The drama of cellphone moments

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

I was in a hotel in Indianapolis. I’d just gotten off the elevator and was headed to a luncheon when I spotted a man walking along with a cellphone held like a carrot-on-a-stick in front of him. His thumbs were flying as he texted furiously. Then he walked into a wall. He appeared unhurt. I didn’t laugh, but I wanted to.

A granddaughter wanted a cellphone. She asked how many telephones I had when I was her young age. I told her I had one.

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She was surprised to learn that phones existed when I was her age. I added that we had one telephone for the entire family — a black phone the size of a refrigerator that hung on the living room wall.

She responded with, “Oh, you were poor, Grandpa.”

We weren’t poor, but we were often unavailable by telephone and we lacked voicemail.

Do you remember waiting by the phone? I mean actually waiting near a telephone for a call announced with a ring that sounded like every other phone. Many children today have no home phones to wait by.

I wear a wristwatch. I do so because I need to know what time it is. I have a friend who never wears a watch. His cellphone provides the time. One day, I saw there was a wristwatch at the end of his sleeve. I asked him why he’d decided to sport a watch.

His reply was, “I can’t always find my cellphone.”

My old cellphone was on the “every other call” plan. It worked every other call. It had a rotary dial and needed to be wound like an alarm clock. It’s not easy texting with a rotary dial. I have a new cellphone. It’s a bit snazzier than the cellphone my mother-in-law has. She said that they give the nicest cellphone to the one with the biggest mouth. The truth hurts.

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports, which means that I hear one side of countless cellphone conversations. I write some down. Here are a few.

“He always has a bale of hay in the box of his truck. It’s like he doesn’t want to be caught without a gift for some horse.”

“I went to a class last night that changed my life, but this morning, I was back to being my regular self.”

“You know why I’m going to Dallas. I’m going to see another man. You knew that. Stop crying. See, this is the reason I don’t tell you everything and why I’m seeing another man.”

“I knew it was a truck stop because it had a plunger in the restroom.”

“It makes me mad when I’m driving behind someone going the speed limit. There should be a law.”

“I hate accordions. They make old people dance.”

I was at a meeting. The speaker was with the government. She was there to help us. She told us to turn off our cellphones. She said that we shouldn’t put them on silent mode, we should turn them off completely. Better yet, we should leave them in our vehicles. “To do otherwise is to be rude,” she scolded.

The room was packed with rural folks. There was much shuffling around as people stifled their cellphones.

The woman from the government began her talk. She wasn’t five minutes into her discourse when her cellphone rang.

At another meeting, we’d once again been asked to disable our cellphones. A woman on stage was attempting to pass valuable information our way. A phone rang loudly in our midst. A man in the audience quickly became one of those annoying loud talkers.

“Just between you and me…” he said in the most strident of voices.

It wasn’t just between the two of them.

I was driving in Minneapolis at the wrong time of the day. The traffic was of the creep and beep variety. Nearly every driver was talking on a cellphone. It irritated me so much that I had to call my wife on my cellphone and tell her about it.

Anyone who judges you by the kind of cellphone you have isn’t worth knowing. My cellphone offers more sports scores than anything else. I like sports, but I think the world was a better place before ESPN took it over. When I find myself locked in hand-to-hand combat with a cellphone, I tell myself that it does incredible things that enhance my existence. Why, in an emergency, my cellphone could be used as toilet paper.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.