Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Cell Phones in the South
by James Glaser
February 22, 2008

To be fair, I didn't really know that much about cell phones back home in Northern Minnesota, because until just before I left, we didn't have cell phone coverage where I lived.

A few months before I left they put up a tower just south of Northome. With that new tower you could use a cell phone, but before that tower was erected, people would have to drive half way to Blackduck to have their phone work. Because of the poor reception, I didn't get a mobile phone until just before I moved down to Tallahassee

I have to admit I really don't know how to use a cell phone very well. I can call a number and answer the phone, but beyond those functions, I am ignorant of what else the phone does. The other day Wanda set up my alarm, as I had to get up early, but the phone was on vibrate, so as an alarm it wasn't much good.

The reason I am writing about these phones is that on the way home from the studio tonight, I was waiting at a red light on the corner of Monroe and Tennessee. That might be one of the busiest intersections in town. Well, there I was waiting for the light to turn green, right up front, and I started looking around. Three cars were in the lanes headed toward me on the left. Two lanes went straight and one was a left turn lane. Every one of those three drivers was on a cell phone, waiting for the light to turn like I was. I looked to my left and the guy next to me was on his phone, too. I thought that was a bit unusual, but then my phone rang, and as I answered it, I started watching to see if drivers of the cars going through the intersection in front of me were on their phones, too. A few were, but to tell you the truth they were going by so fast I couldn't really tell.

Every place I go down here people are on cell phones. People walking through the aisles of the grocery store are on cell phones. People walking down the street, people walking to their car from a store, the security guard at the VA Clinic, the yard man at the lumber company, the lady in the office where I pay my studio rent, and even the woman taking my order at the restaurant at noon were all on cell phones.

My dad had a successful business when I was growing up. Back then there were only land lines, and if he wasn't at work, customers and salesmen were not going to get hold of him, but yet, he was successful.

I don't take my cell phone into any place I go. I leave it in the car, and if I miss a call, I miss a call. If I am working on a project and things are going good, I don't answer the cell phone. I figure if things are going good, why stop for a call that probably isn't all that important. A nice thing about cell phones is that you can look and see who called you. Also, if I get a call from a strange number from a different area code, I don't answer that either. You start a business and sales people call constantly. Oh, in case you were wondering, Wanda set up my phone with a special ring when she calls. It is the sound of the flourish made by the royal bugler whenever the queen approached. I almost come to attention when that ring sounds, but I guess that is why she set it up that way.

So, if I were a terrorist, I wouldn't go after tall office buildings or chemical plants. No, I would be going after cell phone towers. You cut out America's cell phones, and people would be in a panic. My daughter tells me that my granddaughter does about 300 text messages a month. I don't even know how to do one, and for sure I couldn't read hers, as young people have their own language when the text each other.

I believe if a group could destroy our internet/e-mail system, our cell phone grid, and our television reception, America would be total chaos in a matter of hours. We as a nation are hooked to electronics of every kind. You take that away and the withdrawal would kill many.

There is a photographer in Railroad Square who told me that when he heads home, he leaves his cell phone in his studio, and he leaves it there all weekend. He claims that life is much better without the calls when he is at home, and that it has made his marriage much better. I can see that.

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