Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2002 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
Where's the oven? I want to stick my head in it.
See whether this sounds familiar. You get on a plane. You settle into your seat. You open a travel magazine. You begin to drift off, thinking of the places you are about to visit, the people you are about to see, and . . .
"FRANK? YEAH. PULL ME THE THIRD-QUARTER SALES SHEETS. YEAH. CHECK ITEM 243118. INVENTORY SHOWS A BACK ORDER."
To quote Woody Allen, what I wouldn't give for a sock full of horse manure.
There is no chatter like cell phone chatter and no cell phone chatter like business cell phone chatter -- especially five inches from your face.
"TED? I GOT YOUR FAX ON THE CRATE FLOW. ST. LOUIS WANTS IT IN TWO WEEKS. CHECK ITEM 117628. OH. AND INVENTORY SHOWS A BACK ORDER."
Not only are these conversations indecipherable, they are LOUD. That's because Ted or Frank is in some warehouse in Kenosha, Wis., and the businessman is, well, let's face it, on an AIRPLANE! Things are NOISY! They're called ENGINES! And those bothersome things next to you?
They're called PASSENGERS!
Now, I don't begrudge business people their business. You gotta make a living, right?
But a plane is not an office. You are close enough to count a person's pores. Already, during boarding, the cabins have become a giant phone booth. It's like a train station in Europe, with all the backpackers calling home.
But at least the flight attendants eventually say, "Ladies and gentlemen, the doors have been closed. All portable electronic devices must now be shut off."
Which doesn't mean anyone stops talking. Most business folk simply scrunch up like a schoolkid hiding a lollipop, hoping the teacher won't see them. But at least they lower their voices.
And eventually, they do hang up. They have to. The phone won't work. Finally, finally -- after a taxi ride where the driver blasts his radio, after a terminal where CNN blares on TV screens, after bathrooms where Muzak is piped in over the sink -- finally, you can actually hear the soothing quiet . . . of four jet engines beneath your wings.
Hey. It beats the inventory update.
Can you imagine, however, if cell phones work the whole trip long? And people can receive calls, too, so you'll hear those annoying rings that owners think are so cute -- "Looney Tunes," "Three Blind Mice," Beethoven's Fifth -- from takeoff to landing? As if the middle seat wasn't torture enough.
And of course, because cell phone service is so unreliable, there'll be no end to this:
"PATRICK? YEAH, I . . . HELLO? . . . HELLO? CAN YOU HEAR . . . OK . . . NO? HELLO? I CAN HEAR YOU BUT . . . HANG ON . . . HANG . . . HELLO?"
And when the business people finally nod off -- Palm Pilots and spread sheets in hand -- then, at long last, you get to hear this:
"RITA? GUESS WHERE I'M CALLING FROM?"
There ought to be a law. I confess to using cell phones on planes. But I am blissfully relieved when they shut the door, because I have an excuse to be out of touch. Like so much technology, cell phones were invented to make lives easier and only make them busier.
That closed door used to be my friend. Soon, it,
too, will join the Dark Side. I am traveling, I am
flying. I am searching the world for quiet. Inventory
shows a back order.
10/22/02: The pen isn't mightier than good sense