I was sitting in my car, stuck in traffic— not an uncommon circumstance in the land of smog and sunshine. I glanced over to the car in the next lane. There was a middle-aged woman at the wheel. Beside her in the front passenger seat was a teenage girl, presumably her daughter. Both driver and passenger were talking on their cell phones— but in all likelihood, not to each other.
The cell phone is one of the great techno toys of modern times, at least according to my service provider. They even offered me text messaging service. Imagine, not only could I carry on a phone conversation while I cut off the speeding Lexus in the next lane, I could also send messages in text, in between fixing the CD player and sipping my Mocha Java Venti. And in a final touch of mobile efficiency, the full-color camera accessory (included at no extra charge) would allow me to photograph any bumper that dared get in my way—I could run the plates later.
But let’s return to our mother and daughter stuck in traffic on Wilshire Boulevard. I speculated that perhaps the mother was gently chiding the girl about the fact that her grades have been slipping as precipitously as the jeans on her bare midriff. The daughter, ever anxious to be reminded of the stellar grade point average of the entering freshman class at the University of California at Berkeley, rolled her eyes, wondering when her mother would finally remove herself from the daughter’s freshly liposuctioned posterior. Sensing the sentiment, Mom replied, “FINE.” The daughter was thinking of a two-word phrase that, coincidentally, also started with the letter F.
At this point the conversation had hit a lull. Mom reached into her purse for a stick of gum (or perhaps a stick of dynamite). The daughter sprang back to action, grabbed her cell phone and tried to call her best friend. Sadly, her friend was talking to another friend about a boyfriend problem of epic proportions. Daughter then left an urgent text message: CALL ME.
Meanwhile, Mom had called Dad, but Dad was busy golfing, trying to close a business deal and suck up to his boss at the same time. (The concept of multitasking was alive and well.) Mom quickly typed in a few lines to describe her daughter’s litany of treachery, ingratitude and academic incompetence. At the other side of the car, the daughter text-messaged the important highlights to her friend: MOM BEING A JERK ABOUT GRADES, HEY THESE JEANS LOOK CUTE ON ME.
From this scenario, the value of our cell phones and their fancy options becomes obvious. If mothers and daughters were forced to wait for land lines to seek solace for their complaints, they might just strangle each other right there in rush-hour traffic.
As for me, I’ll sip my Starbucks with one hand and steer with the other, thank you, and let my calls go to voice mail…another techno wonder, courtesy of my cell phone provider.
by Gene Feldman