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Have you noticed that you can't go anywhere without seeing someone talking on a cell phone?

Customized rings and songs are just a few of the perks that go along with these phones. How many times have you been tempted, even for just a moment, to stand at attention when you hear the "Star-Bangled Banner" or "O Canada" being played, and then realize it was just the lady's cell phone ringing next to you?

As far as those extras on the phone -- all the menu items where you can choose your personalized ring, voice mail and other options -- I just ignore them. Today's children, no matter how young, seem to know how to set each and every choice. I firmly believe that kids today have genetically built-in instructions to any and all technological advances.

I often see these bright preteens talking on their cell phones as they walk down the street. I can't imagine what their conversations are about. I've actually seen them put a caller on hold while they take another incoming message. What ever happened to walking over to your friend's house the old-fashioned way? Now they call up and say they are approaching the front door so their friend can let them in.

In fact, I have a daughter who is a university student and her friends call from their cell phones to say they are outside in the car waiting. Ringing the doorbell would be another option. I wonder if they ever thought of that?

Businessmen also are notorious for cell phone use. I've actually seen men working out deals on a cell phone while walking down a Florida beach on their so-called vacation. Then there's the person who speaks so loudly that you can't help but overhear every word. You try not to listen, but I'm sure you'd really like to know why her boyfriend broke up with her, too.

I can't say I am opposed to cell phones since I know they can be invaluable in an emergency. Imagine how cell phones would have helped our forefathers. Instead of riding through the countryside yelling, "the British are coming," Paul Revere could have sent text messages or even snapped a picture on those ever-popular phones just to prove he was telling the truth.

A bit more recently, I also thought it was a pretty great idea when I visited Disney World recently and saw kids checking up with their parents. In such a big place where one can easily get lost, it made sense.

What bothers me is that many people seem to think they always need their cell phones. To see people talking on them while driving is scary, to say the least. Whatever happened to alone time?

At the very least, individuals should have the decency to turn off their phones in places where quiet is expected. I've heard them ringing at the movies and even in church. Have you ever been in a restaurant and a phone rings and 15 people reach into their pocket or purse?

It surely is a sign of the times. I'm still amazed how a regular phone works, let alone a cell phone. Somehow I believe that electronic devices need to be plugged in continually to work. In fact, as a child, I remember being impressed that we didn't have to share our four-way party line any longer.

LINDA PATERSON lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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