Every cell phone is a potential camera and a potential record of something embarrassing we’re doing right now. Strangers can hold up a phone and send a picture of us anywhere. But that’s not the most intrusive thing cell phones can do.
Worse are the performances we’re forced to watch against our will. Lately everywhere I go, cell phones are treated as stages, with the holder of the phone putting on a show. The trouble is, I didn’t buy a ticket nor do I want to get in for free.
I just came back from Starbucks, a confined space, where several people in different corners of the coffee emporium were busy working on productions that were too big for the room.
One man paced back and forth between tables. Another was loudly talking into his phone about something he needed everyone to know about him. He tossed around the word “millions.” This guy reminded me of the olden days when one man puffed up a story like that while acting as wingman for his buddy at the bar.
A woman raised her voice telling someone on the other end of a conversation what an awful week she had. She named names.
A man pushed open the door, stood in the center of the room and shouted into his phone, “I’ll be there in ten minutes.” He turned around to scan the line waiting to order. This was no quiet little glance. It was a large whoosh of a turn. Then he spun back around, and projecting like one of the Redgraves, he said, “Go ahead. Get started. Ten minutes. Yes. Start now and I’ll be there.”
All of these performances break two rules of show business. Rule number one: If you’re going to draw attention to yourself, don’t be boring. Rule number two: (If this isn’t a rule it should be.) Be sure you have a willing audience. Willing does not include people who are stuck next to you because of coffee cravings.
Do you ever wonder who’s on the other end of these conversations? One day, while I waited in the market checkout line, the man in front of me talked into his cell phone loudly enough for the people in the back of the store to hear, while the checker scanned his stuff.
At first I thought, oh he’s letting his mate know he’s successfully completed a shopping list, but because of the responses, that notion was dispelled. It was clear he and the person on the other end of the call were making a plan to do something tomorrow but the guy in the store couldn’t seem to think a thought without repeating it into the phone, so there was not only boring conversation, but also a recitation of products.
Evidently some new rules were written since I read my manual. Here’s the revision: If we own a cell phone we must talk into it at all times. Loudly. And while we talk, we must pace up and down in a small space, the smaller the better.
While talking, imagine there is a camera pointed at us, recording our lives. A producer may need this material one day. I’ll leave you with a transcript of that supermarket conversation, and you decide if this is a reality show you’ll want to watch.
“Yeah. Beans. Okay. Tomorrow. Rice. Nine sounds good. Tomatoes. You off all day? Bacon. Nah, I’m going in first. Potatoes. Just for a few minutes though. Onions.”
Ó Anita Garner 2008