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'So, have you had that cell phone for long?

April 09, 2002|By TIM ROWLAND

WASHINGTON, D.C. - I would love tourist attractions were it not for the

tourists. Unfortunately, they all tend to congregate at these

attractions, which makes them less of a chance to see the sights and

more a chance for me to mentally catalogue everything that is wrong with

the human race.

First, America has this annoying habit of buying into the conventional

wisdom du jour, otherwise known as herdthink. Everyone looks at

something one way for a few months until somebody (usually to sell a

newspaper article) stands up and says,"I am different. I look at the

situation THIS way," which of course, everyone else then proceeds to do,

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too.

After Sept. 11, conventional wisdom held that it was unsafe to travel,

which was fine with me because the nation's parks and roads and planes

were too crowded as it was.

But then someone determined that if we don't travel the terrorists will

have won (probably the same person who said if we don't use our credit

cards to spend ourselves into oblivion the terrorists will have, well,

you know).

So the masses decided they would return to travel right about the

instant the cherry blossoms peaked in our nation's capital.

I'll be honest, I'm not exactly a people person. In large groups, they

tend to horrify me. And I don't like it when someone sits next to me on

the train or the subway. I always get the guy who wants to talk, usually

cracking open the verbal channels with the introductory word "So."

"So, have you taken the train before?" "So, did you see that game last

night?" "So, how many more stops do you think there are before Union

Station?"

I do everything within my power to appear unapproachable - three-day

growth of beard, plug of tobacco, whatever it takes. This time I thought

I had the problem conclusively licked when I purchased a turban.

'Course that didn't work. After the initial wave of running frantically

from everyone who appeared to be even remotely of Arab descent,

herdthink has done a complete turnaround - now people embrace those of

Arab descent because they don't wish to appear to be "profiling." Now

the poor Arab Americans are lucky to get out of the station without

someone baking them cookies.

Even worse than having someone sit beside you and talk is to have

someone sit beside you and talk - on the cell phone. I hate those gizmos

more than I can say.

When I'm king, I will require everyone who is getting a cell phone for

the first time to be shipped to the Northwest Territory, where they

could use the phone to their hearts content until the novelty wears off

and they stop calling people FOR NO REASON AT ALL. And they always seem

to be talking to an answering machine.

"Hi, it's me. I'm on the train. Um. I did my taxes last night."

Did you ever notice when people are on their cells they talk like

they're performing an autopsy?

"Hi, it's me. We're at the Jefferson Memorial, looking at the cherry

blossoms. I can see about 20 or 30 trees now. More than that, I think.

They're all out. Pink flowers. Well white, really. Some pink. They're

all around the Tidal Basin. Most of the way around. There are others.

Not here. But these ones are around the Tidal Basin."

Only a cell phone user could make cherry blossoms sound like a tumor.

So ... I was annoyed anyway, despite the great beauty of the flowering

trees, assaulted as I was on all sides by the human race - and that's

when I was approached by the vegetarian activist who tried to convince

me not to eat meat.

And to tell you the truth, I saw the light. Indeed, for the first time I

realized there was another side to the story and maybe I had become too

"set in my ways" and too judgmental of other people's lifestyles. For it

was then and there, through this young man's experience, I realized that

cell phones can actually be of use.

For dialing up medical assistance.

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