Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cell phones

I've tried to do some reading on cell phone etiquette since last night after I got into a protracted discussion with someone about my perceived lack of the existence of such etiquette. I was mainly annoyed that I was in a restaurant with this individual, and he answered the phone. The phone call was from a friend of ours calling because she needed to get a hairdryer from someone else.

I generally don't like cell phones but have never really sat down and thought about why that was so. Initially my distaste for them grew out of my work colleagues' tendencies to contact people outside of work--there was no way I wanted to be that "in touch" when I was officially off the clock.

Nor am I the Luddite that people try to make me out to be. I love washing machines, my computer (except for the time that the hard drive crashed and I lost a year's of grad school--but that's another post targeted towards you Mac evangelists), portable recorded music, fast internet connections, and antibiotics. I don't want to get into a conversation bashing cell phones, because there are obvious pros and cons for any given technology. It's not worth enumerating here.

But I do think that it is worthwhile to think about how technology has changed interactions between people, as trite as this sentiment has played out.

My initial thoughts coalesce around how cell phone usage potentially changes the prioritization of time, expressed through the "granting" of time to company and those trying to get through on the cell phone. This goes for call waiting, too. I was trying to figure out how being interrupted by a cell phone is fundamentally different than being interrupted by a live human. I wouldn't be so annoyed by the latter if we (my friend and I) were out. I think that the former bothers me more by the sheer inability for a tripartite interaction to occur. But then, speaker phone answers that. But then, why the f*ck would I want to be on speaker phone in public? Tacky.

I also welcome any suggestions as to how to articulate the scheduling flexibility that cell phones seem to promote. I say "seem" because I think that they promote flexibility for one individual, but not necessarily for another. More than once have I arrived somewhere at an appointed time, only to be called by that person with a request to cancel, change the time, or change the location because it's more convenient for the other person.

I do also love the following scenarios:

1. Sitting with someone else, chatting. Other's cell rings.
O: "Oh, hi, I'm out with Ñalang. Can I call you back?"
First off, if it's not dire for you answer your stupid phone initially, then why couldn't your voicemail have picked up until after we left the restaurant? The requisite response is that the person calling could have had an emergency. I can't argue with that, but I don't buy it entirely either--especially since no one in my immediate circle does brain surgery, delivers babies, or had an incapacitated parent/child/dog.

2. In a movie. Jerk answers cell.
J: "I'm in a movie. Can I call you back?" Protracted conversation might ensue, revolving around when the movie might end and what the phone call is about.

I take it back. I loathe cell phones. I think they turn people into pathologically dependent individuals.

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