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DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Cell phone abusers, dial M for Madness



Published: Thu, August 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's Tuesday afternoon. A woman at the Giant Eagle speaks into her cell phone. She toddles down the produce aisle, ignores me completely and picks up a Ruby Red.

"The grapefruits are $1.50 each. But they look ripe," she says, engrossed in her cordless conversation.

I encounter her again in the freezer aisle.

"Is there ravioli left?... Cheese or meat?... Should I get some potato gnocchi?"

I picture her husband, sitting in a dinette chair, wearing an undershirt, sipping a beer, positioned at the refrigerator door. His kids are half-naked and tugging on his sleeve.

"Daddy, I want bottle!"

"Daddy, what's for lunch?"

"Not now! Can't you see I'm Mommy's shopping list?!"

If the shoe fits: Sunday's trip to Kohl's shoe department is even better. A lady turns out her ankle and examines a white, sling-back pump on her left foot. I see her talking, but no one is there. Then I realize, a cell phone is balanced between her ear and shoulder.

"Well, it's white. A little snug in the toes maybe, but very stylish."

Now, who's on the other end of that telephone? Who's bored enough to listen to a play-by-play of a shoe fitting? A corpse?

A day later, my daughter and I are in a department store ladies room. A toilet flushes explosively. I hear a loud voice clearly from stall No. 2, where a yellow legal pad is positioned on the floor between two, black high-heel pumps.

"Well, of course I'll bring that up to the second floor."

Another toilet explodes. "Well, I'll check on that." Other bathroom sounds. "Of course, in a couple minutes." My daughter and I grimace.

At the movies: And then, it's Monday night at Movies 8. A loud seven-second digital nursery rhyme sounds from the row to our left. "Mary had a little lamb, little lamb." (What was once impressive -- "Hey, a cell phone!!! He must be successful!" -- now impresses in a different way.)

But the ring isn't bad enough, because this big lummox (actually, I can't see him, because it's dark in Movies 8, but I'm sure he was a lummox -- yeah, he had to have been a lummox) takes the call and converses -- at full volume no less.

"NO, I'M AT THE MOVIES. YEAH, IT'S TRAFFIC ... PRETTY GOOD ... NO, NO, IT'S THE ONE WITH MICHAEL DOUGLAS ... YEAH, ABOUT DRUGS ... OH ABOUT 45 MINUTES ... THE PART WHERE THE ..."

Phone addiction: The irony is, there is always a plethora of rude people at the movies. Always! Except this day.

No one says, "Hey stupid! Yeah, you! You pathetic little man who can't go two hours without your stupid cell phone! Get your big, rude rear end out to the lobby! We're trying to watch a movie here!" No one said that.

And I didn't either, because I suspect people who are so attached to their phones actually have a disease. They are addicted.

As 21st century victims, they don't need to be reprimanded or punished. What they really need is love, understanding, Montel and a support group (especially that woman conducting business from the bathroom).

DOCTOR (in Freudian accent): And vhat do you feel like vhen you aren't on the cell phone?

PATIENT: Lost and alone.

DOCTOR: Just vhat IS a cell phone to you then? Free associate, my dear.

PATIENT: I am safe, warm, connected.

DOCTOR: An umbilical cord!

PATIENT: But it's cordless.

DOCTOR: Vell, can you live vidout talking on that phone?

PATIENT: Of course I can, but someone else might need ME. You know, to help them pick out a pair of shoes or an eggplant.

PATIENT TWO: My name is Mary and I'm addicted to my cell phone.

DOCTOR: Very good, Mary. That is the first step to recovery.

murphy@vindy.com




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