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Archive for the ‘cell phones’ Category

Writing about something is not the same as knowing about something. I have always admired good reporting as well as good fiction. John Powers of The Boston Globe was a hell of a writer when he was covering sports. John is a huge man, towering over me, but his insight into what took place at almost any sporting event made the reader feel that he or she was actually in the arena, not as a spectator but as a participant. My dear late friend, Bob Parker, was a wonderful fiction writer who drew the reader in from the first sentence and kept the reader enthralled until the last period was place.

I am about as far from a John Powers or Robert Parker or any of the wonderful writers we read on a daily basis. Like many of you, I struggle to gain and maintain the reader’s interest. It shows in that, if really lucky, I have two or three readers a day. It’s an ego thing, and I’m the first one to admit it.

Think about everything that is happening in the world today. We still have stupidity in Washington, with a President who feels he can do no wrong…and he’s wrong; a Congress now controlled by a single party, but I don’t see much taking place other than the Keystone Pipeline which is just going to line a few more pockets of the one percent; our judicial branch is, at best, confused about which issues belong before them and which should be left to the states for a final decision.

On the world front, we have the horrible executions of the French satirists at Charlie Hebdo and the assassination of four police officers by known radicals who were allowed to walk the streets freely and who got the martyrdom that they desired after their horrible onslaught. Sure, I could do my research online and read everything there is to read…like over one million articles, most of which are as accurate as would be teats on a bull, but that doesn’t give one the right to put together an accurate Reader’s Digest condensed version. Perhaps the most odious and despicable post-episodic thing taking place now is the race between al Qaeda and ISIS over who takes the “credit” for committing this hideous act. Is it fodder for the writer in me? By writing about this crime, I merely lend credence to the fact that no one, anywhere in the world, at any time, is safe from these half-crazed lunatics who are exercising their childhood fantasies of killing with no more respect for the beliefs of true Muslims and the Quran than the Bible-thumping idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church have in their beliefs about Christianity.

So what is left for me, in the few years I have remaining, to garble about? Should I talk about the 2016 race to become the next sucker in the White House? I have finally – gad, but it took a long time – figured out why smart people don’t run for president…their egos are not large enough, or as Clint Eastwood once put, “A man just has to know his limitations.” The really smart person allows the puppet to become the titular head and then the puppet-masters, eg, Citibank, the pharmaceutical lobbyists, the farm folk, and several others sit back and tug on a few strings to get the puppet to do their bidding. It’s wonderful to sit at the computer and gaze into the crystal ball. The Republican Party is firmly convinced that the next puppet will be from the GOP, thereby giving both the executive and legislative branches to a group of people who care little for the average American and a great deal for the one-percenters. After all, it’s the one-percenters who write the bills they pass and keep their bank accounts growing. And, what the hell, should a Democrat – by some miracle of God – attain the exalted puppet-post, it will merely be four or eight more years of gridlock. With gridlock, nothing gets done; the press has a field day; and late night comics rub their hands together in glee. While I consider myself an independent voter, I have to admit that someone like Chris Christie of New Jersey could really shake the old-time-DC-boys up; in addition to which, he probably knows where to get rid of the bodies….lots of swampland in New Jersey.

The recent story of the loving son is not something that you find every day. Could one invent such a thing? Perhaps if I was a more creative writer it could happen. However, I’m not that desperate to build a readership. That was just one of those poignant moments that had to be set to paper, and I was honored to have the opportunity to do so…my thanks to those who commented. The opposite of that situation was viewed by Juli yesterday. “Behind you is a mother and son,” she said. “Neither has stopped texting since they sat down.” Of course, we had no idea if they were texting one another, but my bet is that was not the case. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Can you imagine saying to one of your adult children, “Let’s go to lunch and leave our smart phones in the car.” Be the fastest goddamned lunch on record. Yes, I could write about my view on technology (said he, pounding away at the keyboard) but I don’t even know the vernacular for today’s techno-geek…tough to fall behind the times like this.

Well, I’ve almost reached my thousand word limit so to you, my reader (hopefully with an ‘s,’ I bid you a wonderful winter without falls or flu; without slipping and sliding; without icicles or idiots. If you have young children, I hope you will enjoy sledding with them at the local hill. The bumps will be a bit rougher than you may remember, but what the hell, you’ll have wonderful memories when you recall the day over a cup of hot chocolate…don’t forget the whipped cream!

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Hey…I have a new phone!

Not only do I have a new phone, but I kept my old number. It would be somewhat unfair to tell you the name of my former provider, but Verizon was – oops, did it, didn’t I? – very cooperative in transferring my number to my new provider.

Here’s the story. Last year, Juli purchased a phone on QVC for a hundred bucks. In addition to no contract, she receives triple minutes, but she started with a promotion 1,500 minutes. Since she’s not a big caller, it works out well for her. Who knows how fast I’ll go through them, but few people call me anymore. Most are dead so I don’t expect to hear from them; the rest are living in Florida; and the kids rarely call, so I’m probably on pretty safe ground.

Anyway, the real story of this new telephone is what happened when I went to activate it. As usual, the new phones come with bells and whistles that are totally foreign to someone like me. That is to say, that had this phone been given to a child between the ages of ten and thirteen, registration, activation, manipulation, and any other ‘ation’ of which you can conceive would probably have been completed within ten minutes. For me the process required an hour and a half, and I’m still not certain that everything has been done properly.

However, to quote the melancholy Dane,” …there’s the rub,” and he wasn’t speaking of a massage parlor or sleep. The ‘rub’ came in the form of some fraud in North Carolina who had usurped my e-mail address and already had opened an account using said e-mail. How the heck he got away with doing this is beyond my computer mastery; however, I have my secret weapons. Ever the Nick and Nora North of the 21st Century, Juli – she was Nora, by the way – and I not only managed to learn the serial number of his phone, cancel his account and change the password to one of my own, together, we figured his password question and used that to utterly destroy him. His comeuppance was complete…ta da…drum roll, please!

I make this sound like a simple process. It was not, particularly since the customer service for this particular phone is in other than the United States. I’m all for outsourcing, but not when I cannot understand the speaker at the other end. Farsi, Hindi, and Mandarin have never been my strong points, but for a while that appeared to be my wont when I was attempting to get computer questions answered. While I do not consider the English language as spoken in Guyana – it is the official language – to be without accent, Tanecca, the young lady who first attempted to be of assistance, had the patience of Job with this old man and carried me up through the first several steps of my registration and activation. When it came time to transfer my existing number from Verizon to her wireless carrier, she suggested that a transfer was in order; thus I was sent to Daryl – not that Daryl, but the other Daryl. I never learned where this Daryl was located – I think it might have been in Suriname or French Guiana. This gentleman was also extremely helpful. If I had to be put on hold, he explained that he would be gone for less than two minutes. While I never timed his absence, it never appeared more than 30 seconds. Like Tenecca before him, he had less trouble understanding me than I did understanding him – shades of the “Ugly American.” Eventually, even Daryl ran out of knowledge – this time, how to get rid of the fraud’s efforts.

Finally, it was on to Christian in Guatemala City. Christian pulled the plug on the fraud, but indicated that there was a problem with Verizon. My account and telephone number weren’t matching up. What did Christian do – I told you these folks were sharp – he called Verizon and set up a three-way conversation. Within minutes the problem was solved; my phone was activated, and all was right with the world.

“Will that be all, sir,” Christian asked, despite having been told on several occasions to please call me “Dick.”

“No, Christian, it won’t,” I told him. “I would very much like to speak with your supervisor.”

He did not question my motive or ask if something was wrong, but merely said, “One moment please, sir, and I will put him on.”

“This is the supervisor,” said an older voice.

I told him how wonderful it was to work with the three professionals who had helped me over the past hour and a half. I explained that while he might not personally know Tanecca in Guyana, nor Daryl in wherever, he certainly knew Christian, but that all three had exercised great patience in being of assistance. It sounded as if he was waiting for the “but” so I didn’t disappoint. I said, “But I’m certain you get complaints whenever your folks are unable to help; therefore, when I receive the kind of help I received this evening, I believe you should hear that also.” There really was a pause on the line before the man came back and said, “We rarely get your kind of call, senor” – yep, he called me senor – “So I say thank to you and I will certainly pass this back to Christian and his colleagues.”

We parted ways, but it made me feel rather good that maybe Christian will get an “atta boy” or however it’s said in Guatemala City. It would have been better if I could have told him in Spanish. Still kinda nice, though.

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My telephone doesn’t ring much anymore.

I finally decided to remove the land line or house phone or whatever the hell you wish to call it. That saved some $$$$ I’ll tell ya. It had stopped ringing about five years after I retired. When the children lived at home, it never stopped ringing. Of course, that was in the day when children didn’t have their own cell phone before they could talk. Today it appears that a cell phone is something you give at a baby shower. Oh, and not just any cell phone…that would be gauche…it has to be the brightest, shiniest, and the absolutely-just-off-the-shelf-latest-model. Call me old fashioned, but when a kid in kindergarten just has to take a call from his or her broker, something seems very, very wrong.

The house phone used to ring a great deal shortly after retirement. Old associates would call with questions…“What would you think about…” or “If we decided to change this, what would be the consequences…” You know the type of calls I’m talking about. You think you’ve left your responsibilities in capable hands, but you’re really rather flattered that you’re still being called. Then somebody new comes in or people finally figure out that much of what you did was, for the most part, common sense and they start using their own…and the ringing of the phone slows and eventually comes to a halt. A very – very few – call to ask how you are and how things are going, but that also stops altogether. One day you look at the silent telephones; the one in the kitchen, hanging on the wall; the ugly brown one in the family room, taking up space on an end table; and the blue one in the bedroom, crowding the night stand. So, you think to yourself, “Hey, these are costing me a dinner out per month. Why do I need these and this thing in my pocket?” Yes, I broke down and finally purchased a cell phone; a flip phone.

Getting rid of a land line can, of course, be a pain in the ass. You have to notify everyone who never calls you anymore anyway and let them know that the only way they can still reach you is by your cell phone. It’s a pain in the ass except for not notifying those people you never wanted to hear from anymore anyway.  That’s the good part. For a while the cell phone rings with people confirming that this is your new number. Some, very few I noticed, even wonder if you have financial problems. These are also the people who, when you tell them why you’ve eliminated the land line, usually say, “Geez, that makes a lot of sense.” Suddenly, you’re not the old retired fossil they thought you to be. You’re ‘brilliance star’ rises once more…for about fifteen minutes. Then you get the braggarts who tell you that they removed their land line years ago, as if to say, “Asshole, what took you so long…you are just sooo slow.” I have two words for those folks but, for the most part, I restrain myself.

Having a cell phone has its own share of problems. My children…and their children all have cell phones that are capable far beyond an instrument used for speaking with another party. Their phones connect directly with the Internet, allow them to listen to their favorite music, watch movies, take and transmit photographs and video, text back and forth because e-mail is too slow, and on very rare occasions actually talk with someone on the other end of the line. In other words, what was at one time the primary use for which the cell phone was invented has now become a secondary feature of the instrument.

My little old flip phone is good for reminding me of appointments; yep, it has a calendar. I can take still photos with my phone, but it’s primary function is to make telephone calls to another person, place, or, as is the case with most folks over 70, to a doctor’s office.

Call me old fashioned if you like but I really don’t need to be on the Internet when I’m sitting at a restaurant. I certainly don’t need to text while I’m driving. I’m not a selfie who is into taking pictures and posting them on Facebook or Instagram, and, quite frankly, I won’t even answer the friggin’ phone if I’m driving. When there was no such thing as a cell phone, I survived, and I cannot see any reason to answer a cell phone while I’m driving today. If the world is about to come to an end and someone is calling to share this information with me, fine. By the time I get my phone out of my pocket and answer it, the world will have already ended so what does it matter. If they’re calling to tell me someone died, fine; leave a message. If the doctor’s calling to tell me I have 24 hours to live and he forgot to tell me yesterday, don’t bother me; maybe I can stretch another day out of it.

Cell phone usage is ridiculous. It’s no wonder parents and children don’t communicate well. Mother pulls out of the driveway to drive the kids to school and she has her cell phone attached to her ear. Meanwhile the kids are either playing video games on their I-pads or texting a friend on their cell phone. The only sound in the car is from a CD to which no one is listening, but it replaces any need for conversation. Mom drops the kids; tells them she’ll pick them up at whenever and either drives away with the phone still tucked between shoulder and flapping gums or stops talking long enough to make plans with another Mom who is still talking on her cell phone. I’m telling you, it is absolutely incredible.

Let me ask a simple question…what did people do before the advent of the cellular telephone? Yes, they have given us the freedom to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime…but at what cost? The populist will tell you that it allows us to multitask, something we have always done, just in a different manner. Cell phones keep us up to the minute, we are told. Why? So what? Who really has a need to be “…kept up to the minute?” Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phone. I don’t have to go from one room to another to answer it. As long as I remember to charge the battery, I merely have to take it from my pocket when it rings…on those rare occasions. I will not, however, worship the goddamned thing the way so many people appear to do. It’s a telephone. If you didn’t have it with you, what’s the worst that could happen…hello, hello, hello? Oh, shit, I think someone just fainted!

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Would you believe that thirty-two percent of the seniors in your town’s high school have considered suicide? Would you believe that fifteen percent actually tried? These are shocking figures and yet that’s what we learned when we took a poll at one local high school in Massachusetts. This was not a suicide questionnaire but covered a much broader area of student concerns. To be brutally frank, it scared the crap out of the high school principal, health officials, and the school resource officer to name but a few.

Candidly, we don’t know what causes high school kids to kill themselves. Yes, there have been a number of highly visible cases where actual- as well as cyber-bullying has been considered to be the major factor, but that seems to be just a part of the story. Those of us who have never experienced teen suicide ‘up close and personal’ don’t have a bloody clue what goes through the mind of a teenager that permits them to believe that life is no longer worth living. As the third leading cause of death among adolescents, suicide is not something that we should hide as we did the subject of bullying for so many years.

Please don’t get me wrong; when our kids were growing up, I was so busy trying to make a living that I’m now convinced that I didn’t put the time in to truly help make a family life. Yeah, I coached Little League when our son wanted to play baseball…the girls weren’t interested. Yeah, the kids began competitive swimming when the youngest was only six, and we took them to practice and meets and learned how to officiate, but being more deeply involved in their lives was not something that we considered. We didn’t pry; we might ask how school was going, but we could see that on their report cards. Now that they are all adults, married, and have kids of their own, we’ve learned a few things that I for one am happy we never learned when they were young. Looking back, I’d have to say that we were pretty damned lucky compared to some other parents. Rarely did a week pass when Joan didn’t have one or more of the children’s friends in the kitchen without our own being present. She would inform me at some point if there was a problem she considered serious, and we’d attempt to decide whether or not the children’s parents should be notified. Most of the time it was concluded that the parents were probably better off being kept in the dark. One of Joan’s questions, however, was always, “They just want a friendly ear. How come they don’t have that at home?” It’s an interesting question.

There is no question that the pressures of today are far more severe than the pressures on me or even my children. Today’s teenagers are bombarded by emotional, social, and family issues that we didn’t have to face. Social media, television, having the newest, the brightest, the best of whatever can strain a child’s emotional well-being beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Recently, a high school classmate of mine – that’s Class of 1952 – recalled coming over to our house to watch television; he also remembered my mother’s brownies. I don’t remember any of this, but here it is, over 60 years later, and her still remembers. Pressures? Hell, we didn’t have a clue about social or emotional pressures. Family issues: What family issues? Every family we knew had a mom, a dad, and kids. There may well have been issues behind the closed doors, but we certainly never heard about them. Were there single parents? I never knew of any. Today, I hear nothing but stories of single parents, gay parents, dope-dealing parents, and yes, even a parent who has murdered. And we wonder why these kids commit suicide?

There are few if any teenagers who kill themselves who do not send out warning signals of some kind, directly to their parents; to their friends; to their teachers; or even to complete strangers. One of the problems is that everyone is too busy to take notice of them. When a child’s grades begin to fall inexplicably; when he or she loses interest in a social activity or sport that three weeks ago was their world; when things go missing from their room and the excuse is, “Oh, I was tired of that old thing and gave it to so-and-so,” there’s a problem brewing that needs to be discussed. Perhaps the child begins to abuse alcohol or drugs – not always the easiest thing to detect, but if you suspect it and work at it, you’ll find the signs; if they begin to act up or become bored with “just everything;” If they withdraw from family activities; change their eating or sleep habits, perhaps neglect personal hygiene, these are signs that there is a serious problem. You can find other signals and signs merely by going online and checking out various teen suicide sites…if you have the time…if you care about your kid…if you don’t want tragedy entering your life when you least expect it. No, I’m not really trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone. However, we brought them into this world. Along with the help of God, we created something more precious than anything we have ever owned. Don’t we deserve to see them reach adulthood…whether they want to or not?

There’s an old adage that goes, “A son is a son ‘til he takes him a wife; a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life.” My personal philosophy is that their mother and I saw, interfered, and tried to influence their lives through high school. When they went to college, they entered an environment where they were to become semi-adult. Upon graduation, their life was their own. For us, it worked. Will it work for everyone? It most assuredly will not and once again we come back to the pressures of today being completely different from the pressures or the environment in which we raised our children. I don’t envy my kids or my grandkids. I cannot conceive of the pitfalls they will face.

Encourage openness and candor with your kids. You don’t have to get ‘into their face,’ but you do have to be aware of what is going on in their lives. I’ve searched through pages and pages of quotations with which to end this essay.  Since I can’t relate to Justin Timberlake, Snookie, or any of the other characters who seem to populate the teenagers quotes, I guess I’ll just have to settle for the late Erma Bombeck who said, “Never lend your car keys to anyone to whom you gave birth.”

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“Good evening….”

Tap, tap, tap…

“I said, good evening….”

Tap, tap, tap…

“Will you assholes kindly sit down and cut the fucking chit-chat?”

“Well, there, I guess I have your attention now. Don’t bother to insult me by telling me not to swear like that. I’ve heard some of you talk that way to your own kids. Now, that, is really a bit overboard. I do not talk to my kids in language quite that harsh, but like you, I know the words…so I figure that’s what you understand…sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up…okay?”

“Maam, yeah, you in the fourth row; that’s right, you; would you please stop texting and put away your Smartphone. If you don’t want to be here, fine, but don’t insult me or the rest of the parents by using your phone when you should be paying attention. That work for you?

“I’m speaking to you tonight because you made the mistake of electing me President. We’re all parents of children who attend this middle school. It’s a good school. The teachers are great; the administrators go out of their way to keep us informed about what is being done to prepare our kids to move on…I can’t think of another place I rather have my kids be educated than right here.

“However, there is a problem. You see, they learn one thing here at school, and then you turn around and confuse them. Let me give you a couple of examples. Here, the kids learn that they’re supposed to cross the street – after looking both ways – at a crosswalk. Yet, when you’re out with your kids, you cross wherever you damn well please…Don’t go denying it for cripes sake…I’ve seen it; you’ve seen it. You’re in a hurry and bang, you cross and don’t even think about it. What’s going through the kid’s head? It’s minor but it’s a problem…really, the least of them.

“Maam, with the cell phone, put it away…please.

“Let me give you another problem. The kids are told that STOP signs mean stop. They don’t mean, ‘I can see there are no cars coming so – ZOOM – right on through, and that ZOOM is because you’ve just driven up Bigelow Street at about 40 miles an hour. Let me offer you a clue…that’s a 25 mile per hour zone and it’s posted that way. I really don’t care that you have to drop the kid in order to get your yoga mat in the right place at the gym…leave earlier…stop the speeding and stop running the                STOP sign.

“Here’s another little problem that I see on a fairly regular basis. Dare I ask how many of you have children who play Little League, youth hockey, or soccer? I’d like to see a show of hands if I may. Thank you. I can tell by that show of hands who the liars are and also who the screamers are. My kid played Little League; in fact, I manage a Little League team…and nothing pisses me off more than those of you who scream at your kid; at the umpire; or at a kid on another team. What the hell kind of an example are you setting for your child? My kids turned to swimming. There are still a few screamers, but far fewer…and guess what…the parents around them are usually the ones telling them to be quiet. I don’t see that in the other sports I’ve mentioned and I find that unfortunate. If we don’t police our own or those around us, how are we to expect that our kids will stand up for each other? Get the picture?

“Lady, put that goddamned phone away, now!

“Just a few more things, if I may. By the way, I don’t know whether it’s the manner in which I’m speaking or the truth of my words, but you’re being wonderful and I appreciate it. Now, you know that intersection at the corner of Route 223 and West Street. That’s right, the one you have to cross to get your child up here to school, that’s the one. I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but the crosswalks there are designed to make it easier for people in wheelchairs to cross and to stay within the lines. We have a number of physically handicapped living in housing designed for them just up the street. They’d really like to use the crosswalks without having to go around your cars. There is a stop line before the crosswalk. Please use it. Next week, Howard Howardson, our state senator, is introducing a bill on Beacon Hill to make it a crime to stop in a crosswalk. They have such a law in Maryland…You stop in a crosswalk and get caught, it’s a $150 fine. The bill seems to have a lot of support. In this day and age, that’s a whole day’s groceries [mini-chuckle].

“While I’m on the subject of traffic and driving, I’d like to make a small request…please don’t drive with your high beams on, or if you must, please dim them for approaching cars. It’s just common courtesy, particularly if you’re driving one of the European cars that already have halogen lights that are blinding. The road is to be shared…and rule s of courtesy do apply to you.

“Look, bitch, unless you’d like me to come down there and shove that phone up your ass, shut the fucker off!

“Lastly, let me remind you, if I may, school is only one of the places where our kids learn. Their greatest learning experience occurs at home. They learn by watching you. The example you set for your children makes a far great impression than you will ever realize. It reminds me of the man who used to drive his daughter to Sunday school every week. One day, he wasn’t feeling well, and his wife drove the child. When they returned home, he asked how Sunday school was. ‘It was okay, Daddy,’ she said, ‘and we didn’t see one asshole, cocksucker, son-of-a-bitch, or horse’s ass all the way there or back.’ Is that really what you want your child to learn from you?

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Okay, by a show of hands now, how many of you watch the CBS program Sunday Morning. No, no, no, don’t think that just because this is a computer generated paper that I can’t see you; hands up; dammit, I said HANDS UP! Okay that’s a little better. You, yeah you, the lady in Taylor, Michigan, what’s the matter, you don’t think I can see you?  I wish…ah, okay, that’s better, thank you.

Now that we’re all on the same page – so to speak – how many of you watched the show last week. Yeah, that’s right, the one with Harvey Fierstein and Kareem Abdul Jabbar? Oh good, more hands this time; you’re getting the hang of it here. Yes, yes, there was a tribute to Donald Duck and Esther Williams too, but please…don’t interrupt.

I-knee-way, there was a segment on smart phones and cell phones. Do you recall that one? Oh really; not too many hands went up that time. So you remember a whole pile of other segments but you don’t remember the interviews on cell phone and smart phone use? C’mon, who are you trying to kid? Let’s try once more…HOW MANY SAW THE SEGMENT ON CELL AND SMART PHONES? Better, much better; I really wish you wouldn’t make me have to use my school teacher voice. I have a cold and my throat is raspy; my nose is running and I don’t feel all that great; however, I did want to poll you on this phone thingie…so no more fibbing, okay?

Did you see the lady walk right into a pool at a mall? Did you see a man fall right off the subway platform because he was so busy speaking on his phone? Did you find them funny? Do you think it’s funny when you’re walking along with your head down, texting a friend about absolutely nothing and you walk into me…do you, huh? I don’t. Do you think it’s smart to pull out of the driveway with your phone attached to your ear? Oh, you can multi-task; isn’t that wonderful. Then how come something like 40 percent of the automobile accidents last year were caused by people who were speaking on their phone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not laying this trip on you. You raised your hand; I assume that means that you don’t do those things [ass-u-me; don’t forget it!].

I see several major problems with cell and smart phones. The first is that I find certain rudeness in the people who walk along the streets with their chin to their chest and their thumbs flying over the keyboard. If they bump into you, it’s your fault, and some of them can get rather pissy about it…as if you shouldn’t be taking up their sidewalk. It’s even worse if their ear buds are in because they’re living in another world and by bringing them back to this one, you have interrupted their biorhythms or something.

So if rudeness is the first problem, a second is the overall danger. If you’re unaware of your surroundings and so deeply intent on texting or even talking on the phone, you can become seriously injured…if not seriously dead, eg, the man in the subway. What in the name of heaven is so important that you must be constantly in touch with your entire circle of friends? What is so critical that you are willing to put your life in danger? Is this overly dramatic? Hell no, it’s not. About two miles from my house is a train station. You can catch a local to Boston or the Acela to New York, Baltimore, or Washington. I’ve been on that platform several times. Those trains are really moving when the pull in. Therefore, you can imagine my shock one night to see on the news that a lady let go of her baby
carriage to talk or text – I don’t know which, and the carriage rolled off the platform as a train was pulling in. There’s no happy ending to this; the carriage and the baby were destroyed. Mother dropped the phone and became distraught. Was this an unusual case? The ending was, yes, but there have been several instances reported on the evening news of people not paying attention and baby carriages rolling away, only to be grabbed by a Good Samaritan.

If you’ve read this blog before you may recall the family Christmas party I attended a couple of years ago. The 19-, 17-, and 15-year olds spent the afternoon texting. Remarkably, I kept my mouth shut. It makes me wonder what these children are going to be like when they grow up and have to carry on an actual conversation with another human being. Will they be able to hold their heads up and look the other person in the eye? Will their thumbs be twitching at their sides? Will this cause them to develop a tic in their eye or a pulsating vein in their forehead? What will they say? How will they act? Will it reach the point where our elementary, secondary, and high schools must teach a class in the art of conversation?

I have a cell phone. I don’t text; I have no reason to do so. I can see no reason to do so.  I guess that, to some, e-mail has become the equivalent of snail mail, and instant messaging is just not cool, hip, young, and trendy enough. To those people who must constantly have their thumbs in motion, good luck; I hope your thumbs fall off. To those who walk around with a cell phone glued to their ear, I hope your arm locks and the skin from your ear grows over your phone!

Of course you folks…oh, you can put your hands down now…you folks would never do anything like that, would you? Would YOU? WOULD YOU!!!!!

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I have discovered the perfect way to piss off America’s driving public…obey posted speed limit signs. Nothing, absolutely nothing will irritate a yummy mommy in her gas guzzler with three kids in their car seats and the cell phone tucked in her left ear more than someone who is obeying the speed limit. This is the same person who will take a full shopping cart into the twelve items or less checkout and bitch because the service is so slow; it’s the same one who will park in the yellow-striped area between two handicapped spots because, “I’ll just be a minute!” They are the same ones who zip through parking lots at Walmart and pay no attention to the marked crosswalks…and always, always, always with the cell phone attached to the left ear. Before you get the idea that I’m against yummy mommies, let me say that teenagers with cells and commuters who either decided to push the snooze alarm or didn’t have time for breakfast, as well as those who just don’t give a damn about anything but their cell call also become quite irritated when I drive within the law. What, in the name of all that’s holy, can be so important that the cell phone has become an appendage?

The genius who comes up with a way of grafting the cell phone to the human ear will make millions. Oh sure, I know about blue tooth and black tooth and all the other teeth out there but I’m talking about a genuine graft. In that way, when people look in the mirror and see just how idiotic they appear they’ll pay a whole lot more just to have the graft removed…the graft, by the way, will only work when you are in a car and moving. It’s no good walking in the mall or the supermarket. That way others can look at the ‘graftee’ and point and chuckle; it will help them to better understand just how stupid they look.

Have I never used a cell phone in a store? You bet your bippy I have. The conversation usually goes like this:  “I didn’t check; do we need milk? Okay, thanks,” and gone. I will not use my cell phone while driving. Hands free or no hands free, which seems to predominate, your mind is not that good that you can drive and carry on an intelligent conversation. Driving is driving; talking is talking; the two do not mix well in polite company.

Let me ask this question…what did we do before the invention of the cell phone? This indispensable instrument hasn’t yet been around for half a century. Martin Cooper, a project manager at Motorola is credit with its creation back in 1973. Just think, in less than 50 years, we have gone from not having anything to now possessing something without which it’s impossible to function. Not only that, but it’s now a camera – still or video – an Internet provider, a bank, a source of amusement with myriad games, an entertainment center on which to view movies or television shows, and I’m reliably informed, will in the future have an application that will wipe our butts and dispose of the paper by cleaning and rewinding it back into the cell…just amazing!

This brings me to another ‘bbc’ on my agenda. No, I’m not talking about the British Broadcasting Company; mine is called the ‘big bitchin’ complaint,’ and this one concerns the manner in which people drive in crowded parking lots. The acceptable speed in these lots is somewhere between ten and fifteen miles per hour; many are posted at five mph but that’s being slightly ridiculous – today’s cars don’t go that slowly…even in neutral.  It really is rather
dangerous to go 20 to 35 mph for the simple reason that most of those who wish to back out of a parking spot have an inane sense of reasoning that says they don’t have to look. “Look out world, I’m done shoppin’ and I’m a headin’ fer home!” I’m fully aware that this world is filled with assholes and idiots, but why are they all gathered in the same parking lot at the same bloody time?

Am I such the perfect person? Hell no; at 16, shortly after I received my license, I was pulled over for passing a Registry of Motor Vehicles officer on a curve on a rainy day at 70 mph. and lost my license for six months. I haven’t been stopped in about ten years, but I occasionally screw up, particularly on highways. In residential areas and parking lots it’s a different story. I’ve seen kids run out in front of me while chasing a ball. I’ve watched accidents occur because someone backing out of a parking space didn’t watch what they were doing …they hit my car. My philosophy is very simple. I don’t want to be the one on the evening news because I was driving and not thinking. Sounds simple; too bad so many others don’t agree.

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