Debt consolidation, sigmoidoscopies, what Justin said to Tara in the hallway… topics I can’t possibly survive the day without hearing. Directions on how to get to where I’m sitting. What brand of kitty litter to buy. How do we get through the day without that little box attached to our ear, our cheek, a headset reminiscent of the kid taking your order at the McDonald’s drive-through?

I am not a violent person by nature, yet I anxiously await the performance piece where I watch that box float through the air, following the arc of a slow-pitched softball, to meet its timely end, smashed into a bazillion pieces by the expectant bat. Truthfully, I don’t want to watch the piece, I want to perform it. I want to swing the bat.

We are fast approaching a society in which no one takes responsibility for anything. Our addiction to cell phones is but a symptom of this. There is no need to figure out where you’re going before you leave the house, for you can always call your party and ask them. And they’ll tell you, in detail, turn right at the light, left at the Hess station, two blocks down, across from the fire department. It matters not that the couple sitting at the next table already, obviously, knows how to get here. The direction giver will say it loud enough for all to hear.

My mother used to send me to the store on my bicycle. “Get milk, bread, some hot dogs, cereal and mustard.” These were instructions enough. What brand of mustard? What kind of bread? If I didn’t know this before I left home, I’d figure it out on my own. Ah, the good old days. Long gone. Figuring things out on one’s own is a bygone act. I wonder what, if anything, young people today (or even their parents, for that matter) can decide for themselves, without calling someone, talking it over with another, discussing it, if you can really call these overheard chats “discussions”.

And it is the nature of “overheard” that makes this technology so utterly galling to the one who simply wants to go through the days undisturbed, unaware of the everyday business of his or her fellow travelers. We all have our fair share of mundane pursuits. Must we be subject to the accounts of others’ as well? Personally, I don’t want to hear them.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? You can’t help but hear them. For a society that idolizes private ownership to the degree that we do, we’ve certainly lost any and all sense of privacy. The public, it appears, is now private. The cell phone seems to magically construct an invisible wall around its user, a mobile bubble, their own little world to carry on whatever conversation they so desire. How odd is it that I work in an environment where HIPAA regulations, those rules about privacy where medical matters are concerned, are held in such high regard. Yet all you need to do is sit in the lobby for five minutes and you’ll be privileged to hear every detail of Aunt Sue’s surgery or Uncle Joe’s chemotherapy treatment. And should you ever dare to give the cell phone user a questioning glance, you will be rewarded with a glare that implies YOU are the intruder.

Sad but true, there seems no end in sight. That gas station on the corner, the one where you turn right to get to the restaurant, they’ve got a rack of cell phones for $4.99. What a bargain.

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