Monday, May 15, 2006

Cell Phones, Privacy, and Your Big Fat Mouth

USA Today says:
A majority of Americans disapprove of a massive Pentagon database containing the records of billions of phone calls made by ordinary citizens, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. About two-thirds are concerned that the program may signal other, not-yet-disclosed efforts to gather information on the general public.
Oh, I'm sorry, were you concerned about your telephone privacy? Are you afraid that strangers are listening in on your conversations? Then read the following sentence carefully: LEAVE YOUR BLASTED CELL PHONE AT HOME, MOTOR MOUTH.

I've been listening in on people's phone conversations every day for years now, and I'm frankly getting sick of it. It started about ten years ago. I had an old television set that picked up frequencies that have since been reserved for cell phones. So right in the middle of Masterpiece Theater, I get a voice-over by Suzy Creamcheese who can't stand the unbearable loneliness of a fifteen-minute drive to the grocery store without calling her sub-mental boyfriend. After having many such cell phone calls broadcast into my personal space without my permission, I realized that 95% of them were about nothing at all. No information was communicated, no important instructions were given, no important questions were answered, no rational purpose was served. Just blah, blah - hold on, I've got another call - blah blah blah.

I admit that this is partly a personal problem. I've got a thing about telephones. I've never liked them very much. I hate the way they allow old girlfriends, over-talkative relatives, and complete strangers to just ambush you right in your own home. Of course I have a telephone and of course I talk on it, but I regard it as an occasional convenience at best. I get uncomfortable talking to people that I can't see. What the hell are they doing while they tell me all this crap I don't want to hear? Are they even wearing clothes?

But what annoys me most about telephones is the tyrannical regime they impose everywhere. The phone rings, so the television or the Bach concerto has to be turned down, children have to be silenced, and everybody has to sit quietly while someone talks on the phone. EXCUSE ME, I'M TRYING TO TALK ON THE PHONE. Any idiot who picks up a phone and dials it immediately shuts down whatever is going on at the targeted location (or wakes it up, if it's 3:00 AM) and nobody questions this power. The telephone is the wall console from Orwell's 1984: it speaks and you obey.

This would be bearable to me if people used telephones in a reasonable manner, but they don't. They use them as substitute brains. If they have a problem, they don't stop to think about it, they grab the phone and call somebody. If they have a moment of solitude, in which they might ponder the meaning of their existence or enjoy a sunset or make up their minds about immigration issues, they grab the phone. If they haven't talked to Suzy Creamcheese for two whole hours, they grab the phone. If they have nothing worthwhile to say to anybody, they grab the phone.

My television problem was solved long ago by a new television, but the cell phone problem gets worse every day. They make them the size of matchboxes now, apparently so nudists can carry them around in their asses. Everybody has one. I can't enjoy a moment's peace in public without someone suddenly shouting, right in my ear, HELLO or DUDE, DUDE!

There are no more quiet back rooms in America where you can drink a cup of coffee in silence. Everybody goes in there to use their f--king cell phones. HI, IT'S ME AGAIN! WHAT? HE DID? OH MY GAAAAAAWWD!

So don't tell me about the NSA listening to your phone calls. I have to do it all the time. If they could bother you one fraction as much as you bother me, there might almost be some justice in the world. What they ought to do is identify the people who make more than six calls a day and knock them unconscious with ultrasonic feedback signals. Unless they happen to be driving, in which case local law enforcement should be alerted so they can pull them over and pistol-whip them.

The Mossad killed the Palestinian terrorist known as "The Engineer" in 1996 by packing his cell phone with plastic explosive. Then they called him and blew his head off. The Mossad sure does have some great ideas.

Suppose the NSA had a science fiction device that could read people's brain waves and eavesdrop on their thoughts. What would they hear?

Nothing. Nothing but white noise and cell phone calls.