Friday, March 18, 2011

Hold the Phone

I was playing golf recently when my attention was drawn to four young
men on an adjacent fairway.

They walked toward the green in a single file, heads bowed, silent,
as though they were initiates in some sort of Druid ceremony.

Upon closer inspection I realized they were absorbed in their
smartphones, either texting or reading e-mails or surfing the web.

In the middle of a match. On a beautiful course dotted with all manner
of flora and fauna.

The incident underscored my belief that we may very soon evolve into
a race of people with bowed necks and downturned gazes, the result of
continuous smart phone use.

I offer as evidence a recent YouTube video of a young woman at a
shopping mall who was so intent on her phone that walked straight
into fountain where she splashed like a turtle on its back for
several minutes before pulling herself to dry land.

Well, I vowed, they won’t get me. I will remain head held high and
eyes forward for the rest of my days.

Alas, fate intervened. I lost my cellphone, a simple model that
merely made and received phone calls, and allowed myself to be sold a
new model that records videos, has movie, TV, magazine, newspaper and
social network access, offers games, displays your e-mail, functions
as a calendar and alarm clock, gives you directions to your
destination, plays music, even finds your car if it’s lost. Among
other things.

And while they call them smart phones. I’m not sure I was so smart in
buying one. Because once you’ve become adept in operating them,
you’re addicted.

Like the unsuspecting citizenry in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,”
I have become one of Them, a member of the mesmerized cell phone
zombies to whom all life outside of their hand-held devices is
irrelevant if not nonexistent.

That’s not exactly true. I have maintained enough humanity to lead a
somewhat normal life. Just because I’ve skipped a few meals so I can
afford to pay for all the extra goodies my phone has to offer doesn’t
mean I’m a bad person.

These extra goodies are called “apps,” short for applications. The
lovely young salesthing at the phone store told me there are 100,000
of them available through the phone. Some are free, most charge extra.

To be sure, many of these apps have some legitimate value, offering
books and reference, business and education downloads, health and
fitness advice.

Then there are these culled from my smartphone and the Internet:

The iNap@Work app plays a series of recorded typing, clicking,
stapling or pencil sharpening sound effects to fool your coworkers
into thinking you're being productive. Meanwhile, you're fast asleep
at your desk enjoying a post-lunch nap.

One app keeps track of how many beers you drink. You have to pay for
it but it’s probably a lot cheaper than getting a DUI after
forgetting how many beers you’ve had throughout the course of the

Health officials in New York have released an app to help its
citizens find free condoms. It’s designed to locate the five nearest
venues that distribute official NYC Condoms in jazzy wrappers printed
with colorful subway maps or other city themes.

It could be used in concert with the Roman Catholic App, designed to
be used as a confessional, with a personalized examination of
conscience for each user.

The Taxi Hold em application makes a loud whistling sound and
displays a bright taxi sign to get the attention of nearby cabbies.
It also alerts muggers that you are near.

iMouse is a call alert application. Whenever you have an incoming
call, a little naughty mouse appears, knocks at the screen and shouts
“Hey! Haaaay!! ‘knock knock’ Please answer your phone.”

Then, for those who just can’t get their fill of Fascism, there’s the
iMussolini app that includes audio, video and transcripts of 120
speeches by the wartime Italian leader.

And for those who can’t be separated from their smartphones even
momentarily, there is the LM Technologies Bluetooth bracelet. It
vibrates if the user moves more than five feet away from the phone.

Ain’t technology grand.

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