Archive for Thursday, September 16, 2004

Cell phones are blessing, curse

September 16, 2004

This is one I've been thinking about for a long time, but after an episode Friday, I knew it was time. The subject is cell phones.

Believe me, I know cell phones are truly a blessing and a curse. They keep people in touch, that's for sure. Anytime my boys are on the road, I'm so thankful they have them. But, on the curse side, every time I pay the bill for those phones, I can't believe it. Text messaging appears to be the curse there.

Kids, and I'm talking all ages, not just college students, not just high school students, but a whole new generation is "wired" to cell phones. I've been noticing that for years, seeing Baker and Baldwin High students walking, driving or whatever with them glued to their ears.

When it really hit me, though, was this summer. A girl, I'm guessing to be 10 or 12, was tooling down the sidewalk on High Street, not paying attention to what she was doing and, yes, with the phone to her ear, yaking away.

But, don't take me wrong. Adults are no better and, let's face it, we're the ones that started it. Cell phones have just exploded into the world that we know these days, much like the Internet, Web sites and, of course, e-mail.

We've become a society that's in constant contact. Is there anything wrong with that? For the most part, I think no. But, I go back to my earliest reservations with cell phones and that was that the wife would be distracted while driving. To this day, I see that as the biggest problem with cell phones -- inattentive driving.

I think everyone admits to that. There are actually laws in some cities and states forbidding the use of cell phones while driving. People who are caught are ticketed. I like that, but, by the same token, I sure as heck don't want a ticket for it. After all, I am careful. Or at least I think I am.

Another curse of the cell phones has to do with that constant contact. Part of it is, sometimes it's just nice to be away from the phone. That's rare now. But the other part is when those phones fail.

Yes, it happens. It's happened with me from the beginning with missed calls. More recently, my phone has just been doing weird things. Usually, when someone calls and I miss it, there's an alert and the message icon. But, on more than one occasion, something has gone wrong with the system and I don't get the message until later. Because of that constant contact, that can be a problem.

Of course, as with anything, there's also operator error involved. I certainly have to plead guilty to that. For 99 percent of that for me, it's not keeping the dang thing with me. I tend to set it down here or there or who knows where and forget it. It happened just the other day. I left it at the office and was on the road when I realized it.

It made no sense to go back and get it. The lost time was not worth it. But there I was, knowing that I was getting calls and couldn't do anything about it. Plus, it hit me, what if I have car trouble? That's still to this day the best thing about cell phones. Breakdown, run out of gas or whatever, you've got instant access to help. Here I was without it.

But, this wasn't what was the final blow for me with cell phones. No, that was something that happened at Friday's football game between Baldwin High School and Paola.

Just into the fourth quarter with the score tied at 14-14 and the Bulldogs driving, the official blew play dead and went to waving his arms. There was something on the field that required stopping play.

What was it? Yes, you guessed it, a cell phone.

I've played, covered and watched football for almost 40 years and I'd never seen anything like it. The official picked it up and everyone looked around. He showed it to BHS coach Mike Berg who said "we don't allow those to be carried." A trainer took it and play resumed, the Bulldogs scored the go-ahead points in a come-back win and all was well.

But, it had made enough of an impression on me that I wrote it down along with the rest of my play-by-play. It just struck me as odd. How the heck did it get there and when? Why did it take until the fourth quarter to see it? Who in the world would take a cell phone on a football field, for crying out load?

Well, I've come to the conclusion that it was probably in the pocket of one of the band members who played during halftime. That may or may not be the case, but it's all that makes sense to me.

I've added it to my curse list with cell phones. Anything that stops a football game for un-football related items is bad. Of course, it's also made me wonder who lost their cell phone. If they're like me, they're still looking around trying to figure where they left it this time. And, who knows how many messages they've missed.

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