Is there a textbook on cell phone usage?

Posted 1/21/21

It was in 1946, long before my mama and daddy dreamed of me, that comic-strip creator Chester Gould introduced the two-way wristwatch radio for his (and later my) hero Dick Tracy.

That was one …

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Is there a textbook on cell phone usage?

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It was in 1946, long before my mama and daddy dreamed of me, that comic-strip creator Chester Gould introduced the two-way wristwatch radio for his (and later my) hero Dick Tracy.

That was one fascinating piece of equipment as the detective and his associates, including Sam Catchem, called upon yet-undeveloped technology to go along with their superb thinking and hard work to keep the world safe for honest law-abiding citizens.

Today that technology is here; only we don’t call the things “two-way wristwatch radios.” Instead, terms like “cell phone” and “.mp3” and “iPod” and “Twitter” and other things I’m not even sure I know how to spell or put in print are what drives much of the world. Mainly for me they just drive me crazy.

To me, a “cell phone” is what the fellow who was just arrested gets to use one time before they put him away for awhile. And “twitter” is what’s supposed to happen to your heart when you see your sweet patootie.

And “parler,” when it’s politically allowed to exist, is the word the French-speaking world uses to mean “talk” or “to talk.” To them, the word is pronounced “par-lay,” in the same way that margarine product of yesteryear — Parkay — was also pronounced. It’s also the mother of the word cowboys used, at least in the old movies — pronounced “parley” — to mean a conversation between the cavalry and the Indians or the sheriff and the outlaws.

In actuality, those things really happened some, at least between the Indians and the troops, but Washington often conveniently forgot the treaties it made with the natives so they could engage in all sorts of atrocities, a fact not garnering much attention in most history books.

Anyway, North Carolina has a statute that makes it against the law to send text messages while driving ... or maybe it says it’s against the law to drive while sending text messages. I’m not sure which way it goes.

But I do know that some folks must have seven or eight hands because I see them up and down the road exercising their thumbs, looking down all the while as the cars are still moving along. Their thumbs must be in superb physical condition.

And let me be up front here. I have a cell phone. I use it to see if my better half has enough peanut butter on hand before I return home from town. And I call the two 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house to see if they need anything. Invariably the older, a female, says, “Just some time with my daddy,” while her younger brother asks for a “50-pound bag of hundred-dollar bills.”

I don’t get on the thing in a restaurant — even when I could go in the pre-mask days — and talk to the person at the next table or punch it up in the theatre (again, if I could go) to find out that my running buddy is sitting on the front row and that he should “come on up here!”

Technology is a fascinating thing. It’s given us the development of electricity so we don’t have to watch television in the dark. And it’s helped develop plumbing that makes daily — and nightly — trips to the little house out back where Mr. Snake and Mr. Spider live a thing of the past. Technology has given us microwave ovens so we can cook in a hurry or warm whatever that thing is in the back of the refrigerator and then decide if we want to eat it. Technology also came in handy for the cardiac surgeons — and for me — when we spent several hours together in the operating room some time ago.

And technology has also given us instant communication. My grandpa had to wait three or four days in his Alabama home for a letter from me. We had a telephone but when you’re 7 years old it’s not on the list of recommendations for you to pick up the handset and go to turning the dial. Today we flip the cover on something about the size of a pack of cigarettes, hit “speed dial” and we’re talking to Ivan Awfulitch in Moscow about the weather or to Raul in Bombay about why my computer doesn’t like me.

And news of the planet? Whether you’re a CNN guy or a Fox gal (not to be confused with a “foxy” gal), it’s instant. Correspondents now can “embed” themselves with troops shooting live bullets, which does live damage, and show us the day’s carnage. News coming to the home front from World War II took days, even weeks, while WWI, that “war to end all wars,” required a month or two sometimes.

What’s it all mean? You’re asking the wrong person. Into the list of dinosaurs our oldest grandchild once enjoyed, you can now add the “Grandaddysaurus.” I remember getting our first VHS player and one of those VCR cameras that doubled as a small machine and wore out your shoulder over time, which may explain why I’ve seen the bone doctor several times for both shoulders. Anyway, I never did learn how to program the player so I could watch whatever I’d missed. But my (at that time) 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter had PhDs in it.

I don’t think it’s all going away; that’s my bottom-line prediction. I just hope all the folks going “tappity-tap” on their texting or “yakkity-yaack” on their cellulating phones will watch out for me as I motor along. I’d like to have a few more years and maybe be even more amazed with the next technological development.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.


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