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To misquote Perry Como:
“Catch a ringing phone and put it in your pocket
just let it fade away
Catch a ringing phone and put it in your pocket 
Save it for a rainy day.”

Those of you who know me well understand how I feel about cell phones that interrupt and intrude into nearly everyone’s lives. Unless you live in a cave or on a desert island, the jangling instrument is a part of your life whether you want it to be or not.

I know, it’s a wonderful invention. It saves lives in an emergency, provides photo evidence at a crime scene, gives directions, facilitates contact with family and friends, assists with vital weather information, entertains, enlightens, educates and much, much more. But — and this is a big BUT — it’s absorbing, addling, annoying, disruptive, distracting, disturbing, intrusive, rude, unruly …the list goes on!

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if people would learn to control it. It doesn’t have to be in your hand every minute of the day or within arm’s reach at night. When you’re with people and it rings, you don’t have to say, “I’ve got to take this!” No, you don’t unless you’re expecting an emergency call concerning a sick relative or friend.

How many times have you experienced talking with someone in person, playing cards, watching a sporting event, attending a concert, viewing a movie, dining out or attending church when someone’s cell phone rings …and rings…and rings! It doesn’t have to be this way, does it?

Also, you sit in a doctor’s office, gather at an airline gate, wait in the check-out lane at a store, await to be seated at a restaurant, and many other occasions where you’re gathered with people …do people talk with others or even say hello? No, they’re concentrating on their cell phone, texting, talking, looking at pictures, the weather, the latest news, email messages – I don’t know, something that’s evidently much more important than meeting and greeting others in person!

We’re fast becoming a discourteous, ill-mannered, impolite, independent, rude and selfish society. You’ve heard of the “ugly American?” That’s us, but not just us. Cell phones are in use worldwide. Reportedly, there are more cell phones in the world than people. There is, of course, no way to stop it. And no one wants to stop it. But if only there were some controls or a commo-sense way of dealing with its annoyance and the irritating way the instrument intrudes into everyone’s lives.

There have been fatal accidents on roadways and train platforms, pedestrian malls, sidewalks, construction sites and other locations because someone was paying more attention to their cell phone instead of their immediate surroundings.

Let’s talk about the “good old days” when there was just one telephone in a home. It rang, you answered it, or you didn’t if you were busy or just didn’t want to be bothered. The telephone didn’t even record messages, sort of the way Alexander Graham Bell originally envisioned it as you’ll read next.

According to Wikipedia, Bell is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. Bell’s father, grandfather and brother all had been associated with work on elocution and speech. Both Bell’s mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing his life’s work. His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone, on March 7, 1876.

However, there were many other inventors such as Elisha Gray and Antonio Meucci who also developed a talking telegraph or telephone and claimed to be its inventor. It seems to boil down to who’s lawyer — and possibly Bell himself — got to the U.S. Patent Office first.

So, you see, there was controversy and malfeasance surrounding the telephone from the very beginning. Due to Bell’s family life, his interest in the education of the deaf and his aeronautical and other scientific research, he considered his invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study. He just got my vote!

In recent years, the purpose of the cell phone has shifted from a verbal communication tool to a multimedia one, often adopting the name “mobile device” rather than being called a phone at all. People use cell phones more for surfing the web, checking email, snapping photos and updating social media status than actually placing calls. Modern day smartphones have changed everything consumers expect from their phones. The app market has transformed the phone into a virtual toolbox with a solution for almost every need.

It’s a sad reality that phones have taken over lives so much people-skills actually are declining. Some fear the younger generation is going to lose its sense of competence when it comes to speaking with someone directly and not just through a cell phone.

The instrument has changed and developed so rapidly in the past decade that it seems as though almost anything you can imagine is possible for the future. Some believe cell phones will become even more naturally in sync with our biological reflexes and processes such as eye movement, thought processes, kinesthetic and cultural preferences.

But it’s not just about how we will change the cell phone. The question is, how will the cell phone change us even more than it has already?

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer