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Jerry’s Ink: Are Our Phones Trying To Tell Us Something?


Once, many years ago, I threw my cell phone out of the window while speeding up the Merritt Parkway, just outside of Norwalk, Conn. The fact is, the phone kept dying, and I saw myself as sort of a Jack Kevorkian of phones and felt it was time to put it out of its misery.

The real truth is I lost my temper and I couldn’t help myself. I know that’s a cop-out answer but it’s the best answer I have for my bizarre behavior. Look, I had no choice. The %$#^% phone didn’t work. The sound quality was not quite as good as the sound quality of two Dixie Cups on a string.


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Calling my mom, which I did every day, was a nightmare. This was heightened by the fact that at the time both my mother and father were at a susceptible age, so they approached a ringing phone as though it were a time bomb, and lifting the receiver would either dismantle it or cause it to explode. My mom couldn’t hear all that well and I found myself screaming on the cell phone and having comic conversations with a partially deaf 89-year-old lady.

“Hello [crackle] M-o- [static] m!” I would say. “WHO IS IT?” she would scream. “It’s [static] me, [static] erry,” I would answer. “WHO?” “[static] erry… [crackle] erry, your son, [static] erry.” “I HAVE NO SON NAMED HARRY.” “Not [static] Harry,” I would say. “NOTARY? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?” “It’s me, [static] Jerry [crackle].” “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT? WHAT’S WRONG?” “NOTH … [static] ING,” I would scream in a panic. And then the phone would go dead. I would find myself staring at a dead phone.

All these years later and cell phones are as bad as they have ever been. The static is mostly gone, but it’s impossible to have a two-minute conversation with anyone without the phone going dead. I’m convinced that at AT&T they have a guy whose only job is to sit by a giant clock and, every two minutes, pull a lever and shut down the whole AT&T system all over the world. Then he pulls another lever and the system works again.

Why? To get you to pay for a new call every two minutes. The profits they make from missed and interrupted calls is incredible. What’s more, phones are not phones anymore. They are little gizmos that rule our lives.

We now live in a world of apps (applications). Phones do everything you can possibly imagine, except what they were intended for, and that’s for one human being to converse with another human being, without being interrupted.

Now you have a GPS on your phone. You have games on your phone. You can play Chinese Checkers or Solitaire on your phone. You can spy on your kids or your spouse with your phone. You can get movie reviews. Bookie odds. Restaurant reviews. Soon, if you insert it right, you will have an app that will enable you to give yourself a colonoscopy. In some cases, a cell phone can even end some moron’s life.

Do you feel as I do about these idiots who walk across the street against oncoming traffic with a cell phone glued to their ear while they ignore a green light and, worse, face the other way so that they won’t see you bearing down on them? They are engrossed in some meaningless conversation while cars have to jam on brakes or dangerously change lanes to avoid hitting them. Couldn’t every driver have a two-idiot-a-year, no-fault, no-punishment allowance if they clip these people?

My kids, and I’m sure yours, have discovered oral conversation on phones doesn’t work, so now every interaction is on BlackBerry Messenger and starts with a “PING,” which is the way modern technology says, “Hey you.”

Then comes the shorthand: R.U. Hm (Are you home?). Yea (Yes). Gd (Good).

So we’ve stopped talking and started tapping out soundless messages to each other on the Internet. We’re becoming technologically advanced cavemen. With life on the run, it seems the only thing that links us together is the phone that we take with us wherever we go. People don’t look at each other in elevators anymore— everyone gets on and spends the next 30 or 40 seconds staring at their cell phones. We sit in restaurants, waiting for our friends, staring at our phones, even stooping to read spam messages to pass the time.

Without our cell phones we would all be disconnected from the world. Without our cell phones we would be even more detached from each other than we already are and our loneliness would be terminal. Now that I think about it, perhaps I should go back to that stretch of the Merritt Parkway and see if I can find my dead phone and give it mouth-to-mouth to see if I can bring it (or is it me?) back to life.

If you wish to comment on “Jerry’s Ink,” send your message to jerry@dfjp.com.

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