I made a list for today.
Stuff I needed as a PA.
I bought two pairs of cargo shorts.
I bought a Leatherman.
I bought a smart phone.
I finally did it.
For years I have resisted.
I hate cellphones.
To be fair I also hate telephones.
But I really hate cellphones.
A few years ago a couple of daffy cub reporters from the Chicago Red Eye approached me while I was messengering and asked what trend I thought should go away.
"Cellphones," I said instinctively.
"And hold still!"
The next day my dopey face and the word CELLPHONES were the biggest things on a stupid two page color spread of journaljism about "Chicagoans" and "trends".
I should have said, "The Red Eye", the news-by-numbers rag for the should-have-been-aborted.
Maybe I'm being harsh.
After all The Red Eye is a truly remarkable contribution to our amazing society.
Just like cellphones.
You know, just the other day I was having a conversation with someone. And then in the middle of his sentence he stopped talking, pulled out a cellphone, played with it for a long time and walked away. Whatever it was it must have been important.
But also just the other day I was riding my bike. And then a woman driving a car and talking on a cellphone ran me over while making a right turn. My face and body were shattered in 300 places. Her conversation was probably about something incredibly important.
Oh yeah and hey, just the other day I was conducting a train. And then my friend Stepbecca Monroe texted me on a cellphone about emoticons. I texted LOL and accidentally plowed into an oncoming train and killed 55 people including myself.
But it was important!
I was important!!
All kidding based in reality aside, I feel like the cellphone has helped erode the art of conversation into a Red Eye of inconsiderate interruptions, ADD non-sequitur segues, and unfinished, ironically non-or-miscommunicated thoughts, and has contributed to the selfish iron bubble that is both ugly and dangerous in the hands of the world's soon-to-be-outnumbering morons.
I had the same cellphone for five years.
It was a flipflap model.
The LG X-0020 or something.
It couldn't take pictures.
It couldn't GPS.
It couldn't tweet the double rainbows guy while youtubing yourself reacting to it on Second Life.
It had a sensual hourglass figure.
It made phone calls.
I could compose my own ringtones.
Nobody else on earth had my ringtones.
They were horrible!
But they got laughs in crowded elevators.
Most and best of all, because I wasn't attached to my stupid fucking phone, I could leave it behind when in Europe. For seven months of my life I was free to roam the world without an inessential cyst in my pocket. I looked up and around. And I saw things!
It was like life before September 11th or something.
If I'm going to be a PA..I will need to upgrade.
Because when you're in Rockford and you need to find a Best Buy right this very second and your laptop isn't getting wifi...
So I went to a mall in Skokie.
Because people seem nicer and weirder in the suburbs.
A stocky ex-jock football-head helped me.
I told him I was interested in the Ally.
I pronounced it with a long e at the end, like a pretty girl's name.
"Ally," he corrected.
As in ally vs. foe.
He showed me the brand new Droid X.
It's the phone Darth Vader uses.
I wanted to leave.
But I stayed and expressed in a defeated hangdog manner that I wasn't interested in watching stupid youtube videos or playing mindless video games or any of that nonsense.
I felt proud that I didn't use words like "worthless" or "fucking" or "suicide".
I just wanted a phone that made phone calls and had a little bit of the goddamn internet on it.
We ended up back at the Ally.
"I will begrudgingly purchase the Ally, please."
I felt like a hand-cuffed radical being dragged lifelessly into a paddy wagon.
"Are you sure? I don't want to get you something you don't want."
What I really wanted was 1966, but that already happened.
So I stopped being an asshole and went ahead with the transaction sans resistance.
Unfortunately, they were out of stock on the Ally.
He told me about a strip mall in a further suburb that had them in stock.
Over there, the salesman said they were out of stock on the Ally.
I told him the other store sent me over here.
"I don't know why they would do that."
I said the magic word "manager" and a moment later an Ally was produced from the back.
While transferring my contacts and signing new contracts, a new customer walked in.
He was a blue collar guy.
BLUE COLLAR GUY: I got this thing in the mail that says I can get an upgrade on my phone.
SALESMAN: Well, let's take a look at your phone and let me pull up your plan.
The guy had a simple phone and paid $25 a month.
BLUE COLLAR GUY: I only use this thing for emergencies. It's just a phone. It doesn't do internet or any of that.
The only way he could upgrade his phone is if he changed his plan. And his plan was a grandfathered plan from ten years ago that doesn't exist anymore. His monthly bill would go up. The salesman started showing him phones.
BLUE COLLAR GUY: How much is that one?
SALESMAN: This one lists for $199.
BLUE COLLAR GUY: (Laughs) Okay, thanks anyway, I'm fine with this phone.
He started for the door.
BLUE COLLAR GUY: But if I find a phone on my own for cheap, would you guys be able to transfer this one to that one?
SALESMAN: Yes, we could do that for you.
He was nice and said thank you on the way out.
As soon as he left, the other four salesman crowded around the computer to look at his plan.
They snickered at his phone and how outdated it was.
They sneered at the idea that he could find a phone for cheaper.
They poked fun at his old plan that was only $25 per month.
"Twenty five dollars a month sounds like a smart phone to me," I jabbed.
"What?" said my salesman.
"I said twenty five dollars a month sounds like a smart phone to me."
No one saw the humor in this.
Maybe it was my dry, threatening delivery.
They silently spread out to separate corners of the store.
I realized that these cellphone lizards are the new car salesmen.
Cold-hearted, up-selling, contract-binding sleaze bags.
The same smiling sharks that sold cars in the 70's, but without the cocaine clothes and Three's Company hair. Now they just look like bagels with crew cuts in pleated khakis.
I retreated home with a plastic bag full of new electronic stress.
Yippee, it's the 21st century.
TO BE CONTINUED...