Cyber Rude

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Okay, I think this has gone on long enough. I’ve held my tongue. I’ve not said a word. But I can’t keep quiet any longer.

I’ve had it with cell phones.

Really—seriously, people. Enough already. I don’t want to sound like a Luddite, or Andy Rooney. I love technology. If I had to go one day without a computer, my head would explode.

In fact, my problem isn’t really with cell phones. I have one—I use it for work and emergencies. My problem is with the people who use cell phones—all of you. You know who you are. You’re the people who have meaningless, banal, overtly personal conversations within earshot of me.

I don’t care how drunk you were last night. I don’t care who or what you woke up with. I don’t want to hear you fight with your boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other or farm animal. I don’t care about you, and neither does anyone else who can hear your bleating.

I know this sounds harsh, but let me give you a few examples of cell phone conversations I was forced to overhear.

I’m standing in the checkout line at King Kullen in Hampton Bays, minding my own business, and this is what I hear: “Yeah, well they lanced it. It was on my shoulder. It was all full of pus. It hurt like hell.”

This is the last thing I wanted to hear. I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Believe me, that cauliflower I was looking forward to was not looking too appetizing at that point.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in TJ Maxx in Bridgehampton, and, I kid you not, I hear this guy from halfway across the store, yelling—not just speaking, yelling—into his cell phone: “We’re in the HAMPTONS right now. We’ll be here all weekend.” He neglected to tell the person that he was in a TJ MAXX in the HAMPTONS. I kinda doubt that would have the same impact. He can’t go to a TJ Maxx in New Jersey? He’s got to come here and yell about it? He’s gotta come to my TJ Maxx and harsh my shopping mellow?

(I don’t entirely blame cell phone technology for this phenomenon. I blame reality TV. At this point in human history, it is in perfect form to just vomit every thought, feeling, act, bad habit, etc., onto the public. It’s on TV, so it must be okay. They don’t seem to be running out of ideas for them either—unfortunately. What’s next? “Survivor XXI: French Guyana Leper Colony”?)

It’s not just the loud talkers, either. It never ceases to amaze me that people will not stop their phone conversations in the name of basic courtesy. In checkout lines at stores—and I’ve seen this happen many times—the customer on the cell phone will not even acknowledge the person helping them. It’s like they don’t exist.

To me, that’s the worst. You can’t even pause your conversation about nothing, with a disembodied voice on a phone, long enough to say “Hello,” or “Thank you”? Tell me what is so important that you can’t take a nanosecond to be polite. Are you talking someone through brain surgery? I can’t think of anything else that would require such rude behavior. Let me give you a little advice: This does not make you look cool or important, it makes you look like a jerk. So knock it off. I know your mother taught you some manners. Use ’em.

One last thing before they cut me off—and, make no mistake, they are going to cut me off. It’s the hands-free earpiece. I don’t how many times I’ve been walking down the street, and someone passing shouts “Hi!” at me with so much enthusiasm that I have to reply “Hi!” in my most dippy, happy voice … until I realize that they are not talking to me, they are using a hands-free earpiece, which seems to have been invented to embarrass and humiliate me. As they pass I get the look of disdain that says, “I’m not talking to you. Why on Earth would I be talking to you?”

I hate the telltale earpiece. It makes everyone who wears them look like a cyborg, a melding of man and misguided technology. Which, I guess, is exactly what it is.

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