Friday, January 27, 2006

Is that a Verizon on the horizon?

When I was a young boy, I had a grandfather who was a TV and appliance repairman. Because of this, we had televisions before most people with money had them. My older brother and I shared a bedroom. We even had one. It was fascinating to wake up and go to that giant box with the little round screen. I'd turn it on and wait impatiently for it to warm up. There wasn't much on back then, only a handful of stations, but, I'd wait just to watch silent cartoons early in the morning. It was the neatest thing. Today, my grandfather would certainly marvel at how far we've come with electronics from nearly 50 years ago. Computers, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, Blackberries, the internet and so on. It's just amazing!

As I reminisce, I almost long for the days when, on your morning commute, cars would haphazardly pass by you on the left or right, tailgating until they had that opportunity to zoom by, swerving from one side to the other. Invariably, it was some young driver applying makeup while staring into the rear view mirror. Those were the road idiots of days gone by. I'll get back to that.

Sometime in the early to mid eighties, there was a guy I knew who came into an establishment for some after work socializing. I used to go there once in a while. Joe was a pretty good guy. This being Florida, we all knew at least one wealthy person from the orange grove days before freezes forced them to sell their property to land developers. From old riches to new riches. Joe came from one of those citrus families. Wouldn't you know, he would be the first guy I met with a cell phone. It was a clunker of a thing, in the shape of a briefcase with the receiver mounted on top and a long antenna when you extended it. That phone probably weighed a good 30 pounds. He had taken some kind of label gun and printed out his new techno phone number and stuck it on the case. In matching black, of course. And, of course, I saw that number while we all crowded around his latest gadget to get an up close view. He kind of felt pretty important explaining how it worked and all. In the meantime, I slipped away from the crowd.

At the rear entrance were a couple of pay phones, just inside the door. I'm sure we all remember them, as they now become scarcer and scarcer. I dropped a quarter into the slot and dialed that number. He had explained to me earlier about a little incident in the parking lot where he bumped into another vehicle. There was hardly any damage and it turned out the guy who was leaving had gone to high school with him. They hadn't seen each other in years. He was relieved the guy told him to just forget about it.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Yes, this is Detective Michael Smith with the Winter Park Police Department. We have a gentleman here at the station who says you hit his car in a parking lot. Is that true?"

"Yes sir, but, he said everything was fine, to just forget about it."

"Well, he's not saying that now. Could you please come over so we can straighten the whole thing out? Make sure you have your insurance card."

"Um..., I'll be there soon." I definitely sensed a panic come over him. Not a mild case either. I quickly hung up the phone and rushed back up. He was a wreck.

"Joe, Joe, what happened?" He explained the call to me. "Joe, that was me. I was only trying to play a joke on you."

"Man, that scared the crap out of me. I'm driving on a suspended license."

"Didn't you hear the same background music coming through your phone? Besides, how would the cops find out your new number already?"

"Yeah, I never thought about that." So much for my first lesson in cell phone etiquette. I'll never do anything like that again.

Speaking of cell phone etiquette, back to the road. Today, instead of cars zooming by while drivers are applying makeup, they force you off the road because they are TOO important to pay attention to other drivers while they are busy making multi-million dollar business transactions over their cell phones. How selfish and Cingular-minded of them. They are either Sprinting along at ridiculous speeds or they are going twenty miles below the speed limit, staying in the left or middle lanes. I wonder how many accidents have occurred because of vehicle cell phone abuse, but, there were no witnesses around to testify to the fact that they were yakking away.

I have a cell phone. When I'm driving, I either don't answer it at that moment or I pull off to the side of the road. Not only is it the right and safe thing to do, I don't want to be looked at as one of those cell phone morons either. Nothing is more important than keeping yourself, your loved ones and fellow drivers safe from harm. At least, if you're going to anyway, get one of those Bluetooth earphone thingies that make you look like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. That will keep both hands free. The rest of you, please beam yourself somewhere else while talking or call me on my cell, 321-439-6095. But not right now. I'm getting ready to drive somewhere.

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