May 31, 2017

Farnell O’Quinn knew what he was talking about

     The judge’s warning was very clear: “If I hear a cell phone ring in this courtroom, I will confiscate it. Do you understand?”
     Heads nodded, and the trial got underway.
     Thirty minutes into the proceedings, one of those cutesy ring tones chirped near the back of the room.  The judge glared in the noise’s direction.  With an I-was-not-joking scowl on his face, His Honor’s pointer finger, in a come-here motion, signaled: “Bring it here.”  After an unsuccessful I-am-sorry-it-won’t -happen-again plea from the tearful lady whose phone had interrupted the courtroom’s decorum, she handed her phone to a bailiff. 
     That was 15 years ago.
     You would think by now, cell-phone users would be more disciplined and less disruptive with their cell-phone ringing and incessant chatter—no matter where they are.
     Not hardly.
     If cell phones were crack cocaine, there wouldn’t be enough jail cells or rehab centers to handle the abusers.  The addiction starts with toddlers begging their parents, “Pleeeeeze, Mommy, let me play with your phone.”  Usually, the pleadings don’t stop until the adult relents and hands over the phone.  The addictive behavior starts with video games on the phone.  Texting and voice conversations soon follow.  And then, consider the obsessive tweets of our 70-year-old President Donald Trump.
     Next time you are stopped at a red light, look over into the vehicle by you.  Odds are the driver will be staring at the phone in his or her lap.  It appears we just can’t get enough of whatever a cell phone does for us.
     In the 1980s, Farnell O’Quinn gave me some investment advice: “Put your money in cellular phones.  That’s the future.”  The owner of radio stations and cable-TV systems predicted the explosive popularity of handheld devices.  However, my wallet was too flat to leverage the tip.
     Last week, Farnell’s prophetic words echoed inside my head—again.
     We were in the midst of a simple construction project.  Hammers don’t swing much these days.  Nail guns do the nail driving, and cordless drills have made screwdrivers obsolete.  Thanks to innovation, the work goes faster.  At least, that’s the idea.  But then, there are the constant interruptions of ringing cell phones.  You don’t have to eavesdrop to pick up the vibes of the conversations.  When you hear the person nearby answer, “I’m working,” you know the caller has just asked, “Whatcha doing?”
     If there’s an emergency during working hours, you want that cell phone to ring.  Otherwise, you have to question how many billions of dollars are wasted in workplace productivity by unnecessary “whatcha-doing” calls from bored cell-phone users who just have to talk to someone.
     Farnell looked around the corner and saw cell phones coming.  Just like you, I can’t imagine not having my cell phone within reach.
     Now, how about this prediction?
     If we don’t impose adequate self-discipline, we may see emerging requirements like the ones which Wild West saloon owners imposed on guns: “Check your cell phones at the door.”
     Can you imagine the uproar that would cause?  
     Still, I know one judge who would welcome that check-them-at-the-door rule.