I wrote this article for a website as part of my frustration with the emergence of cell phones in every nook and cranny of society. Now, they’re everywhere and attached to everyone. Since then, they have also come under intense scrutiny by lawmakers linking them to unsafe driving. For years, I refused to get a cell phone. I refused to become part of the drones walking around in their own little bubbles. Among the irritating traits people have developed these days are talking on their cell phones while being served by service people in stores, talking on their cell phones while driving, screaming on their cell phones in public amidst relative quiet and texting while pushing a shopping cart.
The following article was written with the angle of the emergence of cell phones for everyone (including children) and their intrusion into everyday life.
The Sanctity of Silence and the Cacophony of Cell Phones
Kids are the last untapped market
Susan McMillan was enjoying her hike up a mountain in Banff National Park on a summer day in August. She was listening to the footsteps of fellow hikers, the wind in the trees and the hush of the solitude, when she heard a cell phone ring nearby.
“I couldn’t believe it,” McMillan said. “I go hiking in Banff to escape that kind of intrusion. And here is this girl getting a call on her cell phone from someone to say what kind of pasta sauce she bought at Safeway or something. In Banff. It’s ridiculous.”
McMillan’s encounter with the cell phone in even the most remote location is an example of our technology-reliant culture and how difficult it has become to escape cell phones in public places.
Cell phones are relatively inexpensive and, like automobiles, give people a sense of personal power, freedom and mobility. The majority of users state “convenience” as to why they have cell phones, or especially after 9/11, to make them feel “safer.” Today, it is more common to see someone with a cell phone than without one.
However, there is still one place on earth where you will not hear a cell phone’s ring tone of the latest hit by Lady Gaga – on an airplane and, if airline passengers have their way, you never will.
SKYTRAX, a company that surveys passengers for the airline and airport industry, recently released a survey that said 89.1% of airline passengers oppose the idea of allowing cell phone usage on flights. 1.
As part of the survey, one respondent replied, “…the last bastion of peace and quiet and the ability to read uninterrupted would be lost forever in favor of the banal crap that people seem intent on boring one another with at their own expense.” 2.
One solution to deter people from having loud and bothersome cell phone conversations in public comes from IDEO, the same company that invented the computer mouse and the toothpaste squeeze tube. One of its cell phone prototypes shocks the caller if they talk too loudly. 3.
Shocking cell phone users may sound appealing to some people, but the parents of the next wave of cell phone users may object to this. Cell phone and toy manufacturers are now marketing cell phones to the 12 and under audience.
Mattel has introduced a Barbie cell phone for girls 8 to 14. Hasbro has a walkie-talkie unit called ChatNow that looks and feels like a cell phone. Wireless firm Enfora has a similar unit called TicTalk for children 6 and older. In Canada, Rogers is selling Firefly, a five button speed dial phone for “mobile kids”, programmed and controlled by the parents.
“This isn’t a cell phone,” says Paul Saffo of the Institute of the Future. “This is a dog leash. This is a sucker purchase for every paranoid parent. All it’s going to do is cause the kids to want a real cell phone that much earlier…” 4.
The security of their children and fear of what may happen to them if parents don’t know their whereabouts, are major selling points to parents. Parent Eric Webber says he is about to buy his 11-year-old son Jake a cell phone. “He’s playing the safety and security card on me, saying, ‘Wouldn’t you feel safer if I had it?’”, Webber says.
Service providers are establishing brand loyalty early, setting the stage for future sales. Parents are creating lifelong cell phone customers, say experts. “It won’t be long before no self-respecting kindergartner is going to start school without a cell phone,” says Paul Saffo.
The solitude of the back country awaits these burgeoning cell phone users.
A lot of people like to call each of the 4 tennis majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) grand slams. In fact, a grand slam (in tennis terms anyway) is winning all four of these titles in one calendar year. The only woman to have done it in the open era (starting in 1968) is Steffi Graf. The only man to have done it in the open era is Rod Laver. Whenever one of the majors comes around, you hear people calling it a grand slam, which is incorrect. Or whenever a player wins one of these tournaments, people say they have won a grand slam, which is also incorrect.
Out of all the majors, Wimbledon is not only the oldest, but it is the most prestigious. It’s quite a different atmosphere – especially around the grounds and in the courts. There is absolutely no advertising anywhere by any major company. It’s quite refreshing. All you see are the signature green and purple colours of Wimbledon and no ugly sponsorship. The club has cultivated a very prestigious feel and if you were to ask any player, they would want to win Wimbledon the most over all the other majors just for the prestige. I’d have to say that Wimbledon is my second favourite major.
My favourite major is the French Open. I just have a very special fondness for the red clay. It is such a unique surface. The players who conquer this surface are, in my opinion, the ultimate athlete. Sometimes this may translate into the ultimate tennis player (Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Bjorn Borg come to mind). Clay challenges players and it is the player that overcomes these challenges that will ultimately win the title. You have to be patient. You have to be fit. You have to be tenacious. You have to have a cool, calculating temperament. Clay rewards all of these things. For those players who won the French Open and then went on to win Wimbledon a month later, they are truly remarkable because the change in surface is so drastic.
The French Open is also where my favourite players and fellow Canadians have enjoyed so much success. I still remember Chris Evert’s win in 1985 over Martina Navratilova. It was the touchstone for Chris to continue with her career for another 4 years. I remember Carling Bassett’s run to the quarterfinals that same year, only weeks after her father died. It was where Helen Kelesi made the quarters 2 years in a row (1988, 1989) and was the only player to push Monica Seles to 3 sets in 1990. It was where Steffi Graf won her first (1987) and last (1999) major. 1999 was also the scene of Graf’s come from behind, surreal win over a petulant, ignorant, spoiled brat.
The atmosphere at the French Open is also so much more intimate and less stuffy than Wimbledon. The fans at the French crave the underdog but they also are in no mood to put up with antics, whining, complaining and general misbehaving. The champions at the French have all dealt with opponents who in one way or another have gotten on the bad side of the crowd – and rightfully so. The French Open is no place for players who refuse to adapt to the conditions and place the blame for their poor play on circumstances beyond their control. It has been the steady, the athletic, the mentally focused that have won this major.
As for the other two majors, the Australian Open really needs to be moved 2 months ahead to March. Who in North America is watching tennis in the dead of winter? And the U.S. Open – too loud, too noisy, too big, too much “America is the greatest rah rah rah” baloney. Is this a tennis tournament or a promotional tool for the U.S. military? I mean really, what other tennis tournament plays (and I use that term lightly – overblown is more like it) their own national anthem multiple times during the tournament. None. I feel like I’m watching a modern day Third Reich propaganda sports event. Enough already!
As a side note, it is interesting that while Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament, the U.S. Open is the second oldest – a tournament that is not a major is the third oldest. It’s the Canadian Open.
Lotteries have been around for many years. I can remember back in Nova Scotia during the early years of Atlantic Lotto the kind of excitement that surrounded the weekly drawings – that was when lottery drawings were televised… live! It was kind of an event. The week leading up to the weekly lottery drawing involved getting a ticket and putting it somewhere special so that you wouldn’t lose it. I remember even the paper the numbers were printed on was special – almost like bank note stock.
The jackpots weren’t large. I can’t remember exactly how big they were, but they pale in comparison to the outrageous jackpots today. The night of the drawing, everyone gathered around the television, ticket in hand, to watch the rubber balls bounce around the machines that looked like the Daleks from Doctor Who. And then it was over. You were grateful to have won something – anything.
Those were the days. As the years went by, Lotto 6/49 appeared and the jackpots kept climbing into the stratosphere. Lotteries based on the little rubber balls in the machines dropping out and declaring winners are still going strong, but in the last ten years there has been a new kind of lottery appear. They started out small (in terms of coverage) but now there are dozens of them out there – sometimes the same organization rolling out multiple lotteries per year. These new lotteries are the ‘home lottos’ or the ‘cash and cars’ lottos – you know the ones with the $100 price tag per ticket – the ones that are making poor people poorer and the rich people richer.
Who wouldn’t be tempted to buy one of these tickets? The odds are infinitely better than the weekly national lotteries where millions of people participate. More often than not, these gold-plated lotteries are provincial only and a limited number of tickets are printed. When the odds are better, the temptation is greater. These lotteries also benefit worthy causes like hospitals, children’s issues and health care. However, there is a hidden underlying and sinister tone to these gold-plated lotteries that is often not thought about and definitely not talked about.
The fact of the matter is that the only people who can really afford these $100 per ticket lotteries are the people who least deserve to win. Sometimes, luck does shine on people who deserve a hand up. But the odds are stacked against these people because the vast majority of ticket purchasers for this kind of lottery are those who can afford to buy a ticket and it’s not going to make a dent in their finances. I’m wondering what is really in it for already-wealthy ticket purchasers. Do they want to help charities? Write a cheque directly to the hospital. The thrill of victory? Take up tennis. To add to your already-overflowing stash of gold bullion? Get bent.
The people who really deserve a shot at the spoils of these gold-plated lotteries (multi-million dollar homes, cars, cash, etc.) are the people who can least afford to participate. The really sad story that boils my blood is people in this demographic who are using their hard earned money just to get by on a daily basis buying one of these extravagantly priced tickets, hoping that their monthly grocery money they just spent a ticket on will pay off.
That’s just it. These lotteries (just like Lotto 6/49 and those like it) are open to anyone willing to shell out $100 – the oil baron, the country club heiress, the art collector, the gold bullion hoarder, the minimum wage-earning single mother. These lotteries ultimately make a pretty accurate statement about the state of society: the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
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