I can remember a time when I had to pull off the road and dash up to a Circle K or 7/11 to make a phone call. Or when every phone had a cord. Or when I had to hear a dial tone before making a call. Or the expression, “Dial a phone, ” meant something. Cell phones have changed everything. They are a wonderful invention allowing new levels of freedom to communicate unheard of, just a few years ago. But, like everything else, it’s a two-edged sword.
No longer is privacy the rule. I get to hear about everyone else’s conversations in the grocery store, bank line, restaurant, and most other heretofore-public areas. I’m not sure I want to know why so and so is running late, lost their job, or what they want for dinner. It’s not just that problem. I get confused when I see someone walking along and talking into thin air. That is, until I see the earphone, or tell-tail cord, coming from the person’s ear and dangling downward. Yet, I’m actually getting use to the sight, which is equally disconcerting. But I’m also irate over what happened to my formerly quite space.
There was a time that I could go into a Starbucks, get a Vente Café Latte, muffin, and read the newspaper in peace. But that was years ago. Now, I get to hear an entire conversation regarding stock purchases, the aunt Edna flying in from Des Moines, or how hemorrhoids are ruining the man who is seated next to me. That last conversation caused me to retreat to the safety of my car to finish my breakfast. What has happened to our personal and private issues? Are they now aired for the world to hear and judge? I don’t want the people around me hearing about my business, but am I alone in this view?
The kids that run around the mall wear the cell phone like a badge. Most often, they are seen furiously text-messaging each other, even as they walk and talk to one another. I can’t understand how the phone became a telegraph machine. But that’s a whole other article. I want to vent on the public nature of cell phones. In the ancient days of pay phones, in the very beginning, the Bell System went to great expense to build booths wide accordion folding doors. Later, to save money, they opted for small, metal, mini-shelters where you could stick your head and various acoustics could absorb the sound. The idea was that you didn’t want other people listening in. In fact, it was considered rude to eavesdrop. I doubt that the next generation will even recognize that word.
I will continue to do my part by talking to a minimum in a public place. I rarely make an outgoing call in a restaurant and reluctantly only pick up an incoming call when I recognize the number. It’s our civic duty to return to the days of personal privacy and decorum. Let’s try to keep our lives to ourselves and not treat the cell phone conversations as if they were meant for the cover of the National Enquirer. Can you hear me now?
Jeffrey Hauser’s latest book is, “Inside the Yellow Pages, ” which can be viewed at http://www.poweradbook.com
He was a sales consultant for the Bell System Yellow Pages for nearly 25 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Advertising and has a Master's Degree in teaching. He had his own advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and ran a consulting and design firm, ABC Advertising. Currently, he is the Marketing Director for thenurseschoice.com, a Health Information and Doctor Referral site.