January 9, 2007


By Jim Kittelberger

While driving down a city street recently, I was struck by a scene that seemed reminiscent to me of a scene one of those famous Italian directors would put on film. On the sidewalk, oblivious to one another, three young ladies walked single file, each in their own world, with a cell phone glued to their respective ears. It was certainly not an unusual sight these days, certainly not in the USA. What struck me as odd about the tableau? Why did I feel a tinge of anger, or maybe disgust? Was anyone of them checking with their baby sitter, or their parents’ health or perhaps even a stockbroker, or some other important person who has timely information or responsibility for important aspects of ones life? Honest, and responsible behavior if that would be the case, but in most cases I doubt it. Regardless, if that were the case, then the cell phones worth, and it is a most valuable tool, would be validated. But the cynic in me believes otherwise. It’s that otherwise that gives me unease about our national mental health.

There seems to be a national aversion to solitary thought, to moments of quiet, to moments of introspection. Indeed a stigma seems attached to any practice of the before mentioned. Society, or at least teen-age society, takes a jaundiced view of a person sitting alone for more than a few minutes without some appendage attached to the ear, signifying a connection to someone or something, and validating them as not some out-of-the-norm person. Teen-agers I can justify giving some slack in these, my own jaundiced views, because they need no accreditation from an older person to know they’re right, indeed they get accreditation just by being criticized by an older person, parent, school teacher, or any other figure of authority. But adults that behave in much the same manner are much more complicated to understand.

Adults have taken to cell phones like bees to honey, they do love them and with justification. They are ideal for business people of all kinds. Appointments can be made and/or confirmed on the run. Those dead hours traveling can now be put to good business use. Travel plans, home plans, all at your fingertips by just punching in some numbers. You are free from having to find a phone and digging for quarters to put in the slot. Your boss is able to keep in touch with you at any time, day or night. Your boss is able to interrupt your lunch, dinner, break-time, anytime. Your boss is able to barge in electronically when you are at home, in the bathroom, in bed. Wonderful right? No, it isn’t. It’s one of these modern marvels that have all kinds of trap doors affixed to it.

There was a time when we gave one-third of the day to our employers and the other two thirds was ours. This is no longer the norm. There aren’t business hours now, they’re all business hours and you are on duty 24/7. You no longer work a forty-hour week or sixty, but 168 hours a week, every hour every day. It may not say that in any contract, but believe it; you are now on the hook 24/7 or 168 hours.

What hours can you call free hours belonging only to you? Pass the Rolaids please, stress has moved in.

The communication tools now available to us are on one hand fantastic, and on the other intrusive. Americans have a birthright of freedom above all, and the invention of the cell phone and GPS while magnificent in their purpose, must be handled with care. Americans must learn of the inroads to their individual freedom these devices uncontrolled will surely travel. A little personal taking back of your privacy is called for, if not now, surely soon.

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