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Cellphones are ruining personal interaction

I'm fairly hip. Let me establish my creds -- I have an iPad, an iPod and a cellphone. In truth, I was one of the first to have a cellphone. It was about the size of a brick, had a 6-inch antenna and I carried it around in a holster on my belt.

After retiring from the Air Force, I was allowed to keep the phone. However, the only one who ever called was my wife, who inevitably asked the same questions. Where are you? When are you getting home? And would you pick up these things? So I deep-sixed it.

But recent experiences have led me to conclude that these devices are ruining personal interaction to the point that real relations may be a thing of the past.

My wife has a Droid. It does everything but make dinner, and she carries it everywhere. It is amusing to see her in the car when the phone rings and she is in full winter attire. First, she will begin wildly patting every pocket to locate the device, then arch forward to reach under the many layers of clothing, finally ripping the seat belt off and hauling the annoying device out, only to realize that she has missed the call.

This convulsive activity and subsequent failure usually illicit frustration and a few harsh words. But luckily the device tells who called and immediately the return call is her priority, while I am relegated to the forgotten department.

Now, unfortunately, the phone is synched by blue tooth to the car speaker system. Which means that whenever a call comes in, it plays over the car speaker system, which makes me privy to the inane drivel. I may be listening to Chris Botti or a book on the iPod or something else, but that immediately becomes irrelevant and I'm sucked into the conversation. After the call I have to back everything up to the points of interruption and find my place.

One of the worst features of these phones is texting. I may be having what I might consider a decent conversation with someone when his phone will chirp. "Excuse me, I'd better see this," he exclaims. What for? It's a message; it's not going anywhere. Am I that dull?

As if the interruption isn't rude enough, the recipient will usually announce who sent the text and then will read the insipid abbreviated epistle as well as his answer and think it is high drama or, at the least, clever repartee. By the time his attention is returned to me, I have completely forgotten what our conversation was about or what very important bit of sage wisdom I was about to impart for his betterment.

This Christmas I learned of a new and far more dangerous problem that comes with the iPhone 4S. It is a personal voice assistant named Siri. She will talk to you, answer your questions, dial your numbers and engage in clever banter.

My granddaughters didn't even know I was in the room. From the moment they got their new phones, I didn't know if they were awake or sleeping. I never saw their eyes from the instant they unwrapped the insidious devices. They spent all of two days synching and air clouding and transferring and downloading and talking to the "oh so chic" Siri.

At one point I suggested that we paint the proper color eyeballs on their respective eyelids so they might at least appear less comatose. Well, at least their thumbs got a good work out. God, I hate being passe.


Doug Routt, who lives in Amherst, is not a big fan of today's intrusive, high-tech gadgets.