Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Of Phones and Supermen: A Brief Interlude from Wednesday Poetry

Last night, my brother Joe and I were talking on the phone about (here's the jab of postmodern irony) phones. I mentioned my love for those old Nokia clunkers that could do only three things: make calls, send texts, and let you play that really cool game where the snake eats the apples. Joe may have said something about replacing his cell phone with a clay tablet, a stylus, and a pterodactyl. We both agreed, though, that cell phones have created the best of times and the worst of times.

You can contact people easily, but you can't get away from them. You can have your phone with you everywhere (great for emergencies), but people don't understand that there are reasons as to why you're not answering your phone (meetings, conferences, driving, rendered incoherent courtesy of a fever...need I go on?).

Oh, and have we mentioned that there are places cell phones don't work? Such as subway tunnels or random valleys across the Pennsylvania wilds?

Not only that, cell phones have changed the way our culture works, and I thought about this when I read this morning's Pearls before Swine strip (which is the work of Stephan Pastis). Goat says that he misses phone booths, and Rat--always having a snide comment--retorts with a rhetorical question: "Who needs stupid phone booths when everyone has a cell phone?" In the next panel, Goat and Rat glance over their shoulders toward Superman, a single emo tear dangling from his eye as he pulls open his Clark Kent garb to reveal his logo. Rat then says, "Forgot about that guy."

Yes, I understand that the iPhone 4 has come to Verizon, and I'm sure that its successor, the iPhone 5, will allow us to communicate anywhere across time and space, brew fresh tea or coffee on the go, hover over our shoulders and whisper financial advice into our ears, and...well, you get the picture. Regardless, there are some things that phones, despite their seemingly Kryptonian capabilities, cannot do. Walk into a tunnel, lose signal, and your super iPhone becomes a clunky iPod touch.

And besides--enough of our pop culture figures rely on phone booths and their cousins, police boxes, to save the world time and again.


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