Always Accessible

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Always Accessible

October 18, 1999

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I was given this new cell phone at work, but I'm starting to think it's defective. You see, it tends to ring a lot. Like, for example, I'll be minding my own business walking to lunch, and suddenly it'll just start ringing. Even worse, when I answer it, it'll often be someone asking me a question about work. I'm thinking of calling the manufacturer to see if they can fix it. It's really starting to bug me.

Yes, like many others, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the world of cellular phones. I long vowed I would never own a cell phone, and to be honest I still don't. My employer owns it. I'm just the one forced to carry it around.

I suppose it's really not so bad. It is convenient, and the phone can even fit into the palm of my hand. It's a nifty little gadget, and part of me (the part that forgets how evil cell phones are) likes having it. Yes, I can be reached at any time, but I can also turn it off and let the calls go to voice mail.

Of course, it's still tough to have a good excuse for ignoring the phone.

"I called earlier, Joe, but you didn't answer."

"Oh, sorry about that. I just went out for a second."

"So what? You have a cell phone."

"Um, I mean, I was in. That's it. I was in and couldn't get your call. Oh, damn the batteries are running low, and I think I'm walking into a tunnel. Let me get back to you."

While I may look oh-so-important when walking around with my cell phone, the only reason that I have it is because I don't have a real phone. My new job at Harvard is to go around to different departments and help them pay bills with Harvard's new financial system. I'm rarely at my desk -- hence, the evil cell phone.

I still feel squeamish about having it, and I have yet to make a call while in public. After all, I just don't like having to subject others to my phone calls. On some days, I don't even like subjecting myself to them.

And whenever it does ring, I feel slightly embarrassed. Well, actually, first I look around confused for a second before exclaiming to whoever I'm with, "Oh, that's me!" I'm not at all prepared to conduct a business call while walking around. God forbid when someone actually gives me a number. The other day, if by chance you saw an idiot on a cell phone in the middle of Harvard Yard trying to use a tree as a writing surface for a piece of scrap paper, that was me. Luckily, I did get the proper information, but even then I managed somehow to schedule a meeting for my day off.

To be honest, I really shouldn't feel so self-conscious. I'm certainly not alone. I'm simply one of over 70 million Americans with a cell phone. All over, cell phones are suddenly pervasive. More and more restaurant owners have been forced to ban cell phones so that people will stop yakking into them during meals. Many theater owners have complained about cell phones ringing in the middle of plays and movies. Increasingly, states are even considering laws restricting the use of car phones.

And then there are the people at sporting events. Lately, I've been watching the baseball playoffs, and during most every game you will now see some loser sitting behind home plate with a cell phone waving at someone on the phone. I suppose it's an innocent act, but it still makes one yearn for a sudden foul ball.

"Hi, Mom. It's me. I'm on TV. See me waving. Right where the foul ball is about to -- AAAAARGGHH!"

Not that I should really wish such a thing on anyone, but there's something about cell phone users that most people hate. Well, let me correct that. Most people would hate them except that most people are now starting to own cell phones of their own, and so it becomes more difficult to hate the cell phone users.

Especially for me. After all, if you want to reach my apartment, you can now do so with one of four different numbers. My roommate Anna and I have separate phone numbers, and each of us has a cell phone too.

I have a feeling that we might just be a little too connected to the world. You think?

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