A few weeks ago, our grand nephews, ages 10 and 8, and grand niece, age 4, visited us from New York.  During the weekend, 10-year old Tyler, saw our old Bakelite rotary phone on the counter and asked, “Is that a phone?”  When my husband said, “Yes,” Ryan, the 8-year old, asked, “Does it work?”  Tyler then wanted to know how it worked and my husband showed him how to dial but Tyler found it very difficult to do.  To all their amazement, I dialed their mother’s cell phone on the antiquated rotary phone and Lauryn, the little one, was able to speak with her Mom who was just downstairs.

It’s quite alarming to view the world through the eyes of children who only know cell phones, computers, DVD players, and CDs, particularly when rotary phones, typewriters, 8-track tapes and vinyl records were commonplace not so very long ago.  Tyler was stunned by my husband’s laserdisc collection.

The advances in technology are moving at lightning speed and the introduction of faster and more innovative “toys” is mind-boggling.  I have to admit I love my Clie’ which I use solely to indulge my guilty pleasures of Scrabble and Spider Solitaire.  I did cling desperately to my Brother word processor until it became absolutely necessary for my work to use a computer. My cell phone is a 10-year old candy bar which I rarely use.  I wouldn’t classify myself a Luddite, but, I’m pretty low tech.

So, when the recent iPhone 4 came on the market, the rush to purchase this newest, fastest, and most improved phone from Apple and the sale of 1.7 million in just three days made my head spin.

I recognize millions use their cell phones for professional reasons; if they’re actually doing business, they’re speaking so softly no one else can hear their discussion, as it should be.

However, from my experience, people with the least important things to say are the ones constantly on their cell phones.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to overhear a conversation which even remotely resembles anything of significance.  “Hey, what’s up?” is the usual start of a conversation and it goes down hill from there.  And I really don’t get why people wear Bluetooth headsets when they’re actually having a face-to-face conversation with someone. How rude is that?

On more than one occasion, either my husband or I have had to tell someone to please use their “inside voice” after we’ve been aurally assaulted with their loud, obnoxious conversations.  I’ve yet to hear a transplant surgeon on a cell phone saying, “I’ll be there in 20 minutes, get the team ready, be ready as soon as I arrive.”  Instead, we’ve overheard conversations about people’s abortions, divorces and hemorrhoid operations.

Some years ago, while on the set of NYPD Blue, I saw Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., nearby overseeing the preparations for a charitable event that evening and this media giant, in his short-sleeved white shirt, did not have a cell phone on or near him.

My husband is convinced that cell phones are simply adult binkies which provide some adults with the comfort they experienced in their infancy at their mother’s breast.  We’re not psychologists, but I believe there’s some truth in that, especially when we’ve seen plenty of people on their cell phones incessantly saying absolutely nothing of consequence.  It seems as if these people cannot just sit quietly; they’re compelled to be on their cell phones, similar to my then 2-year old grand nephew who had to have his binkie all the time.

What makes the recent frenzy for the new iPhone even more incredible to me is the fact that people were willing to purchase these things without first knowing if all the bugs were corrected.  The recent brouhaha about the problem with reception depending on how the user held the phone is a perfect example of what I’m saying.  Steve Jobs’s suggestion, “don’t hold it that way” (can you say chutzpah?) didn’t go over very well with consumers and so Apple had to send everyone a $40+ case to resolve the problem.  Now, how dumb is that?  Why didn’t Apple know about this design defect before it put the phone on the market?  And why did iPhone consumers have to have the new phone the first day it came on the market?

The other craziness surrounding these phones is that some Apple devotees actually want the soon to be released Windows 7 phone to fail.  If you want the iPhone, buy it.  If you want the Windows 7 phone, buy it.  Why would someone want a U.S. company to fail?  I don’t get it.  Competition is wonderful and is good for our country.  A recent posting by Jon Westfall, a postdoctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School, agrees with me that “competition is good” and also didn’t get why people want Microsoft to fail:  “But to rip on it claiming to be objective, when in fact you’re either bitter, fearful, or an unabashed fan-boy, is just annoying.  Take it from a guy who wants Microsoft, Apple and Google to succeed – competition is good for us, bashing something just to hear yourself speak is not.”  Kudos to Mr. Westfall!

So, for all those millions of people who lined up at Apple stores to buy the latest phone without first knowing whether it would work properly, I ask the following:  Are you planning to line up at the polls in November for something really important?

In the present economy, I wonder how many people actually had the money, cash in hand, to purchase these phones.  How many consumers used money that should’ve gone for the real necessities of life?  How about their children’s after-school activities?  Unfortunately for some people, there’ll soon be another new, improved, better, more technologically advanced version on the market, and they’ll still be paying off yesterday’s model.

I don’t get the need to constantly be on a cell phone or the madness to have the latest toy when there are so many more important things out there.  And, if you do, God bless you.

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