SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Is This The Party To Whom I Am Speaking?


April 14, 2012

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- You all know how I hate cell phones.

I hate how they intrude on moments of quiet reflection.

I hate how they encourage people to take their attention off the road.

I hate how they make young people ignore the real world for all the bells and whistles and texts of hyper surreal space.

So, the fact that I am now carrying around my "cell" is a complete surrender to the exigencies of the modern world. I have simply grown tired of people saying they "couldn't get a hold of me" even though I have three different land lines with answering machines and so many different email addresses I have lost count.

Never mind the simple fact that 99 percent of the time that the cell phone rings, I won't be able to answer (leave a message, sweetheart!) because I am in a meeting or teaching a class or otherwise engaged with a real live, present, human being and I am not going to interrupt that.

Never mind the fact that, because I am otherwise engaged when you call, I will probably not have the answer to the burning question that is so danged important that you had to get a hold of me right BLEEPING now.

Never mind that I probably won't be able to physically figure which button to push before you hang up anyway.

Last week, I was in the middle of teaching a college class, when a cell phone began ringing. It wasn't even some spiffy "ring tone” like Ride of Valkyries or the Addams Family Theme. It was just ringing. So very, very, very Old School.

I looked around, waiting for the offending student to take care of it. The students just stared back at me. It was that time honored blank expression that says "no really, you must be just imagining it and don't bother asking ME about it because my lights may be on but really I'm not home."

I used to be great at that expression myself when I was student. It basically tells the teacher to not engage you because, well, just because.

Something along the lines of  “don’t try to teach a pig to fly because it won’t work and it only irritates the pig.” Do not engage. Do not even try to engage. It will only lead to significant irritation all around.

Sometimes, I still use that blank expression. You'd be surprised how often it comes in handy at Borough Assembly meetings.

But I digress.

Anyway, the muffled sound appeared to be coming from the left side of the room, so I looked that way. More blank stares.

Then it hit me.

I reached into my pocket.

The offending cell phone rang one last time in my hand and then went silent.

“Okay, “ I said aloud to the phone. “I'm going to have to confiscate you until the end of class.”

More blank stares. Tough crowd.

I stuffed the phone back into my pocket.

Big mistake.

In a few minutes it started ringing again.

Once again I fumbled around before I could get it out.

This time I randomly pushed buttons until it stopped.

I have always meant to read the manual to figure out how to actually "turn off" the ringer.

But in the mean time I take a perverse pleasure in randomly pushing buttons. I hope the callers get lots of weird beeps and squeaks on their end. I hope that will encourage them not to call that number in the future.

Actually, I have taken the precaution of giving almost no one the number to my cell phone. I am hoping that limits the number of calls.

Obviously someone had gotten the number though.

After the second round of "ringie-dingies" I stuffed it in my back pack and stuffed that under a desk. I faintly heard a third round of rings later in the class but ignored them.

I checked later and discovered it was calls from Liam's school. Someone had apparently given them the number - in case of emergency. I called back and got the message. It was not an emergency.

It could be worse  though, I could be sea lion.

Wow, how's that for a non sequitur!

But, there is a connection.

I was listening to a story on the radio a bit ago about tracking sea lions and how they sometimes travel hundreds of miles out of their normal range. The scientists were most interested in a particular young sea lion from Alaska that had been tracked more than a thousand miles south of Alaska and then tracked back to its home territory over the course of several weeks.

There was lots of speculation on the why.

Perhaps, he was looking for better food sources.

Perhaps, he had decided that for male sea lions the "odds were good but the goods were odd" when it came to mating opportunities in his home range.

Perhaps, he was just headed down for a Seahawks game.

But one phrase in the story got my particular attention.

When asked what the tracking device looked like, one of the scientists said "well, essentially it looks and acts like a cell phone stuck to the top of his head."

Well, duh.

Every day, I see dozens of homo sapiens with cell phones stuck to their heads.

Does that mean that there are scientists out there "tracking"" them?

After all, we have - as a society - given up all pretext to privacy by choosing to post every second of our days on Twitter and every thought that crosses our minds on Facebook.

We can only hope that somewhere there is some group of scientists tracking all those "two legged" sea lions and coming up with valuable scientific research that will either (a) cure cancer or (b) come up with a shorter, less painful, way of electing Presidents.

Anyway, my money is still on the far ranging sea lion.

Although I am sure that occasionally he is bothered when that danged thing on top of his head goes off (imagine trying to hit those tiny buttons with flippers!), he clearly knows indeed why he is traveling thousands of miles back and forth.

And up to now he has chosen NOT to text or tweet or post us why.  

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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Dave Kiffer ©2012

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