find out he was just crazy? On the other hand, maybe that explains why they made a car called the "Probe.")

No, sadly, I think, the only Americans who used to walk up and down the street talking to themselves were lunatics, and actors auditioning for parts. (Take a minute to make your own jokes on that one.) They've both been overwhelmingly shunted aside by hard-charging junior executives and party-planners with cell phones who don't know--or don't care--that talking loudly in public is rude, and makes the yakker look stupid.

Sometimes when a junior something-trader gets onto an elevator talking animatedly into his phone about his next big deal (no doubt talking to another guy somewhere in another elevator who's speaking just as loudly; probably in the same hotel)--and only if it's just the two of us, mind you--I'll suddenly start singing something right behind him, like, "He don't love you--and he never will!--like I love you . . . " The louder the guy gets, the louder I get, until he finally turns, and I say, "Oh, I'm sorry, was my singing too loudly interfering with your speaking too loudly?"

It will never chasten the pinhead (they're bulletproof), but, on the plus side, you only have a few more floors to go.

Well, the reason I'm bringing this up is that I finally got one last Friday. I've had them before, but I keep losing them. I've had three, actually. The first I got a few years ago, when they were still as big as pints of milk. That one lasted a few months, and I took it to a job somewhere (Calgary, if I remember) for a few weeks. I think I left it at Lake Louise. Or a bar.

The second one I had a little longer, and dropped it (seriously) into a cup of coffee in a trailer on a set. To show you how stupid I am, I fished the thing out and dried it off, and put in the sun, open, to dry even more, trying to turn it on later in the day every half hour or so. I didn't know, until one of the production assistants saw me and gently explained (with a look of astonishment on her face), that once the thing is immersed completely in a large, Sumatran Breakfast Blend, it's not a phone anymore, and can never be one again. The liquid kills it, and it is, now and forevermore, just a hunk of matter with a hinge. You might as well put a rock up to your ear and talk into it.

Ah, well.

The third, the last one, I had for, I don't know, eight months, a year, and left on another set. I think. No, I did. I know I had the thing that morning on the way to work, and I looked for it (a little; very little), but didn't have it on the way home. Yeah, that was it. Maybe at the snack table. I don't know.

And that's where it stayed till last week. I was without a phone for six months, and the happiest guy in the world. My wife kept saying, "Okay, you have to get another phone." And she's right, too: Sometimes the Little League game was rescheduled, or someone needed to be picked up. And I'd come strolling in like a happy hobo after she'd spent three hours trying to track me down.

Perhaps you can picture how pleasant the next three hours were.

The point is, like so many things, the toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube, and our lives are already changed, and we're all prisoners. How did Little League games get played before cell phones? I don't know. Maybe there were none.