Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cell Phones on the Train and in Oklahoma

What do a pleading mother on a train and a young soldier trying not to get dumped by his girlfriend have in common?  They both seem to be willing to let anyone within the sound of their voice know their lives are a mess--at least while they are talking on the phone.

This morning there was not a free seat on the inbound train to Philadelphia.  In the middle of the car a woman spent 15 minutes on the phone telling her son that he could make breakfast himself and he had to go to school even if he didn't want to  and much more.  She made at least half of the other 50 people in the crowded car listen to half of her unpleasant conversation with her disobedient child.  It is strange how holding a cell phone gives the caller permission to speak about things she would not say directly to a room full of strangers.

When we were in Oklahoma for training, some of the soldiers were already seeing their romantic relationships fall apart.  When I was in Germany in the 70s and there was no email or cell phones, the relationships ended abruptly.  A soldier would get a "Dear John" letter or, worse, spend the $1 a minute (when he was making $500/month) to call home and hear that his wife/girlfriend/fiance was dumping him.

But in the modern Army with cell phones, I could walk into the dayroom or down the hallway and hear the arguments that precede the breakup or the last efforts at persuasion.  The otherwise proud young man would let everyone within his hearing know that he was dumped or getting dumped soon.