Just how much of a sickness, a disease – an appendage or extremity – have our cell phones become on the Upper West Side? It now appears that we all came out of the womb with one in our hand. And this coming from an old fart living in the west 70s who still does not own one. I walk the streets and sit on the many benches of my ‘hood and astound in the plethora of neighbors whose heads are bowed to theirs: those without certainly have them in their pockets.
In the beginning we were all duly impressed with cell phone users who took their new toy out on Columbus, Amsterdam, Broadway -- to astonish passersby while hailing a cab, sitting in a restaurant, or just walking about. That no longer works; the entire world now has a cell phone. We’ve had to find new and creative ways to impress others with our perceived self-importance insofar the cell phone has become just another accessory.
While there’s no disputing that they have become essential to track our kids, report or record an accident or crime with cell cameras – do business – or just alert another that we’re late and on our way, still others want to call attention to themselves by blabbing in the most inappropriate places. A man entering a men’s room stall at the AMC Lowes Lincoln Square talked loudly on his unit while about to do his business. That his conversation was so important it could not wait until he took a “you-know-what” is what I asked myself.
Cell users think nothing of invading our space by talking loudly on the 1, 2, and 3 – the 7, 10, 11 and 104 bus lines, or just sitting on a park bench. Another “crazy” entered a men’s room with his cell camera to take a picture of a famous actor leaking at a urinal. True story. With visions of the picture going viral dancing in his head, said actor jumped the man (I hope he zipped-up first), seized the phone, and did what with it, I’m not sure. Sadly, cells have become the cause of increased crime by snatch-and-run thieves of the Upper West Side -- the cause of road accidents by cabbies, food delivery young men on bicycles, and others who insist on talking or texting while driving. Teenagers use them for “sexting” – or to bury their faces walking down a street not looking where they’re going. But then nannies of the UWS give more attention to their device than to the children in their charge.
While sitting on CPW recently, where I often go to read and tourist-watch, I was accosted by a cell phone user who chose to sit next to me, talk loudly, and disturb my reading. I told him once, twice and a third before I got up, went to him and began singing in his face at the top of my lungs. The man was dumbfounded; I was disturbing his call. No kidding; you’re disturbing my reading. He got the point and moved on.
The stories abound, and some are humorous but for the fact that they’re pathetic. Picture a parked-by-night police cruiser at the corner of W. 74th and Amsterdam, with two eerie faces aglow to passersby through the windshield: two cops playing games on their electronic device. Or, how about the jogger at the entrance to the Park at West 72nd, who has completed his run only to stretch one leg and check his phone, stretch the other and check his phone, and continue the process for all the rest of his body. And to think he carried it through his entire run.
Don’t tell me this isn’t a disease: you’re wrong. I ask each of you to give up your device for a week, and let me know how you feel.
John Elari lives, cell phone-free, on the Upper West Side