Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Cell" Phones - What's in a Name?

Do you hate cell phones like The Flying Curmudgeon hates cell phones?

Oh sure, they are valuable tools. The Flying Curmudgeon has one hanging from his belt as he types this. TFC's job as an airline captain would be a lot more difficult without it.

Many times The Flying Curmudgeon has saved a trip back to the gate, and kept his passengers on schedule for their connecting flights, because TFC had access to a cell phone in the cockpit, and could contact his company's dispatch or maintenance departments.

(In case any readers are with the FAA, that is, with the parking brake set, of course, off the active taxiway.)

But think about it - how did we ever go to the grocery store before the advent of cell phones? Who did one talk to in the canned goods aisle in the days before the trusty cell phone?

Cell phones are bad enough.

Is there anything more obnoxious than the god-awful "BEEP" of a Nextel walkie-talkie, followed by some inane conversation along the lines of: "Oh, hi. Whatcha doin'? Oh, nothin', just standing next to the pole beans. D'ya need me to bring you anything?"

Just the sound of that "BEEP" makes The Flying Curmudgeon's skin crawl.

What could possibly be more annoying than the "BEEP" of a walkie-talkie next to the stewed tomatoes?

Try that same sound at 30,000 feet.

Yes, someday soon, you could be relaxing in Business Class after the captain has turned off the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign. You take a sip of your Bloody Mary, enjoying the tanginess of the spicy tomato when you hear it - that horrible, grotesque sound that splits the air like a clap of thunder. For a moment you are no longer in your seat, but have been transported - like Mr. Spock in an old episode of Star Trek - and you find yourself standing in the food section of your neighborhood Super Wal-Mart.


No, wait! This can't be! I'm not at Wal-Mart. I'm in an airplane hurtling along at .80 Mach relaxing in my spacious, Business Class seat, as the flight attendants ply me with adult beverages! I'm not at Wal-Mart. Surely there has been some mistake!

Sorry, Sir. No mistake. And please, don't call me Shirley.

(By the way, for those of you who haven't flown much lately, an FYI is called for here. Don't say STEWARDESS anymore, either. They HATE that.)

Welcome to the future of air travel.

Someday in the not-so-distant future, as soon as all the technological and regulatory kinks have been worked out, you could find yourself cruising along, mid-flight, while you are regaled with all the intimate details of your seatmate's latest rectal exam.

There is something about talking on a cell phone that causes people to lose all sense of propriety.

Like in a beer company's radio ad: "Talking about your brother-in-law's intestinal problem while at a dinner party - unacceptable. Talking about your brother-in-law's intestinal problem while at a dinner party, on a cell phone - perfectly acceptable."

It was bad enough when airlines began allowing passengers to use their cell phones after landing and taxiing clear of the runway.

Before this change, the inside of a commercial aircraft was one of the last places one could go in public and not be subjected to other people's intimate and not so intimate personal conversations. Now, as soon as the aircraft taxies clear of the runway, the flight attendant is on the P/A system with the following announcement: "(DING) Ladies and gentlemen, you are now free to use your cell phones, if they are accessible without removing your seat belt or your carry-on items from their storage locations."

With that, the phones come on and the peace and quiet is gone.

(Give The Flying Curmudgeon a screaming kid any day. No wait, scratch that. On second thought, never mind.)

By now, you might be asking yourself, "How does The Flying Curmudgeon know all this? I thought pilots were in the front of the plane?"

This is true, for the most part.

However, like many of his peers, your humble correspondent "commutes" to work, meaning The Flying Curmudgeon hitches a ride from an airport near his home to his base airport, where he begins his trips. In addition, TFC is frequently "dead-headed" by his company from his base to another airport to start a trip, which means TFC is also in the back while being dead-headed.

Anyway, someday soon, you might find yourself wishing you WERE at Wal-Mart, instead of trapped, like a prisoner in a CELL, while the person next to you whispers sweet nothings to their significant other for the better part of New York to Atlanta.

Maybe THAT's why they call them cell phones.

At least when you are at Wal-Mart and you hear that "BEEP," you can always push your cart into the next aisle.

Time to invest in a set of noise-cancelling headphones, perhaps?


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