Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Guest opinion: Do you really need that cell phone?



I was shopping in Trader Joe’s cheese section recently as a woman yammered away loudly on her cell phone – and not a quick call about what food to get, either.

An older woman shopping near me rolled her eyes, looked up and implored, “Do we really need to hear her entire life story?”

All I could do was nod and say, “I hear you.”

Driving up to Phoenix once, on Thanksgiving Day, a truck passed us, one poor woman stuck in the middle of the cab between the driver and person on her right, both on cell phones.

I could only shake my head and think “my condolences.”

Which brings me to one of my pet peeves: cell phone etiquette, or lack thereof.

I remember a world without cell phones. You stopped and used a pay phone if you needed to make a call. Or you waited until you got home. We didn’t need to be in constant contact electronically.

My dad got what must have been one of the first cell phones in Phoenix during the 1970s.

The communication equipment took up a large section in the trunk, though it was one of those behemoth Cadillacs, so it had plenty of space left.

In the car, the telephone itself was a massive footwide rectangular unit permanently mounted on the floor below the center of the dash.

It had push buttons to select different channels to attempt reception, and a regular Ma Bell-style telephone handset. He used it for business, and I thought it was so cool at the time. Wow, a phone in the car!

When the first portable cell phones came out, they were real bricks. Unwieldy, cumbersome units with limited numbers of cell towers.

The pager was still king. Back in the ’80s, pagers – not cell phones – were going off in movie theaters.

But the bloom is long gone from that rose. Cell phones are just a few inches in size. Now it seems almost everyone has one.

People think nothing of answering their cell phones and interrupting those around them, no matter the circumstance.

At the Trader Joe’s checkout counter, the clerk admitted she sometimes chooses to keep talking when waiting on a customer on a cell phone, and other times, she stops and has to control her anger.

We find ourselves living in a culture of increasing rudeness. Common courtesy is no longer common; that’s become an oxymoron.

And it’s not just cell phones. When was the last time you ate out and saw a family with kids who were behaving, with the parents actually monitoring their children in a social setting? This is not to castigate those families with well-behaved children. I’ve seen them; I know they still exist.

Going to a local Italian restaurant with my wife on our anniversary, two screaming kids were at a large family table, and the mother and father completely ignored them.

Only the grandmother was making an effort to control the worst of the two, her attempts mostly without success. We finally asked the waitress to move us to another room.

When I was growing up, such a scene would have led to angry parents marching us out of the restaurant.

But there is hope: Imagine the smile on my face when I saw a sign at Alice’s Restaurant that read, “The waitress cannot take your order while you are talking on your cell phone.” There was also a second sign, “Please control your children.”

Do you really need that cell phone?

Daniel Arthur is an Arizona native, active in the annual TusCon Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Convention, a University of Arizona graduate and Tucson resident since 1980.

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