May 2007

He Says, She Says

Author: Jean Wharton & Keith Kelson

One Subject.
Two very different opinions.
This month’s topic – Cell Phones.

He Says:

I’m one of the few people who didn’t have a cell phone until recently. If you needed to reach me, my home phone worked just like a cell phone, and I would usually return calls in a timely fashion. I had no need for any of the many useless features cell phone companies tout: text messaging, hands-free operation, bluetooth technology, etc. Call me when you can flip a cell phone open like a Star Trek communicator and call somebody a couple of planets away. Now, that’s useful technology.

I cursed the day I was forced to get a cell phone. It was right up there with the day I had to take three algebra tests in a row. Call me paranoid, but it seems the cell phone manufacturers had a secret meeting and all agreed that their products would have just enough gadgetry to fascinate me, but be so frustrating to use on a daily basis that I would have to say thanks but no thanks.

Take the size of the buttons on the keypad. If you’re a child, like my six-year-old nephew Lukas, the buttons on a cell phone are perfect. If you’re a man, however, your fingers cover the majority of the keypad. While my hands are too small to palm a basketball like Michael Jordan, they are also too large to operate a cell phone without calling someone in Turkey.

The phones themselves also are way too small, given the fact that folks are encouraged to watch downloadable content on cell phones. Watch “Grey’s Anatomy” on a screen my thumb can cover? No thanks.

That being said, I have to point out that while men and women are almost equal when it comes to cell phone misconduct, women are the worst offenders. Show me a woman without a cell phone on her, and I’ll gladly wear a New York Yankees cap and jersey for a month. As a loyal fan of the Atlanta Braves, that would be pain beyond pain.

But I doubt that I’d lose the bet, because women—even the ones in Abu Dhabi—can’t live without their cell phones. Women just have to be doing something with a cell phone, even if there’s nobody calling or texting. Cell phones aren’t security blankets for women; cell phones are an addiction. Women have brightly colored phones equipped with cameras and MP3 players, not to mention those annoying ringtones—usually a top 40 love song or worse, some hip-hop hit. Ladies, mix in some Van Halen, John Coltrane and Barry White, why don’t you?

No woman who owns a cell phone can go one calendar day without using it. Come on, ladies, I dare you—one day without using your cell phone unless it’s absolutely an emergency. If your car breaks down in a thunderstorm, you can use your cell phone, but if you just wanna chat about what the stars were wearing at the Oscars, you can’t.

Can’t we go back to the old days where people’s phone conversations took place in their own homes? I’m really not interested in the mundane details of your life, be you male or female, and I shouldn’t be subjected to those details just because I have the misfortune of being next to you in line. Set those things on vibrate and call the person back when you’re in your car, preferably when you’re not driving.

And another thing…. The guy who came up with the bright idea for ringtones should be locked in a room with nothing playing but Kevin Federline’s greatest hits. Come to think of it, that may not be punishment enough.

She Says:

I’d like to publicly say that I will not be announcing my candidacy for the office of President of the United States. With the muckraking for the 2008 elections already in full swing, I want to make sure that voters are not awaiting this opinionated dark horse candidate to put her chips in play. However, if I were running, I’d have quite a laundry list of topics to discuss on my platform, the most benign of which would be legislation against the misuse of cellular phones. I think it is due time that the government steps in and starts regulating this all-too-common offense.

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have all moseyed up to the plate, with bans against the use of handheld cell phones while driving. A number of other states have banned the use of phones while operating a school bus, but South Carolina is not yet onboard. Numerous other states have laws against drivers with learner’s permits using handheld cells while driving (again, not South Carolina). I think that most citizens would agree that a school bus driver should be concentrating on the road and the safety of the children onboard rather than catching up on the latest gossip. And I think that a newly permitted driver has enough to worry about using the two pedals, side view mirrors and adjusting the sun visor, that talking on a cell phone should be the last of his or her concerns while cruising down the road. The regulations I’d be putting in place would be more for socially-conscious reasons rather than safety.

First, I would outlaw the use of cell phones while in any checkout line. Whether you are picking up a takeout order or your dry cleaning, get off the phone. If your call cannot wait the minute and a half it takes to punch in your pin number for a purchase at the grocery store, than maybe you should have finished the call before you got to the checkout lane. Be aware of your surroundings. Other people wish to check out, too; and while you’re chatting away with your hubby, friend, mamma or neighbor, they are cursing you under their breath. Don’t apologize to the store employee; apologize to the person on the other end of the phone as you tell them you’ll have to call them back once you are out of the store.

Next, I would ban the use of cell phones in restaurants. Many fine dining restaurant proprietors post a sign that politely asks patrons to take their phone conversations outside. However, as a veteran waitress of a number of upscale restaurants, I’ve had to wait for a guest to finish chatting before I can approach the table to offer a drink or take a meal order. If you would rather be talking to the person on the phone than your dining companion, then ask that person to join you next time and call back from the parking lot.

It is not clear who the worst offenders are—men or women. Women seem to use their phones more as a security blanket, such as when waiting at a bar for a no-show date. Other women simply talk on the phone to keep themselves company while shopping or having a coffee alone. A man also uses the phone when lonely or in need of attention, but the prevalence of cell phones in late night arenas simply adds to the “drinking and dialing syndrome” with which many men suffer. When one misuses a cell phone after midnight, serious complications may arise the next day. Many fellas I know are also obsessed with checking their messages. Purposefully, they ignore a call so that they can check their voicemail later—sort of a passive-aggressive defense mechanism.

I’m not an expert. Opinionated, yes. I do think that its time for a shift in the socialization of cell phone use. It’s about curiosity and manners.

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