Living Out Loud: : The Need for Constant Communication

Cell phones

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Back in November I wrote about my old friend Roger visiting from Portland, Ore. and the difficulty we had in finding a restaurant in downtown Cincinnati that hadn't closed its doors. I want you to know we found one open. On the day after Thanksgiving we met up for lunch at the Washington Platform.

It's good to see my buddy. As we sit down in our booth, his cell phone rings. He takes the phone from his shirt pocket.

"Hey! What's up? Hey, can I call you back? Gonna have some lunch with a friend.

Okay, talk with ya later."

Roger and I shoot the shit for a few minutes, then his phone rings again.

"Hello? Yeah, hi! How are ya? Hold on just a second."

My friend looks at me with a guilty smile.

"I need to take this ­ I won't be a minute."

"That's fine," I say, "take your time."

Roger gets up from the booth and walks toward the front of the restaurant, talking away on his cell phone. I put on my reading glasses, light a cigarette and pick up the menu that's lying on the table. I'm feeling annoyed.

Cell phones: I hate them. I just don't get the need to be in constant communication. It's a world I don't understand. I think just about all my friends have one and many have attempted to try to talk me into getting one, too. My response is always the same: Why the hell would I want to get a cell phone when I hate talking on a regular phone?

As I'm waiting for Roger to return to the table — "Won't be a minute" my ass; he's been gone for five minutes — I think back to that time on the bus when this guy behind me called his wife on his phone.

"Hi, honey. I'm on the bus, should be home in about five minutes."

Now was that call really necessary? I wonder if, when he got off the bus, he called his wife again.

"Hi, honey. I'm walking down the sidewalk, the house is in sight ­ should be home in 30 seconds."

I see young kids on the bus all the time playing with their cell phones, pressing keys. I have no idea what they're doing. I see people walking down the sidewalk talking loudly into their phone. I almost got run over by a car a few months ago while crossing the street, because a lady was too involved with her cell phone call to pay any attention to me walking.

There's a guy in Clifton who's in a wheelchair and he panhandles for money. I always felt sorry for him, but I stopped giving him money on the day his cell phone rang as I was putting a buck in his tin cup.

I think you can figure out I'm not a big fan of this modern technology but there is something I like very much, and that's voice mail. When the phone rings at home or in the office and if I don't feel like answering it — and that's most of the time — I just let the voice mail handle it. If the message is important, I'll call back. Most of the time it isn't.

I like e-mail too, but most of that isn't worth answering either. But it's easier to hit the delete key than it is to hang up on somebody.

I put out my cigarette just as Roger returns to our booth.

"Sorry about that," he says, "I had to take that call."

"I'm sure you did. That's all right, don't worry about it."

He puts his cell phone down on the table and starts looking over the menu. Our waitress comes over to our booth.

"Are you ready to order?"

Just as she says this, the damn cell phone rings again. I quickly pick it up, put on my reading glasses — how the hell can anybody see the keys on these little things? — find the "off" key and press it.

"Do me a favor," I say to the waitress as I hand her the phone, "hold on to this thing while we're eating. My friend here will pick it up when we leave."

Roger and the waitress appear to be shocked at this. I look at my old friend and smile.

"You can talk to me. I'm putting your world 'on hold' for awhile."

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