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July 19, 2006

Ring Tones

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Most days I'm content to gripe about cell phones -- the way they scatter people's attention, the way they destroy oases of peace and quiet, the way they contribute to a general mood of "I gotta have it now or I'll die!"

Yesterday, though ... Yesterday I was walking through NYC's East Village, a neighborhood which, despite high rents and gentrification, is still a land of the edgy and the punk. I was walking a little faster than this one young woman who was talking loudly on her cellphone. What I heard as I passed by her was this, more or less:

"I used to think they were gross, y'know? Until, like, I got my own. And now I think they're just the hottest things on the face of the planet. I mean, I can't get enough of it ... Uh-huh, it goes right through the hood. And then the jewelry part of it hangs over the you-know-what ... Yeah, you do kind of know it's there. It's not so much feeling it there as knowing it's there. And knowing it's there is, I don't know, enough to keep me wet all day long!"

That's right: This young woman was talking -- out loud, on her cellphone, on a wide-open public sidewalk -- about genital piercing and jewelry. Hers, more specifically.

Imagine: me, amused by a cellphone incident!

Friends who commute to the city by train report that amusing cellphone incidents -- while far outnumbered by annoying ones -- aren't entirely unheard-of. One friend told me about sitting a few seats away from a woman who spent the entire commute on her cellphone, setting up a romantic assignation -- complete with tease-y promises and tantalizing details about what she had in store for her lover. Peter, who uses his blog to chronicle his own commutes on the Long Island Rail Road, has no doubt overheard some doozies too.

I wrote here about how really, really uninhibited some of today's young boho adults are. If you're mystified by what my East Village gal was talking about ... Wikipedia to the rescue. Lots of NSFW visual examples can be ogled here. Check out the "Triangle," about halfway down that page. Eee-yowch.

What's the most personal/ inappropriate/ embarrassing/ delicious thing you've overheard from a thoughtless cellphone yakker?



posted by Michael at July 19, 2006


Dang nothing so interesting as all that. The only interesting call I remember eavesdropping on is when an attractive young lady was doing a pre-interview for a job. I pretended to read my paper as I listened to her talk about her skills, aspirations, interests, etc. Especially interesting was her contention that working at Chick-fil-a gave he special insight that would be useful in the Public Relations field. Perhaps she was right.

Posted by: AL on July 19, 2006 11:24 AM

At least 95% of the cell phone conversations I overhear on the train are utterly inane drivel. The most frequent exceptions are from the SCA's who are so Alpha they can't bring themselves to leave work behind, and therefore engage in shop talk over the phone while simultaneously working away on their laptops. And every now and then I'll hear something reasonably interesting. There was a girl of about 15 who spent several minutes trying to convince (presumably) her mother that no, she hadn't done anything wrong by going into the city by herself because she was fully mature and capable of handling the responsibility. Mom must've asked the girl if she'd bought anything, at which point the mature, responsible young lady replied that she'd bought three pairs of Minnie Mouse-print underpants. And going back a few years, there was a 20ish woman who was angrily breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone; practically every other word out of her mouth was an obscenity, and all I could think is that the boyfriend was a lucky man indeed to be rid of her.

Posted by: Peter on July 19, 2006 12:36 PM

You can read all the details in a post at my blog, but the short version is that I once overheard a young, fit woman loudly discussing her frustrating experiments with theraputic colonics in the children's section of a public library. It was some of the most satisfying entertainment I've ever consumed.

Posted by: Fredosphere on July 19, 2006 12:43 PM

Just my luck. You Other People overhear all the interesting conversations. Me... I was in the waiting room of a car dealership's service department a while back, waiting on some work being done on my car, and one of the other occupant of the room was an older lady talking on her cell phone. Since she was speaking German, she no doubt thought she could speak in a normal tone of voice or even somewhat loudly (I got the idea whoever was on the other end was a bit hard of hearing) without being understood. As it happens, I know at least a little German, and I'm always glad for an opportunity to practice hearing it (which wasn't all that often in Phoenix). So I discreetly listened in...

Mein Gott! Such old-lady babble I've never heard! I think the main part of the conversation was trying to explain to somebody how glasses were organized in a cupboard so the conversation partner could find something she didn't seem to be finding no matter how minutely it was explained. Over and over again. Giving up on that, the lady went on to a detailed discussion of her ailing husband's recent eye surgery, his hospital accommodations, the competence of the doctor, the attitude of the nurses...

After all the years and effort I put into learning a Foreign Language...being able to understand something like this is what I have to show for it...

Posted by: Dwight Decker on July 19, 2006 1:40 PM

Does anyone else think that people who have these conversations couldnt care less about the rest of us?

I understand some do like the attention, but I believe the rest are so self-involved that they dismiss others.

It's pretty depressing.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on July 19, 2006 1:51 PM

I actually envy the ability to carry on phone conversations in public. I wish I was not so self-conscious about that. Even in my own house, I have to go into another room when I'm on the phone. Ridiculous.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 19, 2006 2:10 PM

I always wonder if people would have the same conversations if they were face to face in a public area such as on the train?

I think so because I overhear some pretty boisterous musings on my commute home.

Ok, in all honesty, I commute with a couple of friends and we talk freely about pretty much whatever we want; it never gets obscene or intimately personal, but we do get the occasional stare down.

I think the only time I get annoyed is if there is an overuse of profanity. Subject matter doesn't bother me; profanity does. Not sure why.

Point being it ain't confined to cellphone usage.

Posted by: Steven K. on July 19, 2006 2:47 PM

Almost a year ago, on a train in London, loud enough for the whole carriage to hear:

"No, don't you go near him, I'll talk to him. 'Cos he's my mate. Yeah, but I had to hit him, he had no business pulling a gun on you like that. So I'll hit him if I have to, but I don't want him trying to shoot you again. I swear to god, this happens every time I go to Leytonstone."

Posted by: Ben.H on July 19, 2006 6:17 PM

I'm so averse to talking on my cell in public that I wont even answer it if I can't have privacy. I'm the type of person who will lean over a table in a restaurant to talk sotto voce for fear that someone could be listening. Its not that I have anything to hide, its just me being me. When my father was in his final years, however, I had to talk loudly enough for him to hear. It was a miserable experience to talk about my job hunt or my girlfriend or my pastor while surrounded by strange ears. I hope he wasn't offended those times I answered with a wave of the hand and a shake of the head.

Posted by: mike on July 19, 2006 6:21 PM

Well, I did have a friend some years ago that enjoyed creating half conversations just to give people something to wonder about, usually just before he left. Mostly he was just silly.

He'd end a conversation snarling something into the cellphone like "Great, now what the hell am I supposed to do with 1,500 pounds of red jello?", hang up, ans stalk angrily off the bus, leaving the listeners around him to figure out just what combination of circumstance could possible leave someone with 1,500 pounds of jello.

Posted by: Tom West on July 19, 2006 8:17 PM

Tom West: That sounds like Alfred Hitchcock's elevator story.

Posted by: Brian on July 20, 2006 12:57 AM

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