November 7, 2002

The Rant

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People love to rant and rave about cell phones. Both an incredible pain and a true convenience, these cell pieces play a role in each of our lives, whether or not we actually own one. For me, cell phones provide a constant source of entertainment and frustration. There’s always that person with the most annoying ring, some prominent Beethoven theme or “La Cucaracha,” whose phone blares mid-lecture as heads turn and hands reach for bags in fear that they’re the fool this time — doubly so for having such an absurd ring. But forget this incessant occurrence, there are much finer moments of cell phone mayhem deserving of our attention, moments few and far between, which should be cherished like the gems that they are: cell phone casualties I call them.

The first type of cell phone casualty is the classic cell blooper. I’m sure if I could capture these fortuitous and tragic moments on video, I would quickly accrue a fortune from the profits of this potential reality TV craze. As brilliantly compact as cell phones are, their rapidly diminishing size has increased the difficulty of keeping a hold on our phones, a physical challenge that can lead to episodes of sheer hilarity. The introduction sequence of my cell phone casualty video would be a recent experience of mine at the airport. As this woman hurriedly unloaded her luggage from the curbside airport shuttle, her handbag suddenly swung from her shoulder to the crook of her arm, consequently ejecting her fresh looking Motorola straight out of her bag, through the air, and onto the pavement, where it skidded only to be stopped dead in its path by the rolling tire of a moving taxi cab. It made one of those unforgettable crunching noises, accompanied by a pained shout of disbelief from the unfortunate woman. I chuckled to myself as I walked away, guiltily taking pleasure in her tragedy, while a police officer, who also witnessed the cell phone casualty, squatted on the street to pick up the shattered and flattened remnants of black plastic. Moments like these almost negate the annoyance cell phones usually create, well, for the bystander that is.

The second and more detrimental form of cell phone casualty is the cell crash. When talking and walking on cell phones, people can do some really stupid things; they can even manage to hurt themselves. The clearest example of a cell crash is an incident I witnessed on College Avenue, as a male, backpack-toting student, caught up in one of those loud, animated, and lengthy cell conversations, walked quickly down the semi-crowded sidewalk. He brushed by an oncoming pedestrian and turned to look back after the small collision, all while chatting away, and smacked his backpack into a parking meter, sending himself flying into the brick facade before Tops Express. Stunned by his own crash into the wall, the student’s battery had fallen out of his phone, immediately ending the conversation. I felt pity for the guy, but I couldn’t do much more than shake my head in disbelief as I turned the corner up Dryden. It was just another cell phone casualty.

From the perspective of these laughably tragic incidents what can we learn? Cell phones are not only an indispensable convenience for communication, or a giant bother, their entertainment value is endless. So people, be careful with your cell phones, but don’t let all the cell casualties stop because they crack me up. And hopefully I’ll have the courage to laugh at my own stupidity when I eventually drop my phone into a toilet or something