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Saturday, Sep. 22, 2012

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

Mobile phones on mannerless mode


And here I thought mobile phones couldn't get any worse.

But a recent stateside trip has taught me otherwise. Not only can they get worse, they can get hard-core.

To start, I am not a fan of such devices. Oh, I have one — somewhere. For a long while I believed my wife was keeping it. Turns out, she thought the opposite — that I had it.

I guess we need someone to call us to find our phone. Problem? We can't recall the number. Plus we haven't charged the thing since we got it. But if it's so smart, I figure, why doesn't it contact us?

So — no — I am not a phone fan. Japanese people hear this and ask . . .

"How can you live?"

I respond with rhetoric: "How could Cleopatra live? Lord Byron? Marilyn Monroe? They never used cell phones and they networked just fine."

"But they're all dead."

Yes, but it wasn't a cell phone that killed them. They somehow packed in full lives minus the connection.

And I don't need the interruptions of those around me, blabbing away on their phones.

Yet, I admit those babbling voices are not always annoying.

This is because I have a Japanese OFF switch. I can, when I wish, reduce my second language to the level of muzak and not hear a darn thing. Just ask my wife.

So when engrossed in the matchbox that is my mind, I might escape the irritation of Japanese phone warblers at my side.

Yet, if they are warbling in English, the sound cannot be ignored. I am at its instant mercy. The words climb right aboard and hijack my brain.

On a Fifth Avenue sidewalk, on a recent trip to Manhattan, the hijacking phone conversation was this . . .

"Sweetheart, I love your mother to death. You know that. Don't you?"

The speaker? An executive type in a $1,000 business suit who stood beside me on the corner. His next words?

"But if she pulls this BLEEP again, I'm gonna toss her out the BLEEPING window. I mean it. I've had enough. You tell her that. Once more and she's a dead pigeon."

And then he strolled away. Leaving me blinking profusely.

Only until another phone buccaneer leapt on deck. This one another man in a suit.

"Don't tell me what the BLEEPING deal was. I know what the BLEEPING deal was. Everyone knows what the BLEEPING deal was. This guy beside me on the corner knows what the BLEEPING deal was. So don't give me that BLEEPING BLEEP, you BLEEP-BLEEP BLEEPER. You BLEEPING hear me?!"

I sure did. As did everyone within 20 meters.

And a few minutes later on the stairway to the subway, I heard more, this from a young lady descending the steps.

"Yeah," she laughed. "We did it. At last. In his back seat. It took him forever though. I have no idea what he was doing. Maybe he needed a map or something. But it was OK, I guess. Not great, just OK."

Now I realize I shouldn't have listened to this. Yet I was not alone. There were a half dozen other listeners at least.

I know because we all followed the girl to her platform. Where at last she hung up.

And I thought . . . hmm, maybe I should pay closer attention to callers in Japan.

With my next thought being . . .

What could possess a person to believe that a phone conversation in a crowd could be private?

Privacy certainly didn't matter to the woman sitting beside me on the train, who carped on and on about an insurance hassle. The phone was to her ear, but her voice entertained the entire car.

Her son had suffered a traffic accident, so the company was hiking her rates. Yet she had previously arranged with the company to exclude her son from her coverage. She had written proof of this.

And so . . . as we followed her dogged endeavor to keep big business from once again shafting the little guy, we were all, I think, filled with a spirit of camaraderie.

"Fight on, girl! Your battle is ours! Give 'em hell!"

Yet . . . after 15 straight minutes of nonstop he saids and she saids, I think we were all visited by a different spirit. One which begged . . .

"Somebody . . . toss this woman out the window. Or at least her phone. I mean, we all love her to death, right?"

Not that all overheard conversations were intolerable. I also heard this . . .

"Hey Sweetie. Just got off. Be home soon. Love you. Bye." Finished with a smooch.

This from a gentleman built like Hulk Hogan. Relayed to his wife, I think. Or perhaps the family dog. Either way, it was touching.

Yet, I came away thinking all U.S. phones were locked on mannerless mode.

Only serving to again reinforce my view of mobile phones in general . . .

BLEEPITY-BLEEP-BLEEP, no matter where their location.



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