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"Close Encounters of the Cellular Kind"
By Dave Kiffer

September 16, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Since my family is apparently the only one in North America to not go "cellular" that puts us in a unique position to observe the ways that other folks use their cell phones "conveniently" intrude upon our lives.

First off, there are good reasons to have cell phones in Ketchikan. If you are hiking - for example - and you get in trouble, a cell phone can be a life saver. Same thing if you are boating and something goes wrong. Being able to communicate could be the difference between life or death.

gif Cell Phone Cliff by Brian Fairrington

Cell Phone Cliff
©Brian Fairrington, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed exclusively to subscribers by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Heck, I even accept the use of cell phones in the grocery store because it could be a matter of life and death if you bring home the wrong thing. A short telephonic consult in the vegetable aisle could - at the very least - save a marriage.

Unfortunately, having those CCD's (Convenient Communication Devices) on hand at all times can also be life-threatening. A couple of weeks ago, I had two close encounters while driving.

Heading up Bawden Street, I had to swerve suddenly when a car backed out of one of the parking spaces. That's a hard place to back out because all the big trucks (another column!) block your view up and down the street. But in this case, the young woman wasn't even looking because she was - drum roll please - talking on her cell phone. I very nearly hit the side walk trying to avoid the rear end of her car.

I continued farther up the street - grumbling to myself of course - when I noticed a car turning really widely off of Pine onto Bawden Street. Once again, I swerved and this time hit the curve trying to get out the way of the other car. Why was the other car in my lane? Because the young woman driver was trying to hold her cell phone to her ear with one hand while turning the steering wheel with her other.

Perhaps, most disturbing about both close encounters was that both drivers were so distracted that neither even noticed that they had nearly hit my car. They just burbled on down the road as if they and their conversation were the only thing happening in the world.

gif Cell Phones by Mike Keefe

Cell Phones
©Mike Keefe, The Denver Post
Distributed exclusively to subscribers by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

I guess it wouldn't bother me so much if I thought that the young women were having important conversations . But somehow I doubt it. Here is a verbatim transcript of what I heard (you can hear at least half of every cell phone conversation these days) waiting for a light to change on a street corner downtown a few days ago.

"Well, Like that's what I said. Really."

"Yeah, like that's what I said I said."

"I said that too. Really. I said that too."

"No, really. I said that's what I said."

Clearly an exchange of information critical to preserving life as we know it.

It's probably just sour grapes on my part because I'm not important enough to be on the phone 24/7. After all, a cell phone ringing the "Hall of the Mountain King" establishes once and for all that the holder of said item is a serious queso grande (big cheese). Like in the old days when a doctor's beeper would go off and he or she would nod as if to say "Oops, gotta go, gotta save someone's life."

Now, as often as not, it's someone calling for a grocery aisle consult, but I digress.

It's not even a shock anymore when something important is interrupted by a ringing cell phone. Plays, sermons, bathroom breaks. It's all fair game when have that star trek communicator in your pocket or purse. Frankly, there's no one that I need to contact so badly that I can't wait until they  - or I  - flush.

gif Cell Phone Hell by Mike Lane

Cell Phone Hell
©Mike Lane, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed exclusively to subscribers by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Sometimes the interruption is someone calling out. I was at the movie theatre a couple of months ago and a young girl - about eight - was loudly whispering the plot of the movie into her cell phone to someone who obviously couldn't be there.

Last year, I was initially amused to her a woman calling someone from a local bookstore to consult on a book choice. But it became less amusing as it went on for more than 15 minutes with the woman going down every aisle.

"What about 'blah, blah?' Okay, well then what about 'blah,' Okay. Well, how about 'blah, blah, blah' that sounds good. Okay, how about?" Etc etc etc. I began praying for an earthquake to strike, knock over a shelf of books and smite her.

It didn't happen, but I was so mad, I wished I had a cell-phone so I could have thrown it at her. Like calling for help in the wilderness, that would have been an acceptable use of the convenient communication device.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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