Vail Daily column: Please show some courtesy when using cellphones | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Please show some courtesy when using cellphones

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

The year was 1966, and an American science fiction phenomenon began when Star Trek premiered on television. This beloved show gave us Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans and those lovable Tribbles. The show spawned four spin-off series and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” even had a guest appearance by the greatest astrophysicist of our time, Stephen Hawking.

Star Trek foretold of an astonishing future of communicators, transporters and replicators. I wonder if those who watched the show envisioned that by the beginning of the 21st century we would be active participants in much of this technology.

If asked the question in the late ’60s “How do you feel Star Trek-like advances in communication would affect your life?” then the majority of us would likely have responded with comments such as, “It would be wonderful,” or “Liberating,” or “Wow, I can’t wait.”

It’s doubtful many would have responded with, “Oh no — how utterly intrusive.”

But think about this for a moment. How many times per week, per day or per hour do we check our email, voice mail or smart phone for texts? So has technology really freed us, or have we become hide-bound by electronic tethers?

While modern communication devices make our lives easier, the business culture of the 21st century demands that in many cases workers understand that continual communication comes with the territory, along with the corollary that it’s considered essential to be available before and after normal business hours.

We’re not going to change the culture of the 21st century regarding the ubiquitous use of cellphones, but at the same time I grow weary of the cacophony these devices make in public spaces. And when thoughtlessly used, cell phones make people damn the technology that spawned them — until their own cell phone rings.

Almost everyone raises their voice an octave or so while on a cell phone, and I find it an intrusion on my personal space when I’m forced to listen to inane conversations on a chairlift or in the checkout line at City Market.

Open-air conversations qualify somewhere on the irritation scale between annoying and maddening; surpassed in nuisance only by those who must drive 20 mph below the posted speed limit so they can give all their attention to their cell phone conversation. But on the other hand, how many of us really want to do without these conveniences?

New parents out for dinner for the first time after bringing their baby home from the hospital want their baby-sitter to have the ability to contact them immediately. The ability of parents to keep tabs of their children has been enhanced by the cell phone, and there’s no denying these devices are awfully handy if you happen to have a blowout on Interstate 70 during a snowstorm — as I did last winter.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s it’s doubtful many of us imagined that “anytime, anyplace” communication would be an intrusion upon our personal lives. After all, we never saw Captains Kirk interrupted by “communicator” calls while he was saving the universe.

But that was the world of TV science fiction in the 24th century, and we live in the 21st century. Am I about to give up my cell phone? No way. But I don’t to use it when it may be an intrusion upon someone else.

Quote of the day: “Your cell phone has already replaced your camera, your calendar and your alarm clock … don’t let it replace your family.” — Unknown.

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.