The soothing sound of silence - The Explorer: Editorials

The soothing sound of silence

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Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 3:00 am

Cell phones are glued to the ears of people in every direction I look, whether they’re at the mall, in a restaurant, driving, jogging and even bicycle riding. How did people communicate without them?

Regardless of where I go, I can’t evade these little buzzing, chirping, singing, wireless wonders. I suppose this dilemma was inevitable once the electronic revolution began to evolve and flourish back in the late 1980’s.

Nonetheless, what mystifies me is how we effectively managed to share information without using a cellular telephone. It never occurred to me that I would ever conduct business during lunch in a manner other than person-to-person. Interpersonal skills determined the effectiveness and success of many business transactions, but today a brief, impersonal, airborne, wireless announcement seals many deals.

Maybe I’m antiquated but I need interaction with other human beings, at least some of them. I appreciate looking the other person in the eye and conducting open, genuinely meaningful dialogue. I also value body language and laughing, smirking, scratching a head or staring into space. These gestures offer real-time clues about how the conversation is going. 

Another aspect of the cellular communication phenomenon is the cost. I used to buy new cars with lower monthly payments compared to some of the current cell phone plans. In fact, I used to pay less rent than some of the monthly cash outlays I’ve overheard people discussing.

Speaking of discussions, why is it necessary to yell into a cell phone? When shelling out triple-digit dough each month for this seemingly essential service, it seems reasonable to expect the quality of the connection should allow normal conversational volume. I’ve checked; current phones have volume settings that accommodate most hearing and auditory profiles simply by accessing the setup menu and pressing a selection key or two.

In addition, many cell phones offer both audio and visual communication. Most serve multiple functions, such as digital cameras, Internet access, computer data-sharing, walkie-talkies, personal digital assistants and much more.

That’s convenient for hurried business people, lost hikers and displaced tourists, but it doesn’t replace authentic human contact. What happens when avid cell-toting mortals encounter one another? Will they reach for their phones and dial up conversations from several feet apart? It seems the opportunities for actual human interface diminishes on a daily basis to include one of the old standbys, the school classroom.

Even though I’m moving toward obsolescence when it comes to human interaction, I appreciate and encourage the utilization of innovative cell phone options and upgrades. For example, hands-free wireless headphones that operate virtually every audio device in a vehicle are becoming essential. Conversely, installing a miniature earpiece and strolling around talking with what appears to be an invisible entity makes me a bit edge, especially when you’re seated next to me in a restaurant. If your information is that important to convey, why not express yourself while enjoying the great outdoors? Otherwise, we unwired patrons could become the opposite within a few seconds of hearing your characteristically underwhelming personal business.

Here’s another hint – don’t attempt to take a digital photo with your cell phone while zipping down the road at 50-plus miles per hour and navigating the vehicle with your knees. Remember, your car has a tag number, and there’s a good chance the person behind you isn’t amused as they pull onto the shoulder, whip out their own wireless companion and punch in the complicated numeric favorite for assistance: 911.

Removing a cellularly impaired driver – that would be you – is a favor your road-sharing friends appreciate seeing now and again.

Finally, if you can’t resist the urge to burn a few hundred of your unlimited/anytime/anywhere/anyway minutes, please consider these possibilities. Some of us remain steadfast in the notion that ears are for hearing the crisp sounds emanating directly from human vocal chords, eyes appreciate looking into other eyes, and other folks simply cherish the serenity that used to be somewhat respected by surrounding strangers.

Maybe it’s time for the reintroduction of the classic wood-and-glass phone booth, only now it wouldn’t have a telephone installed. Just bring your own wireless cell phone, gently slide the hinged, two-piece doors until you hear the uniting snap of the positive and negative magnets verifying everyone’s privacy, then talk until your low-battery icon begins to beep. Go ahead. Really, we won’t hear a thing.

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