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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Can You Hear Me Now?

Air Date: Week of

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Host Steve Curwood ponders the impact of cell phones on our lives.


CURWOOD: Now maybe you’re one of those people who have steadfastly refused to get sucked into the mobile phone culture, and enjoy your freedom from searching for the stupid thing when you’re trying to get out the door or having to remember to shut it off in the movie theatre. In that case you’re not going to have much sympathy for those of us who’ve become hooked on cell phone convenience, now made even more convenient with the portability of phone numbers.

And hooked we are. And it’s not without consequences. One of the symptoms of cell phone addiction can be drawers full of old handsets. Let’s see, I’ve got four perfectly good but now useless units from a broadcast we did in Germany a few years ago, and oh yeah, there are two more from another cell phone provider that I dumped when I found I could get a better deal elsewhere. The services practically give you a new phone when you switch over to them, and that’s why the ones in my junk drawer are reminders of perhaps the most annoying thing about these companies. Now if you’re a long-time satisfied and loyal customer your reward is a higher rate. That’s because the bargain rates go to the people who complain and threaten to switch or in fact do switch.

Hey – maybe that’s part of the cell phone culture: complaining. Having an old phone around gives something else to complain about. I mean these new mobile phones with their LCD screens and built in cameras look too valuable to throw away, but truth is, someday they’ll wind up in my junk drawer too. By the way, this patchwork of cell phone networks clutters more than homes. The duplicate and triplicate and quadruplicate cell phone towers erected to serve the various analog and digital and CDMA and GSM systems each leave their own imprint on the landscape. So sprawl, mistreated customers, trash, and yet cell phones are supposed to be progress.

Well, cell phone convenience may not be all that convenient at the end of the day. Still, like many Americans, I can’t seem to live without one.


CURWOOD: Hello? Hey, how ‘ya doin’. Can you make it this weekend? I’m so glad you called…

[MUSIC: Yo Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin “McFerrin: Grace” HUSH (Sony – 1992)]



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