2009-02-27 / Columnists

It's My Turn

They Walk Among Us
By Stephen Yaeger

Before the reader goes any further, please let me assure you that I am computer savvy and have knowledge of and possess some of today's electronic devices. If such devices make life easier so be it, but there's a limit as to the time and place for their use which often goes beyond normal, acceptable behavior.

Recently I had the occasion to use public transportation. Now keep in mind that it has been quite a while since I traveled in that manner … a long, long while in fact. Without giving it a second thought, I took along a book to read; after all you either read a newspaper, magazine, or book when you travel by train or bus … at least that's what was done when I was somewhat younger. As I sat reading it wasn't long before I became aware of strange, annoying noises … something like "t- tshee, t-shee, t-shee" or "chu, chu, chu" or "itcha, itcha, itcha" or "beep, beep, beep." I was surrounded by these strange sounds; it was all around me and was not overshadowed by the train's roar. It seemed as though I was in the midst a multitude of sick crickets or alien entities seeking a mate. I looked up to determine from what or where the sound was coming. It was soon apparent to me that there were two or three people reading. Scanning the others I realized that the "t-shees," " chus," "itchas," and "beeps" were emanating from the majority of the other passengers. Some were nodding their heads up and down, others shaking their heads from side to side, some rocking forward and backward, and still others were bobbing up and down in their seats. There was even a guy who, I thought, was having an epileptic fit. He was standing in front of the train door with eyes shut; flailing his arms, rocking his head, jerking his shoulders, and he had a frightening expression on his face … I kid you not. Some passengers were busy exercising their thumbs on their cell phones or Blackberries. The rest of the riders were either sleeping or dead … it was hard to tell. I thought I was in the "twilight zone."

There were the earphone people; a group I label EDBs or Ear Drum Busters. The earphones ran from "buds" to the larger type, which reminded me of Princess Leia in "Star Wars." They were engulfed in wires and had the earphone sound turned up so high that it most likely could be heard by people waiting in the next station, even before the train's arrival; except, of course, if the waiting passenger were listening to his/her noise.

Later in the day I was waiting on the Broad Channel station on the way home and heard the same "t-shee," "chu," or "itcha." But in this instance there was no one standing next to me, neither on my right, left, front, nor back. This worried me as I thought I had finally gone mental, so I decided to determine where the noise was coming from, especially since I was on the outside. There were a group of people to my left and I slowly moved toward them. The noise got louder and louder until I was standing in front of what appeared to be a zombie, eyes closed, slowly swaying side to side, and with earphones attached to wires following his arm down to his left hand, which was clasping his toy: an MP3 player. It was a pretty red color. I estimated that I had walked a distance of some 18 to 20 feet from my original location. Now I don't have super hearing so you can imagine the decibels to which the guy was subjecting his "brain."

Now I accept the fact that anyone has the right to dissolve his/her ear drums; it's one's constitutional right. But I, too, have a constitutional right. Neither I, nor anyone else, should have to experience the annoying process by which the EDB accomplishes the task.

Then there are the CPIs or cell phone idiots. You know who they are. They have a cell phone that does everything but prepare dinner (I'm sure we'll be seeing that one soon), and have a need to play with the toy no matter where they may be, looking at blurred photographs, texting a "hi" or "wassup" to friends. They may be playing a mind-challenging game (yeah, right!), reading "important" mustread now-or-the-world-will-come-toan end messages, or they're having a loud conversation consisting of annoying, inane dribble. They walk or sit among us; in movie theaters, trains, buses, supermarkets, department stores, medical offices, on the streets, and in restaurants. I once saw a group of five people come into a diner, order food, and then each one proceeded to speak on his/her cell phone. Incredible! Why these CPIs decided to have lunch together is beyond me since each was on his/her cell phone on and off all of the time they "dined" together. Hey! Morons! What part of "let's have lunch together" did you not understand?

Then you're in your car when suddenly a CPI holding his toy to his ear cuts you off because he's having an earth-shattering conversation with someone; a conversation that can only be completed while driving in and not paying attention to traffic. This cretin is completely oblivious to where he is or what he's doing, putting your life or someone else's life in danger. And to top it off you have too much dignity to tell the CPI where he can put his toy.

Many CPIs have Bluetooths sticking out of one ear as though they were airline pilots or are ready to be hooked up to an electric current. I suppose the cell phone they possess is too heavy to hold to the ear. The Bluetooth people can be among the most frightening of the CPIs. You may be walking down a street and approaching you is someone who's obviously not with it. He's waving his arms all over, similar to an orangutan's behavior on the lookout for a mate, and talking to himself. You either cross the street to the other side or hope for the best. It's not until he closes the gap between both of you that you spot the device sticking out of his ear. Passing him you emit a sigh of relief. What about the time you stood on line and the guy in front of you appeared to be having an argument with someone who's invisible?

Communication … ain't it wonderful?

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