Survival depends on cell phones
John Norberg, humor columnist s

The other day I was standing in an elevator, which is kind of an obvious thing to say. No one actually sits in an elevator.

We all stand when we're in an elevator. We face forward – never backward – and we keep our eyes glued at the ceiling or we look straight ahead. We obey strict elevator etiquette.

Elevator etiquette requires that we ignore the presence of all the other people on board -- even when we're packed in so tight that no one can take a deep breath because there's no space left.

On a crowded elevator you end up with full body contact with the strangers around you.

But you can't make eye contact.

Traditionally there are certain things we have always been able to count on when we get on a crowded elevator.

First, the person at the very back will be the first person who needs to get off, requiring everyone else on the elevator to exit and let the person in back out. Then everyone has to get back in again before the doors close. And the person who is getting off at the next floor will end up at the very back. We repeat this process for the next 20 floors.

Second, the person standing closest to you will have a horrible cold.

Third, you will get an itch in a place on your body that you can't reach because people are packed in so tight all around you that if you scratched yourself you'd scratch someone else, too.

And now, modern technology has added a new wrinkle to riding crowded elevators. Cell phones.

We all carry cell phones and 90 percent of us use the same cell phone ring. So when a cell phone goes off in a crowded elevator everyone on board reaches for their phone thinking the call is for them.

Thirty people on my elevator had their cell phones out before a teenage girl at the back discovered it was her phone. The call was from her boyfriend who was actually on the elevator with her.

I couldn't believe he called her on the cell phone when they were so close!

We didn't he just text her like normal teenagers?

Cell phones are running our lives today.

This became very clear to me last week when a woman was taking information about me for a membership form.

Woman: "And finally I'll need your telephone number."

Me: "My telephone number! I don't know. I can't remember. I don't think I've ever known it."

Woman: "You don't know your own phone number?"

Me: "I don't know anyone's number anymore. All my contacts are in my cell phone. I just touch a name and my phone speed dials them. I rely totally on my phone. How about if I give you my telephone number from when I was five years old. My mother made me remember that one."

Woman: "I'm afraid we need a current number."

Me: "If I call my grandkids they could tell me how to use this phone to find my number. But they're in school. Oh wait, I just remembered . . ."

Woman: "I knew you would remember."

Me: "I don't remember my number. But I remember my wife knows it because she calls me. I'll speed dial her and ask for my number."

A few minutes later.

Wife: "No, I don't know what your phone number is. When I call you I just speed dial it."

Me: "Look under my name in your contacts list and you can get my number."

Wife: "I don't know how to do that while I'm talking to you on the phone. Let me hang up. Then I'll look up your number and call you back. Wait! My battery is getting low. My phone is about to go off. If you don't hear from me . . ."

Woman taking my information: "There is a line of people behind you waiting. Can you tell me your phone number yet?"

Me: "How about if I just make one up."

Our grandchildren think we shouldn't be allowed to use any of this modern technology. And I understand why.

There was a day when I thought they were too young to use a cell phone.

Now they think we're too old.

I remember back in the days when we didn't have air conditioning. I wonder how we survived without it.

I can also remember the days when we didn't have cell phones. I wonder how we survived without them.

And I wonder, too, how we survive with them today.

Copyright © Federated Publications