Saturday, November 28, 2009


Okay, I admit it--cell phones irk me. When I paroled from Folsom State Prison last year, after twelve years of incarceration, one of the first things I noticed was the amazing proliferation of these tiny technical marvels. At first, I was fascinated, being a longtime lover of gadgets. But I noticed what they were doing to the culture. On busses and trains, people use them to avoid making eye contact with fellow passengers (admittedly, sometimes a useful thing). But then I grasped that they used cell phones to avoid making contact with just about everyone, even their closest companions. It is not unusual, as I stroll along the streets of San Francisco, to see couples walking along, holding hands, with the other hand holding the phone next to their ears and talking away. Texting may be worse, since it usually involves using both hands. And I wonder if the large number of people using cell phones in restaurants, while seated across from a member of the opposite sex (or same sex--this is, after all, San Francisco), are talking to their next potential date.

I remember the late, great Dottie Walters, one of the preeminent women speakers and speaker bureau impresarios, really impressing me when I visited her at her office. She was talking on the phone when I walked in. Unlike every other person, CEO or lower, I had ever encountered, she did not wave me to a seat or motion for me to wait a minute or two. She immediately included me in the conversation, saying to the person on the other end something like:
"Jerry Gillies just walked in. Have you read his book, Moneylove?" It quickly became a three-person exchange. I thought this way of dealing with the situation was brilliant--talk about positive multitasking!

Today, however, cell phones are used to shut the live person out, to disconnect from what is going on in the physical world.

This was never more powerfully demonstrated to me than during Thanksgiving. I visited a friend and his family in another California town for two days. Even driving (shades of California First Lady Maria Shriver), my friend Keith was hardly off the phone for a minute. A lot of the calls were from his daughter-in-law, suspicious of his son and asking where he was. Was he meeting the mother of his two-year-old son (I suppose I should call her his "baby mama" to be thoroughly modern) or some of his nefarious friends? And she kept on calling, obviously not believing Keith's response that he didn't know. There were several dozen calls as he and I took a 45 minute drive. He finally shut the phone off, and there were an equal number of voice mail messages when we got back to his house. And there were also calls from Keith's wife wondering where he was, and his son wondering if the daughter-in-law had called, and friends asking for phone numbers of other friends that Keith might have stored in his phone. Never have I felt so smart and lucky to not have a cell phone.

Now I know a cell phone can come in handy in emergencies, or when you are looking for that last piece of directions as you are approaching a friend's home for the first time, or for parents to keep in touch with their kids. But it has created a sort of annoying police state, where everyone feels they have the right to contact everyone else whenever they want, and wherever they happen to be. I thought about all the hours of being able to think quietly by myself, while riding on the BART trains, or walking along interesting streets and roads. I can't think of one instance when I got home and may have had a voice mail message waiting on my landline phone in which I needed to talk to that person or receive that information earlier.

At some point, I probably will have to get a cell phone as I travel more, especially when I am off parole, but I can't say I am looking forward to that day. And very, very few people will have that number, so don't look for it on my blogsites, or on Facebook or Twitter. Like my age, that number is going to be permanently unlisted.


P.S. For more blog posts, focused on prosperity, abundance, and my Moneylove work, check out