Friday, September 24, 2004

Hey, You! Yes, You With the Cell Phone. I Hate You.

By now you're tired of cell phone rants. You've read about it everywhere - in the papers and in online rants. You've heard about the new laws banning cell phone use by drivers, and you've all witnessed some monumental cell phone gaffe like the sound of Outkast's "Hey Ya" beeping from someone's Motorola in the middle of a funeral. There's even a book out now dedicated solely to the subject of The Jerk with the Cell Phone. It's been covered. If you don't want to read another rant about cell phones, then move right along. Nothing to see here.

First let me give a full disclaimer. I own a cell phone. It currently resides in the side pocket of my totebag. It is four years old, the battery is dead and the antenna, which had been taped on with hundred-mile-an-hour tape, is off on its own little adventure somewhere. I'm just not a phone person. At home, I can go for days without making or receiving a call. I don't get a lot of calls because anyone who would be calling me knows that I almost never answer the phone. I go for weeks sometimes without even checking my messages. The only day I answer the phone is Sunday. On Sundays, Mom calls. It's always Mom on Sunday, and she knows I'm here, and if I don't answer she just keeps calling and leaving messages that make me feel like a total slackass. She says things like, "It's 2 in the afternoon, but you must still be in bed. Call me if you ever wake up." Later, "It's 6 p.m. I guess you've gone back to sleep." (The last said in an exasperated tone.) Later still, "Lisa, it's 10 p.m. your time. Are you there? I'm getting worried."

She's not worried. She knows exactly where I am. I'm on the couch in the living room reading the paper and watching the Simpsons and I only have one phone (which is not cordless) and it's in the bedroom and I'm not about to haul my ass across the apartment to get there by the fourth ring so she can tell me about my nephew's latest school band performance, the stupid thing my Dad did, and what she served at her last bridge luncheon. If anyone dies in my family, it better be on a Sunday, otherwise I might not make it home in time for the funeral.

So, yeah. I'm not a phone person.

This is why I find it incomprehensible and unfathomable that so many people now find it virtually impossible to live their lives without being in constant contact with whoever it is they feel they must be in constant contact. When I see people shopping in the grocery store, cell phone to ear, I want to drop to my knees and scream to the heavens, "WHY???" Grocery shopping was never a consultative process before. You made a list, you shopped. None of this calling of the spouse from Aisle 7 to assist in the monumental Mrs. Butterworth's versus Aunt Jemimah decision. WHAT THE FUCK? PICK ONE OR BUY BOTH. IT DOES NOT REQUIRE A PHONE CALL.

But apparently it does.

At Big Bookstore, people do not seem to be consulting the person at the other end of the line so much as talking recreationally. Big Bookstore, apparently, is conducive to catching up with friends and just generally shooting the shit. I have a theory about this. I think that some people feel that shopping for books indicates something negative about their desirability as social beings. After all - reading is a solitary pursuit. So if you're at the bookstore stocking up on the latest chick lit or the entire Tom Clancy oeuvre, you might (if you are a socially insecure moron) feel that others are looking at you and wondering why you have so darn much time on your hands. It's kind of like the single-woman-in-grocery-checkout-line-with-catfood-and-lean-cuisine syndrome, where you can just sense the pitying looks gazing down on your pathetic basket of single girl goods.

If do find yourself in Big Bookstore, shopping alone, on a weekend night and you are that insecure moron mentioned above, then you really need to show the world that you are not the Big Loser that you appear to be. What better way than talking loudly on your cell to let the world know: "Hey! I am not a Big Loser! I have friends. Friends with whom I am speaking RIGHT NOW!"

There are other variations on this theme. Some people (mostly men) talk business, very loudly, while their infant spawn run amok in the Kid's Section. They are saying to the world: "My wife may have stuck me with the kids tonight, but I AM IMPORTANT, DAMMIT. I am not some girly-man caregiver! I have work that cannot wait until tomorrow!"

So these people walk around the store, talking and gesticulating and not using their inside voices. When they come to the cash registers, they do not even pause in their important conversations to acknowledge my existence. I am reduced to a human vending machine. The entire transaction takes place without the customer ever making eye contact or exchanging a word with me.

I watch the customers depart, juggling their belongings, purchases and cell phones, the flow of this vital conversation never ceasing, and I think: "You don't fool me. I know you are really talking to your Mom - who is telling you about your nephew's latest school band performance, the stupid thing your Dad did, and what she served at her last bridge luncheon."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mind customers who don't make eye contact or exchange words with me, but I prefer that they remain completely silent as well.


8:09 AM  
Blogger meateater said...

hey that is not the half of it. how about the person who want me to find a book for them and they cannot even got the full title out until their phone rings. They don't even excuse themselves before answering their phone and proceed to carry on a full conversation with the person on the other end. Am i just some hired hand that is supposed to wait until they get good and ready to end the conversation so that i can find them the latest self-help book that will help the realize that "he is just not into you"

12:40 AM  
Blogger ereshkigal said...

"Am i just some hired hand that is supposed to wait until they get good and ready to end the conversation so that i can find them the latest self-help book that will help the realize that 'he is just not into you'"

Why, yes, Andrew. Yes, you are. Compared to yours, their time is precious! Precious, I tell you!

1:24 AM  
Blogger Ministry of Cats said...

This state of things would be SO much simpler if we could apply the original principle behind self-moderation on AIM to cell phones. On AIM, it was felt (rightly) that since AOL could not exercise its KGB/CIA-ish control over non-AOL customers, that the best way to discourage people from being assholes was to allow the recipient of stupidity to virtually zap the sender; someone who was sufficiently large a prick would find themselves quickly rendered unable to send ANY messages.

Think of how sublimely quiet the world would become if, every time some suburban assault vehicle 'piloting' soccer mom, or narcisistically self-important businessprat, or dain-brammaged 'oober-l33t' {teenaged-punk, twenty-nothing, thirty-nothing} started prattling away on their phones, everyone in the vicinity could cut them off… or perhaps deliver a tiny jolt to their genitals… it's enough to bring tears to my eyes.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Elmira G. said...

Oh, I had a fun one at the register one Christmas season. A young, apparently otherwise sane woman, talked loudly throughout the entire transaction, about her irregular pap smear. Now me, I tend to consider my privates...oh...private. But apparently little miss gyno-nightmare doesn't know the word. i have to imagine that even the person on the other end of the conversatin would have preferred not to be party to the conversation

7:42 PM  
Blogger ereshkigal said...

Jolts to the genitals! Yessss!

1:58 AM  
Blogger Bookseller said...

Yes, id have to agree with all of you 100% !

i like to talk very loudly over them and try to ask them as many questions possible while they are trying to have the said conversations on their pesky phones... i bet they LOVE being interrupted just as much as i love them being assholes on their phones... "HI! HOW ARE YOU TODAY MA'AM/SIR?" "GLAD TO HEAR THAT... WILL U BE SAVING MONEY TODAY WITH OUR MEMBER CARD?" "YOU DONT AHVE ONE?! WELL! LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE SAVINGS YOU'LL INQUIRE OVER THE NEXT YEAR!" "WOULD YOU LIKE A BAG?!" "WHICH SIZE DO YOU PREFER?!"

ahh... :o) sweet revenge...

1:06 AM  
Blogger e la vita mia said...

My CRM told me about your blog. . .YOU ARE MY QUEEN!

As for the phone people. .When working cashwrap, I, either, stand there staring at the people, until they look at me with the "you can help me now" look. After which, I say "Oh, I didn't relise you were ready to check out, since you were on the phone and all." (complete with 'You dumbass' smile) or I ask every question I possibly can, including "do you want the books in seperate bags or just one?" and explain the members card slowly with every feature I can possibly think of.

9:48 PM  

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