2005-05-06 - 11:47 a.m.
Damn Cellphone Users!

If anyone could ever come close to expressing my disdain for cellphone users, then Mark Morford of the San Fransico Gate has done it!

Hang Up Or Get Off The Plane

Using cell phones on flights: Great idea, or the last, horrible gasp of human decency?

By Mark Morford
SF Gate Columnist

Oh my, yes, please yes, open your giant purse or crack your bitchin' briefcase and whip out that swell little silver Motorola and pop in the earpiece and dial that bad boy right up.

Because you know what I'd love right now, sitting here right next to you right at this tedious never-ending airborne moment? Why, I'd love nothing more than to listen to you whine for the next 137 minutes to your husband about how your acid reflux has been acting up again and you really think the goddamn Purple Pill ain't working and by the way how are your hemorrhoids honey maybe you should try tying a little rubber band around it to choke it off and oh sweet Jesus and we're still 10,000 feet over Oregon, and I am here, paralyzed.

I can't escape. It is physically impossible to slide more than nine inches away from you and it's apparently illegal for me to spend the entire flight in the three-square-foot airplane bathroom banging my head against the wall, and there simply aren't enough little bottles of Stoli in the in-flight drink cart to turn your conversation from brain-gnawingly deadly to merely numbly sufferable.

And despite how I am a writer and am therefore supposed to love this kind of thing, I really do not care to imagine the life you must lead that has led you to this moment wherein you find that you absolutely goddamn must call your sister and discuss in infinite painstaking detail just what, exactly, you should wear on your date with your rehabbed ex-husband who is taking you to Red Lobster to try and compensate for the drunkenness and the sloth and the diddling of the gum-snapping babysitter in the tract home rec room last summer.

I am not all about your hot stock deal. I am not caring all that much to hear of your plans for cheap dinner somewhere "cheap, but not cheapy." I am entirely, fiercely disinterested in your deeper thoughts about the pitching lineup for the Diamondbacks. Speak fondly about how much you love Bush and how this war on Iraq is making you feel patriotic again despite the lobotomy and watch the blood drip from my ears.

I'm sorry, I know this sounds rude. I know this sounds callous. I know this sounds harsh and unbecoming but you must know that these exact scenarios, and a million like them, they are about to happen. To me. To you. To all of us.

The People Who Regulate Such Things (a.k.a., the FAA) are right now opening it up for discussion about whether to allow cell phone use among passengers during commercial airline flights. And the gods did say, oh holy hell.

I mean, big deal, right? Far more important things tearing up and spitting down on the known universe right now than worrying about annoying people who insist on using their cell phones every goddamn waking moment in every human public space imaginable, and hence the nonissue of using them during flights all sounds innocuous enough until you sit there and think about it for about eight seconds and then you stand up and throw your coffee mug against the wall in a mad fury and scream oh my freaking god, no. No, please no.

It is already hard enough, this human-communication thing. It is already chaotic enough and already convoluted enough and we are already so insanely locked into technology's vicious beautiful grip, so desperate to make ourselves available and to make ourselves heard at all times that it's moved past silly and past baffling and way past gee-whiz how-do-they-do-that and into the realms of painful and dangerous and spiritually debilitating and hang-up-the-damn-phone-or-I-might-have-to-slap-you.

This is the incredible thing about phones. They render us invisible. No matter where we are, no matter the crowd immediately surrounding us or the person in the seat next to us or standing in front of us in line, we think we are in our own little personal bubble of cute isolation as we yammer and we think no one can see us and no one can hear us and even if they do, well, hey, screw them free country back off sucker.

You thought it was bad when the Dockers-clad geek standing in line at Starbucks stammered like a chipmunk on meth into his Nokia to his buddy about the kick-ass pipeline throughput of the company's new server clusters? Just wait until he's sitting right next to you on a four-hour flight to New York and he can't stop saying the words "awesome CGI firepower" over and over as he yammers into the phone and it's all you can do to keep from jamming your copy of "Quiet Mind, Still Mind" into his low-tech little mouth.

Like it's already not bad enough on a plane right now, awkward and tense and resigned, like flying hasn't already morphed from a once semipleasant, relatively stress-free event where you could choose to either tune everything out with headphones or a book, or maybe (heaven forfend) actually meet someone new, strike up a genuinely interesting conversation with an fascinating and funny and kind stranger, into this chattering maw of stress and anxiety and homeland security where it actually feels like you are discouraged from speaking to anyone in person and everyone is a potential threat and every carry-on could be a weapon and goddammit give me back my Zippo lighter because no, I do not intend to unfasten my seat belt and leap down and try to light the seat cushions on fire really, really slowly and demand we turn this plane around right now and fly it directly into Laura Bush's creepy hair. Cell phone chatter will make that roughly 46.3 times worse.

But that's not all. It gets uglier. More depressing.

Because if people chattering away on their cells on the bus or in the malls or in the supermarket or in restaurants has taught us anything, it is that, by far the worst and most soul-numbing part of having to listen to the intimate conversations of casual strangers is the, how to put this gently, general mundane tedium of it all, the sheer unbridled yawning monotony, the realization that, oh my God, we as a species are just so wondrously, incredibly -- what do you call it? Oh yes: boring.

It's true. And we do not need to be reminded, again and again, just how very tiresome our thoughts can be, we beautiful and enlightened creatures of Earth, and say what you will about the supposed thrill of listening in on private conversations on those Radio Shack decoder things geek voyeurs use to scour neighborhoods for wireless phone signals, there just ain't that many cool sexy people having hot phone sex or cool screaming fights or sharing juicy perverted details about what they want to do to their best friend's boyfriend with a bottle of Creme de Menthe and some clogs and a roll of Reynolds Wrap.

This is the real reason we don't need cell phones on planes. Air travel is already anesthetizing enough, trapped as we all are in skinny shaky little aluminum tubes thousands of feet in the air with nothing but stale peanuts and Nora Roberts and US Weekly and loud iPods to get us through, without the constant reminder that we are, in truth and when you peel it all back and strip it all away, just not all that interesting, or deep, or utterly mandatory to the universe.

In other words, people start chattering on their cell phones on the plane, and it just might be the final straw. The thing that Puts Us Over the Edge until we realize we are, despite all our meager protests and delicate claims to the contrary, just barely beyond the amoeba stage, barely above the quivering threshold of tolerable, just like the president keeps trying to demonstrate, via his very existence. And who the hell wants to be reminded of that?

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does. Subscribe to this column at sfgate.com/newsletters.


©2005 SF Gate

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