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Archive for the ‘Cell Phones’ Category

Second in a series: The surest sign that the cell phone has infiltrated every freakin’ sphere of life:

cell phone used underwater

A friend pulled this off a recent Skymall catalogue.

Can you imagine?

“Glub-glub! I”m on the reef! Glub-glub. The REEF!”

First in a series: Parallel  Universe of the iphone age

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Old Time Coffee Klatch Back when coffee was just coffee

I’ve been sick off and on all freakin’ month so haven’t had the energy to gather material for this freakin’ blog . . .

On better days, to get out of the house, I’ve been making it out to those strange hybirds of our increasingly strange culture, the coffee shop.

I have, however, been in the habit of going in the mornings for some time. I had a bad injury ten or so years ago and during the long, long period of convalescence, it was a relief to go to a public place and scribble in a notebook for half an hour to an hour. ‘Morning writing’. It didn’t have to be serious, or even make sense. The act of writing, forcing my brain to form words and get them on the page at a time when I was often in the worst shape, set the tone for the rest of the day. I had to find the right place. enough people to make it interesting, but with enough space to remove yourself, have the space to write. An aural background to shut out the higher pitched distractions.

Not easy to find. The steady encroachment of the cellphone hasn’t made it easier. Starbucks, oddly enough, often provides the necessary mix . . .

Outside of the mornings, I’ve never really been into the whole cafe thing. Even when I lived in Montreal.  Italian coffee places, great. Cafes in Paris, wonderful. But North America never really got the concept. Even if I’m not drinking, I’d rather go to a bar. I’ve especially never been down with those hip little cafes that  with the funky art on the walls, the hipster barristas, the range of muffins, cupcakes, and  the thousand coffee blends – the places that sweep in just ahead of any serious wave of gentrification.

We got a half-dozen of them in my neighborhood now.

This weekend an article in Canada’s Globe and Mail (‘Where Did Cafe Culture go?,  more or less a rewrite of WSJ’s No More Perks: Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users) talked about the spread of laptops in cafes, how people are increasingly coming in for one coffee, opening their laptops and staying for hours (or even all day) so many owners are pulling the plug on wifi because they can’t make any money. I wrote before about the electronic galley slaves that have taken over many cafes now.

It seems that many cafes have become surrogate offices now. I know a lot of people, in this area at least, who go to cafes in the daytime are freelancers or students, or unemployed. A lot them probably live packed into cramped apartments where it’s easier to work in a cafe, even a crowded one. But you rarely see anyone using pen and paper anymore. In the last few years, I’ve come to feel like some kind of anachronism, writing with a pen, in a notebook.

I could understand all that – hey, times change – but what I really don’t get is people who pull out their cellphones and start yapping haut voix so their voice dominates their entire space (especially when the cafe is practically empty). I really don’t get people who can spend hours gaping into their laptops when they could be outside, walking around. The recession, gentrification – all have played their part in the decline of New York’s famous open-ness – but the spread of these cafes with their electronic hives have done their share as well. I mean hey, I love computers, but this is still, even in winter, one of the most entertaining cities in the Western World. Why would you want to spend hours in some dumb-ass cafe talking checking updates on facebook?

Paris Cafe outside Paris, some time ago. They still do it better.

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Cell Phone Landfill

Food court level, Citicorp building, midtown . . .

Homeland security cops patrol outside with heavy machine guns, bulletproof vests, and helmets . .

Inside, the tables are all taken. Next to me a dozen women critique each other’s CVs, discuss job search/ interview strategies. I get the sense they meet every couple of weeks to help each other through the recession . . .

A blonde woman is across the concourse, sitting alone.  Young, maybe early 20’s, with long blond hair, grey pinstripe pant suit. Pretty, in a generic way. Leaning over what looks like a book or newspaper, reading intently, with earphones in her ears. I thought of how unusual it was to see a young woman like that actually reading something on paper as opposed to staring into a laptoop or texting on her cell . . .

Cell Phone boxThen she is talking, with the earplugs still in. Quietly at first, a little nervous, then growing more animated. She has a flat accent, maybe Southwestern. As she is talking, she expresses herself with her hands, nodding aggressively as the other party makes a point, then laughing, flashing her eyes, touching her hair. Flirting with the person on the other end of the line. Putting her hands on her hips, threading her hair through her fingers through it so it falls back, then putting her hands together and rubbing them as she makes a point. Her voice getting louder and louder, as she reads from the papers spread in front of her.

Ordinarily, I am irritated by people yapping on their cells like this, forcing their one-side and intrusive conversation into my space. But I found this woman fascinating. Her gaze seemed to be focused just a few inches in front of her face. Except for her voice, she seemed like she had been surrounded by some sort of vacuum tube and pulled from the room, and she wasn’t a person at all, but some sort of hologram with this flat Southwestern voice. Like she’d been beamed right into the medium of the phone.

Such, such is the world we live in now . . .

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