Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An Old School Rant

Recently I was in midtown Manhattan for a meeting. It was about 2 pm on a Thursday in August, and the week's car exhaust had built up in the humid air. I was wearing a suit. I stepped out of the heavily air conditioned office building and onto sweltering 5th Avenue, and reached into my pocket to call BrooklynLady. No cell phone! I had forgotten it. I remember thinking "How quaint, how retro. I'm going to use a public telephone to call my wife." So I stepped into one of those familiar but forgotten metal booths, picked up a payphone, and brought it to my ear.

Those of you who are New Yorkers, you probably already know how this ends. How could I have been so careless? Everyone has a cell phone today, most have black, blue, or pink berries, or iPhones. Who still uses pay phones? Wack-jobs, that's who. And without so much as glancing at the receiver, I pressed it against my ear?!? The earpiece was coated with a thick layer of what I am choosing to believe was Vaseline. My ear, my hair, the back of my hand, all quickly covered in this mystery-gunk. And I had 45 minutes on the subway before I could really clean up. My first time as "that guy" on the train who looks as if he'll explode if you so much as bump his bag.

All of the tests came back negative - I am completely fine. Emotionally bruised, but physically fine. After I stopped hating New York, I realized that it was my own fault - I forgot my cell phone and then ignored basic safety precautions when using the payphone. I realized that it is actually cell phones and all related gear that I hate. And I really do hate them. People walk down the street now, their faced buried in their phone gadgets. Kids on the subway play games on these things constantly, the incessant beeping polluting the air with noise. People seem to have forgotten how to be wherever they are, with whomever they're with. There is always a text message to send or a quick email to read, even at the dinner table.

Maybe I hated cellphones most at that moment because I realized that if we didn't have cellphones, people would still use payphones and there wouldn't be mystery gunk coating the earpieces.

Can you remember life before the cellphone? We all survived, somehow. I'm not denying that cellphones and other communication gadetry have made life better and safer for people. But when people don't have any self control, when they forget simple social etiquette, when they forget how to interact with other people, we all lose because of these gadgets. The funniest part is that blackberries and their ilk were supposed to make work easier, supposed to make us more efficient. Instead they've simply put us in the position of being on-call at all times, requiring us to respond instantly, eliminating the separation between work life and private life.

If I could, I would live without my cellphone, keep things totally old school. But that's simply not practical. I would lose business, and because everyone else now lives with the immediacy of the cellphone, I would be the one missing out. And actually, I like the way I use my cellphone. I just wish everyone were more like me. I keep it set on vibrate - that annoying ringing you hear everywhere, those personalized songs emitting from people's bags - that will never be from me.

It's hard to be old school these days. You have to go with the flow, or you get left behind. Thank goodness for wine, because I can be as old school as I like there. Keep your micro-oxidated, enzymatically enhanced, iPhone wines. Not because there is something wrong with those wines in an absolute sense - there isn't. But that stuff isn't for me. I'm sticking with the basics - climate and grapes and clean vats and know-how, I'm not falling behind anyone else by doing so. In fact, I think I'm doing fine. I'll keep my Puffeney, my Chandon de Briailles, my Coudert, and my Huet, thank you. And next time I'll remember to examine the earpiece before actually touching it.

Okay, this little rant is over.........now. You may go back to your text messaging and iPhone app downloading. I'm going to cutecellphonecases.com to buy one of those carrying cases for my cellphone so I never forget it again, ever.

13 comments:

TWG said...

And look our for the cabbies on their mobiles. It's dangerous enough for pedestrians, esp. in NYC.

Do Bianchi said...

when I first moved back to California, I couldn't believe how much "cleaner" I felt... It took about a month to scrub away the patina of NYC... public pay phone ear gunk is the worst...

AJ said...

I hate cell phones and refuse to get one. I think change is being forced on me with a second child due in a few days, but I continue to resist and am insisting on a plan with as few minutes as possible. I guess I'm some ridiculous anti-modern. I don't like chemicals and technology in my food and wine, I eat "heritage" breeds of meat and "heirloom" vegetables as much as possible, and I won't use a cell phone. I do, however, love baseball in HD.

will said...

At least you live somewhere they have public phones. On the other hand, where I live, I don't think they ever had them. And yet still, not so many cell phones. This paradise is located two hours from the nearest place to buy good wine, but that has resulted in my habit of keeping more wine on hand, which is good. Next year, I am going to plant grape vines. Pathetic!

Jack Everitt said...

Glad I wasn't you that day. Euuuuu.

But, you know, those of us who have iPhones are pretty happy with them. The first ever cellphone that I don't give a failing grade to. Hey, I don't even get a phone call a day, so, it's not like I use it a lot, too.

Weston said...

Phones and people driving What are people really thinking, if the conversation was that important then you would pull over and concentrate on that call, but obviously it isn't important.

Also People who bring there kids to a nice restaurant with their Nintendo DS or whatever, I mean teach your kids manners or beat them if they miss behave giving them a game isn't going to teach them anything

ARGH

Btw My phone is paid for through my dads company. If it weren't free would I really have a cellphone?

Patricia said...

Luckily I live in Maine (bad cell phone reception) and work at home, and don't do a lot of driving so the cell phone gets used about once every 3 months and I have to tell you I am very happy that way! I did live in NY though, before the advent of cell phones, and you still had to check out all the appertenances on the phone booth before you used it...it got pretty gruesome then too!!

ben said...

Man, EEUUUWWW! That is a great story- and so yucky its hard to imagine! So sorry you had to experience that! On the other hand, i have an Iphone that I unfortunately adore! it's older, and believe it or not- fell out of my pocket crossing 5th ave at st marks in Brooklyn. It hit the tar face down, and then got run over by a hack cab on his cell phone. It still works! I try not to use it when it is not called for though- like say at work in the wine store! Great post!

Joyce said...

Yuk, that's truly gringe-worthy. You deserved a great glass of wine after that trauma!

Joyce said...

I meant cringe...but maybe I was thinking grunge :)

Joe Manekin said...

Good rant.

I appreciate your old school sensibilities, mores and aesthetical sense. These people today just don't know how to act!

Arjun said...

+1.

Thanks.

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