Featured Column
Week of 3.1.2004
"Hi Janet, I'm in line at Ralph's,
what are you doing?
Curse of the cell phones
          I was next up at the checkout counter at Ralph’s when she got in line about eighteen inches behind me. I heard her talking so I turned towards her. She kept on talking, saying, “Hi Janet, I’m in line at Ralph’s. What are you doing? I bought some cube steaks and mayonnaise. What’s new with you, I haven’t seen you in a while.” 
          She was a chubby lady. Maybe twenty five years old and nicely dressed. When I turned towards her she looked at me and kept on talking. She had wires draped from her neck and a little microphone clipped to her dress. There was an ear-bud speaker in her right ear. She was holding her cellular telephone in her left hand, clutching it like a lifeline. I really didn’t want to eavesdrop on her conversation, in fact I objected to her chatter invading my space. I glanced at her again,. I looked in her eyes and stayed there. Her eyes looked right though me – I wasn’t there. She was so involved in her conversation that nothing mattered.
          “Yeah, yeah, we should get together, it’s been so long. I just thought I’d call you. How’s your daughter doing in school? Hold on, I almost dropped the cube steaks. Do you still live on Spencer street?” I kept staring at her and she just looked through me and kept on talking.
          Behind the chubby lady was a young girl, maybe sixteen. She had her bright blue flip top cel phone tucked tightly against her left ear. I could hear her talking. “He’s so cute, don’t you think so? He dresses so cool, I mean really cool. Do you know where he lives? I just wanna drive by his house. Me? I’m at Ralph’s. My mom asked me if I’d get some lettuce for dinner tonight. What are you doing?” Two customers behind the teenage girl in line were two young girls, both with cel phones compressed in their ears. Their heads were no more than two feet apart and their voices intermingled. Each had that dazed look – which came from them concentrating on their phone conversations.
          I had enough of the irritating noise pollution so I checked out and headed for my car in the parking lot. I watched two young women and a teenage boy head for their cars ahead of me. All three found their cars, unloaded their carts and immediately reached for their cellular telephones and were talking non-stop as they drove, one-handed and distracted from the parking area onto the busy street.
          I had a stop to make at Costco. There were a couple of dozen people inside using their cellular phones. Half of them had wires dangling from their heads, speaking into their tiny microphones, listening with their “Secret Service” type ear-buds. All had that semi-dazed look which came from being engrossed in their phone conversations. Most were pushing those oversized Costco shopping carts with one hand, holding their cel phones with the other. They walked zombie-like past the
food sample carts. One lady with a cel phone plastered in her left ear drew alongside my cart so I listened as she talked loud enough for everyone within ten feet to hear every word of her conversation.
          “Carly, how are you. I haven’t spoken with you in a while. How’s David? Oh, I’m sorry. How long ago? What happened? How awful. You must feel horrible. Look, I gotta go, I’m ready to check out. I’ll call you again. Take care of yourself, bye.”
          Leaving Costco I noticed the same scene as in the Ralph’s parking lot. I stood and watched for five minutes and saw a dozen people load their cars and anxiously draw out their cel phones and quickly “thumb-dial.” Just as at Ralph’s, these one armed drivers exited the parking lot gabbing on the phone and being only partially attentive to their driving.
          Driving home I saw more evidence of the cel phone epidemic. As I turned on my street I checked my rear view mirror and saw a Cadillac Escalade, the “wooly mammoth” of modern times, being driven by a slightly built young lady. She was steering the six thousand pound truck with her right hand, which also held a lit cigarette. In her left hand, jammed to her ear, she held her all-too-handy cel phone and her lips were going a mile- a- minute.
          Maybe someone should write a book of etiquette for cel phone users. The book should be given to all cellular phone purchasers. And our legislators should certainly enact a law prohibiting one- armed cellular telephone toting drivers.
          I wonder how we got along before cellular telephones. Maybe we weren’t so fearful about being quiet and alone with ourselves.

      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger