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2/14/2002
11:57 AM
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Hi, Mom! I Just Won A Gold Medal!

Hang up and drive, and other forms of cell-phone abuse.

It has never been easier to say, "Hi, Mom," "How are your tomatoes coming in, Mom?" or "Hey, Mom! I just set a world record and won a medal in speed skating." I doubt that anybody was surprised to see, in the Olympic Parade of Nations, all those athletes marching with cell phones held to their ears.

Cell phones have invaded every corner of our existence--often corners that should be left in the shadows. A recent Associated Press article points out that fixed phone lines will soon be outnumbered by cell phones. Communication is one of the fundamentals of human existence. That's why the Internet has boomed. Think about the inventions that have become central to our lives in the last hundred years:

  • Telegraph: lets people send messages over long distances
  • Telephone: lets people communicate in real time over long distances
  • Television: lets people communicate using visual input over long distances
  • Planes, trains, and automobiles: let people communicate face to face
  • Cell phone: lets people communicate anytime, almost anywhere

So, when the images came through on the tube from the opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City of American figure skater Sasha Cohen handing President Bush her cell phone so he could say hello to her mother as they stood in the stands with the rest of the U.S. Olympic team, no one should have been surprised. I think it's great, especially when you consider that the athletes' parents would have had to spend thousands of dollars to attend the event.

However, as nice as it is to be able to save your mom a grand or two by calling her on the phone as she watches on TV so she can virtually accompany you to the Olympics, we need to be wary of the implications of anytime, anywhere communication.

As I take the bus each morning and each night, invariably I am subjected to someone's stupid cell phone ringer song, not to mention private details of their conversations I don't want to know. Come on, people! Cell phones work very well; you don't have to talk loudly into the microphone. Also, I am so glad that you're a huge fan of Pop Goes The Weasel, but when I'm up at 2 a.m. because that dumb song is swirling in my head, I'm cursing you. And, if you're the lady who announced to everyone on the bus last week that you bought the leather boots you and your friend Amber saw last week ("And they were only $1,500")--congratulations, you just made yourself a target for crime. To the guy who yelled his Social Security number to everyone: You're a moron, too.

Cell-phone indiscretions are rampant nowadays. The most egregious story I have heard in a while, however, comes from my brother. He and his wife recently attended a funeral in Milwaukee: solemn ceremony, bearded rabbi with a long coat and hat, flowers, everything. Then, as the rabbi was delivering the eulogy ... BAM! The rabbi's cell phone rang. He interrupted the eulogy and said, "There is no reverence for the dead," and that he didn't know how to shut it off, so excuse him if it goes off again.

So, while I'm so happy for the mothers out there who can now share more instantly in their children's successes, let's watch ourselves.

And call your mother.

Kenneth Lapins is an E-business consultant in Chicago who wears his cell phone holstered on his belt proudly.

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