I used to walk the streets of New York and sometimes count the number of people, in only one block, who were using their cell phones or bluetooth equivalent.  It depended, of course, in which part of the city I was, but when you really look for it, it’s gross.  Kids in grammar school have cell phones now.  "For emergencies," their parents warn. 
"But I missed uncle Jack!"  Certainly emergency worthy.  We did manage this long without, which doesn’t make it right.  Not all technological advances are demon-spawn.  Just look at the vibrator.  No.  Don’t.  That was too easy. But I think we use them to escape our lives.  Our silences.  Reflection, really.  People bring them to the gym, prop them onto their elliptical machines beside their towel and bottled water.  Work might call.  A boy might call.  It’s gross. 

Here’s what else is gross.  I have one and rarely return phone calls.  I’ve actually become horrible about it.  Now there’s even more on my to-do list.  Now there are phone calls I have to return!  Honestly, I’ve stopped listening to them.  I wait until the missed voicemails total eleven (because I love a good odd number), then I listen and return.  I’m turned off by the phone and rely on it for all the wrong things.  Honestly, I’m addicted to Monopoly.  I play it on my phone, everywhere.  And I’ll use the phone to acquire emails, which I’ll later forget I read, and they’ll be lost and remain unanswered.  I’m wondering how I’d do if I just gave it up.  No cell phone.  I’m Jewish, so I don’t know from Lent, though I know women have given up cheese and orgasms, certainly no cell phone use would prove what kind of woman I am. 

The truth is, for the most part, cellular phones are as disrespectful as call-waiting.  It means whatever you’re doing is less important than whomever is calling.  Nothing bothers me more than a date who asks if I mind, while he checks his phone.  And the worst bit is, I’ve been that date.  I’m guilty too.  Nothing spells disrespect like cell.



  1. I think you have a post somewhere in your archives where you discuss the importance of your cell phone so that agents can call you, and I think you answered just such a call when you were out with someone.

    We also lived without seatbelts, air bags, the printing press, Internet, mp3s, iPods, and cell phones that can play Monopoly, but that didn't mean we didn't secretly yearn for all these things, or that our quality of life or social interactions were any superior. If a person wants to tune out, they will.

  2. Eleven is better than odd – it is prime. Read John Derbyshire for a layman's look (Prime Obssession).

  3. I never answer my mobile. Unless it's him. But he only returns calls. Never initiates them.

    The camera on my phone is crap. Even if I weren't use to a D70. I never use it. Don't know why I needed it. But I did.

    I can check emails. Surf the net. Video conference. I never do. And I never plan to.

    But I just had to have that phone…

  4. You're so right! There is nothing more degrading than a date playing on his gsm. What does that say about your entertainment skills? Ouch.
    It's ridiculous that people my age (16) practically live out of their gsms. It's unnatural, I think.

  5. Worse than a cell phone is a f*cking crackberry.
    Not sure how it is in NYC, but in DC, people use those things at all times no matter who they're with or what they're doing. I can think of one instance in the past month, where someone I was with, waited until I went to the restroom to use his blackberry, and when I returned he promptly put it away.
    Other than that, nada. People think that scrolling through their berry, while at a meal and/or an event signifies importance, when really it just signifies rudeness.

  6. Good topic.

    I was without my cell phone, not by choice, for about seven days last month. I was cranky and bitchy for about three days. It was as if I was suffering withdrawal from something to which I didn't wish to be addicted. I didn't want to want it, it is such a nasty habit, but I wanted it. Around day five-and-a-half I started to feel a little bit of peace.

    It's the internet I would never cease to crave. I have been several weeks without it and I was a crazy fool the entire time. I never didn't miss it; there was never any peace.

  7. You realize, don't you, that above your post is a mobile phone ad & below it is another for a custom ring tone?

  8. (Yay for prime numbers. and yes, I'm a dork!)

    Cell phones do make it tough not to answer because people KNOW you have it with you. So then you don't answer and they think you're ignoring them. Or you don't answer right away and it's more avoidance. I am at fault on both sides.

    (I do love texting though)

  9. As parents we try to ensure that our children learn to use please and thank-you, respect their elders, have good table manners and all sorts of other etiquette. Why, when we are handing out cell phones in elementary school, don't we teach basic phone etiquette?
    Think about the person who says their elementary child needs a cell phone for security. When is their child unsupervised? It is not until you child is old enough to start being out on their own that is may even become an issue. Then again, I survived my childhood and I just knew to be home by 5:00 – mom had no way of getting a hold of me and most of us survived.

  10. I think people, particularly women that drive, should have a cell phone. But people abuse them so badly, they're hardly worth it.

    They use them while driving and in public places.

    They use them at school, and the UFT endorses this. Incredible! Somehow, almost miraculously, when my mom wanted to get in touch with me, she could call the school and send me a message. Of course, that was way back when, and it was understood that I could go to school and get back to school without my mommy rescuing me. It was the South Bronx, and it was the bus and subway, but we managed to survive.

    And not only that, I think that, instead of enhancing one's social life, that they impede kid's development. Once upon a time, back in the day, we had to actually plan ahead. I know this sounds really difficult, but at lunch time, someone would tell me that we going to the park for FB, or to the schoolyard for B-ball, or we were hanging out by the river.

    Your kids don't really need a cellphone, and they don't really need a Jeep for their 16th birthday.

  11. Love this post. It's completely true. I just can't live without my cell phone. I carry an extra one with me just in case the one I'm using dies. It's madness. And those damn 9 year olds with cell phones. They don't need them (and people wonder why their kids are brats). Last comment from the peanut gallery. We don't reflect in those silent moments instead, we call someone or text someone or IM someone or play a game. It's ridiculous.

  12. Stephanie – If you don't return emails or voicemails, sounds like you are ready for an assistant. After all, you'll be going on a book tour soon!

    PS My boss is sitting in a meeting as I write this answering the emails I send to him on his crackberry.

  13. The worst is seeing someone having lunch (on their own) talking on a cell phone. What's that? First, I wouldn't want to be on the other end of hearing someone munch and secondly – watching someone talk on the phone while eating is sadder than watching them eat on their own.

    Oh, and I despise when a person I am with takes a phone call, or makes one. Hello?! I'm here too!

  14. I got rid of my cellphone about two years ago….I do not miss the bill or the annoyance. I am much calmer. Anyone who needs to get ahold of me can, and I am not afraid of 'what might happen'. My middle child has one, and I am glad of it, but the anxiety of worrying about what it means when he does not pick up sometimes makes me crazy –

  15. I hate cell phones! I just got one two months ago (pre-paid) and it is truly for emergencies. One day I was on the bus and I heard a cell phone ringing. I thought "idiot, answer your phone" Needless to say, I was the idiot.

    What happen to the times when you made an appointment and you showed up on time and did not cancel because you can now reach the person on the phone and you actually talked about and planned what you were going to get from the store before you left the house.


  16. I have a friend that despises call waiting. But for her special friends she got a second line for us to call if line one was busy. Here's the funny thing. I was animal( 2 dogs and 3 cats)/housesitting for her last month and was on the phone (line one which doesn't have the call waiting feature) and all of a sudden there is a phone ringing (line 2). I start to laugh. She had to call line 2 because she couldn't "get through" on line 1. No emergency – just wanted to see how if all of us (the dogs, cats and I) were bonding! Still no call waiting – just line 2. :)

  17. "Being that I'm (sic) one of those rare breed of New Yorkers that carries both an iPod and a cell-phone…"

    Please tell me you jest? This must be a joke.

  18. I got rid of mine cold turkey about a year ago after my place of work refused to pick up my phone bill. I don't need it. If I had it, I'd be using it all the time, but I don't need it. And the beauty part is if you really need to make a call and you're not alone someone else always has a phone that they are happy to let you borrow. If you have to make a call and you are alone, it's different. It's near impossible to find a pay phone these days, but it can be a fun little exercise.

    I guess the moral of the story is that you can get rid of things that you don't 'need'. Of course, my cell phone is the only thing I've ever done that with in my life, but still…

  19. I'm guilty of providing the darlings with cell phones. Is it for their safety? Yep. Is it for my peace of mind? Yep. Back when I was a little girl, if I was riding my bike after school and didn't make it home on time, the chances that I had been snatched were so remote that it wasn't even a consideration.

    Now, with two beautiful daughters and a precious son – I absolutely have a vital need to know that if anything happens, I'm a mere 7 numbers away. When my daughter was in 7th grade and a school mate pulled a knife on her friend…it was teacher/principal/mom all within a matter of moments. And that was at a nice public school in a nice neighborhood in a very safe city.

    I love my cell phones – all 4 of them.

  20. Despite being a computer programmer, I've never owned a mobile phone and enjoy the sense of serenity and freedom I have without one, not to mention the cash saved.

    It's no fun if your phone falls into the wrong hands.

    Oprah doesn't carry one.

    Mobiles make sense for some people and can be useful in emergencies, but for many, they are like a socially acceptable form of drugs.

  21. Ok so I really don't care how this makes me sound but I really am starting to include JoeyB among the "friends in my head" and hearing he went to school in the South Bronx just elevated his status from casual lunch friend to friday night drinking and bar hopping friend. All in my head, of course.

  22. Stephanie, I remember reading about the moment you heard back about your book deal. You were on a date, and you answered your cell phone to get the news. Now honestly, do you not think that Judith Regan, if she really wanted to do business with you, could have waited until you returned home, checked your messages and then returned her call (or perhaps even waited until the next morning)?

    I only bought one about 20 months ago. And I only bought it after taking a management job at a well known internet company. My boss asked me my cell number, and I admitted I did not have one (and did not need one). She insisted that I'd "need one" so that they could get in touch with me when away from my desk. Interestingly enough, in almost 2 years, that phone has never rung (for purposes of business). I like having one now, for the convenience of it all, but it is far from glued to my ear.

  23. I can't quit the cell phone but I have found a nice happy medium. I keep it on "silent" almost all the time. That way, if I have an emergency it's there (although "emergency" sometimes has a broad definition). The people who normally call me know that the ringer is never on so nobody feels snubbed if I don't pick it up. The ringer goes on once I get home.

    I feel that people who constantly need to be on the cell phone or crackberry in public need to have that validation of feeling popular and important in front of strangers and friends. That's my dime store psychological opinion on the subject:)

  24. The New York Times Metro section recently featured an urban etiquette handbook (http://newyorkmetro.com/guides/etiquette/17332/) which addresses, among other things, cell-phone etiquette. Being that I'm (sic) one of those rare breed of New Yorkers that carries both an iPod and a cell-phone, I've gotten used to knowing how, when, with whom and why I need to de-headphone (with the lazy, uber-cool headphone shoulder-drop), how to juggle the iPod and the cell, and that short, short short list of Caller ID occupants who can basically interrupt me anytime they call, whether I'm listening to a mixed W Hotels CD or Eric Johnson Live from Austin ;)

    I don't mind kids sporting cell-phones as much as I do people who use public buses to gauge the strentgh of their batteries. I've hit the M31 — for me a 45-minute ride — and watched (or listened) as several people in particular (regulars) get on the bus, enter the bus, dunk their Metrocard while on the phone, sit down while talking, continue their conversation, and eventually exit the bus without a pause in the conversation. It reminds me of T-Mobile's "1000 Anytime Minutes" promotion — the realtor, specifically, who suggests that if a celebrity dies in a house, the house is a landmark — and it both amazes and disgusts me. I was brought up observing the "public transportation silence" rule, and understandably, even those who need to make calls — people desperately in love, doctors, guys who work for Norad — usually follow the same rule I do, which is "if you HAVE to take the call, be quick, quiet and quiescent." If my other half or the office calls (opposite ends of the same "Gotta Answer" Spectrum — I take the call, am quiet and brief, and get the hell off the phone before I get a nasty look.

    There was the one time I got a nasty look from an octegenarian with blue hair and a oh-so-frumpy pink housecoat. "Are we going to have to listen to your entire conversation the entire ride?" she asked through a nasal whine. After I hit the end button apologetically, I responded, "If your attitude doesn't inspire someone to throw you out a window, then it's quite possible, ma'am. Have a pleasant day."

    I love the bus, but I love cell-phone etiquette more.

  25. "I feel that people who constantly need to be on the cell phone or crackberry in public need to have that validation of feeling popular and important in front of strangers and friends. That's my dime store psychological opinion on the subject:)"

    No dimestore there. My Psyche 101 agrees. I'm not saying a cell might not be useful, and in some cases, a necessity. But I think some people would like to think of themselves as an indispensable cog in their job, their family, their friends,etc. In my entire life, I have had maybe, maybe five emergency calls. And not one of those five constituted anything close to an emergency. None of us is as indispensable as we'd like to think.

  26. Don't take this the wrong way — and I know you can handle it, since you admitted that you've gotten better at taking criticsm, but…your headline, "cell-fish," well, it's just awful.

  27. I picked up a copy of "Elle" today solely to read your interview. I don't think I've ever read this magazine before. Very well written and should scare up lots of interest (sorry, "buzz") about your book. That aside, let's talk adjectives. The writer referred to your blog's "obsessive fans" and "rabid naysayers" (or maybe "rabid detractors"; the mag's in the car, though it doesn't matter: "rabid" is the key word).

    I feel a need to self-select. I would have preferred the choice of "enthusiastic" or perhaps the neutral "regular" or "daily." So be it. My choices are either a mental disorder that I find vaguely amusing or a fatal disease that in its late stages can involve drooling. Drooling is also vaguely amusing. At a distance. Hmm. I'll go with "obsessive fan". Mainly because non-fatal is nearly always preferable to fatal and also because I've only nay-said once (about the Beerman), and I was really, really nice about it.

    Oh yeah, and on topic re cell phones, et al, I'm eternally grateful that my mass transit commuting days were in the pre-gizmo days. The most annoying thing on Metro North back then were the 4 old dudes playing poker all the way into Grand Central.

  28. The thing for me is I hate cells phones but for some reason I am always waiting for a call that i won't even pick up. I wait for the voicemail to see what they wanted and then maybe i will call back. i wish that i did not have a cell phone but i will call my phone every time i leave it at home to see if anyone called. I don't just do this once, i do it all day long! I never return calls but get mad when no one calls me. I don't know why this is but it is.

  29. And you wonder why I don't have one? Well, besides not being able to afford it (now anyway).

    I'll try calling your house number if that makes you feel better my love.

  30. I have 2. I bought one myself because I needed it for emergencies (like we all) and my ex gave me another one. I still don`t get why because my cell was working ok. Anyway, one of them is pretty much always off and the other is on silent. I miss most of my calls and I`m happy with it. I really dont need a cell phone. But still there`s this slight chance that what if something happens and I need one…

  31. Every tech gadget that has achieved any level of popular success has had a backlash at some point. Gameboys, laptops, pagers… And every backlash has the same "In the good old days" argument, the same "Who do they think they are" argument, the same "It's inconveniencing and/or endangering ME" argument, and the same "Well, I think those people are pathetic" argument.

    Cellphones are very popular to hate right now. So are Hummers. I predict iPods will be next.

  32. Just have to mention that I'm pretty sure it was New York magazine that had the guide to urban etiquette as I just got my copy in the mail yesterday — sorry if someone else mentioned that already and I missed it.

    Back to the lecture at hand….. my father is ADDICTED to his crackberry and it drives me nuts. Granted I haven't lived at home for six years, but everytime we go to dinner when I come home to DC to visit my parents THERE IT IS. He took me out to a father/daughter dinner….and spent half of it on his crackberry. And it doesn't help that he just aquired another job in the sports world in addition to his regular job and therefore must keep up on the baseball scores at all times….

    Now my little brothers have crackberries as their cell phones. 18 and 21, they're addicts too. It's genetic — my dad passed on the defect.

    My mother initiated a no crackberry law at their apartment. I completely concur.

  33. I think you hinted at the real issue behind gross use and misuse of the demonic ringing tether. I think for a lot of people the cell phone is their link to everyone they know. A lot of people don't know how to be alone. Quiet time is nerve wracking and unsettling for many people, particularly those from a large close family or those that have been abandoned. With enough people in your contact book you can always have someone to talk to. Even when you're doing a solo activity like the elliptical, you can have that contact that so many people crave and perhaps are addicted. Are we that lonely of a people that we need the loving reassurance provided by voice from a small pile of plastic and silicone? Personal contact becoming rarer and families cast to the four corners of the country maybe it is so.

  34. I agree with Sallie about the eventual backlash over every new thing: cellphones, pagers, etc. The thing is, no one I know really hates cellphones per se, just how some people wield them like status symbols or treat their surroundings like their own personal phone booths. Over the last week, I've dealt with my fellow NY'ers yapping loudly in elevators, cabs (drivers yabbering away in a foreign language and ignoring you is a lovely feature of this increasingly inexpensive technology), movies and, on occasion, meetings. I'm not decrying cellphones — I have a 2,000 minute per month plan and I wear out batteries faster than anyone I know — but I try to be cognizant and respectful of my surroundings. Mebbe it's me, but there are a lot more people who aren't than people who are.

    Actually, come to think of it, the same goes for iPods and Hummers. I love my iPod but I make a point to keep it stashed in my jacket and have my earphones (non-apple black Shure earphones) being the only sign I'd prefer to listen to my music than subway conversation. For the most part, people who drive Hummers in this city, especially on crowded, one-way streets, just come off like tools. Point being: nothing wrong with the item/technology itself, just in how it's used (and by whom).

    And to answer Jackson, I was being sarcastic (sic), not delusional ;)

  35. You definitely don't have to post this- it is about bikini waxage and your search for service in Houston (some entries past)- I just moved from NYNY to Montreal myself- quite an adjustment as well- but while trying to find the best waxist in town, have discovered Nair for coarse hair (horrible name I know, but what other descriptor are they going to put on the tube… really…) definitely manages to clean up the area nicely. And in the shaving and hair department I don't know WHY this is not in every single womens magazine in the world, but Aveeno Positively Smooth shave gel smells like fresh baked oatmeal cookies… seriously.

  36. Today I was at a light and counted how many people passed by that were on cell phones. It was every other car. And I agree with Gingerlemon about the validation of feeling popular. Sometimes I wonder if people are really talking to ANYONE on the other end.

  37. I've stopped listening to my voicemails as well – i just let them pile up until my in box doesn't take any more and then delete them. I see your name there in the 'missed calls' list – i'll get to you. If it's 'really' important – those who know me well enough have my home phone and can call me there.

    It's actually really refreshing and nice to walk around the city and not be SO easily accessed. I ran an errand today and forgot my cell at my desk – i had an hour + of peace :)

  38. This post could have been written by me…

    I remember growing up how I loved the phone, until cell phones made me so accessible to everyone. Now there are no boundaries left, people have no regard for personal time. It's all access all the time.

  39. Slow down and smell the Beef-a-Roni. I promise I'll stop maxi-tasking. Check *82, caller ID, cell pictures, text messages, social schedule downloaded on said phone, chchchching ($$) ring tones. Don't we have an unlisted number? Hurry we're late. Our first Belvedere tasting smashbash. Where's my suit? Did you pack it for me, honey? It's in the bag. Which bag? She drowned him out with carpool music. The party started. Empty lounges surrounded the pool.
    He forgot he tucked the wireless in his pocket.
    Slurgles. Fishfaces. Get out of the water. She dragged him. He's coherent enough to complain about the phone, now ruined, but he'll remember to put in for a new wireless tomorrow at the office.
    She went to buy him a phone that same afternoon with his business card. Now they have none. They are cellibate.

  40. This isn't so much a comment as a question so fell free not to post it. Is the ELLE mag that your in the one with Mandy Moore on the cover. I'm trying to have my BF pick it up for me and I want to make sure he doesn't get the wrong one. Thanks


  41. Writing in notebooks makes certain I won't forget "cellibate." Thanks to the poster before CeCe. I fell off my chair laughing!

  42. As guilty as 3 teens' mom. 13 yr old has one, I haven't gotten one for my 9 yr old, but will when she hits middle school. Peace of mind, all the way. The husband has one, but never turns it on, however was very thankful for it the one time he was in a minor accident.
    Guilty, but assured most of the time.
    When I don't want to be accessed, I turn it off!

  43. This reminds me of an epsiode of my friend`s life.
    A few years ago she`s dated a man who has constant used his cellphone. He seemed to be very busy and important and she was impressed. But someday, after he had sent her some messages, she found out that he was not Mr. Big – especially not in orthography. She asked me: "Please, tell me, what`s going wrong? Is it a great expectation when I want somebody who can write?"
    And how does the story end? It took some time until she found Mr. Right, but now she`s got him. And he can write and he`s not a cellphone-junkie. Happy End!
    (Sorry, I`m not a native english speaker and I`ve never had english lessons – so please be patient if i made some mistakes…)

  44. Oh my gosh…I was just in the middle of reading this and you wrote "Just look at the vibrator. No. Don't." So I'm still thinking about the vibrator and I'm reading on "People bring them to the gym…" thinking of the vibrator still… "prop them onto their elliptical machine beside their towel and bottled water." Then "Work might call. A boy might call." Oh yeah, the cell phone! I swear I'm not a blonde.
    Stephanie, i was in New York on Monday & Tuesday and on some show, i think it was called New York 360 they were interviewing you. I love your blog! You make me laugh about your 100 things about you and the one about your Mom and Dad made me cry. I love what you made your Mom for Mother's Day! I can relate when I was a teenager and had a relationship like that with my Mom.

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