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The Unfortunate Ubiquity of Smartphones

Bill Kauffman at The Spectator

Photo by Eirik Solheim / Unsplash

Wandering through suburban Washington, DC’s National Airport — I always liked the libertarianish ex-congressman from South Carolina Mark Sanford for voting against renaming it Ronald Reagan Airport on the grounds that the nomenclatorial decision belonged to locals, not Congress — I was refused service when trying to buy a bagel. It wasn’t because of my race, gender or vaccination status; rather, the eatery in question, which had no cash registers, accepted orders only from smartphones. As I have never owned a cell phone of any kind, let alone a smartphone, I was outta luck.

I couldn’t plead food insecurity, to borrow the silly euphemism of our day, for soon enough I would be dining on the nine almonds that constitute an airline repast. But still, those of us who from principle or poverty refuse to spend our days caressing the wretched rectangle are fast being reduced to second-class citizenhood.

I’m no purist on the phone question. Most people I love use cell phones, and the fact affects my affection for them not a whit. I understand the utility of these devices for those who labor in numerous jobs, among them tow-truck operator, surgeon and prostitute. (Excuse me: sex worker.)

Sure, they’re a social pox and a contributor to a collective mental-health profile that makes our country’s young female population resemble a nuthouse of prosaic Sylvia Plaths, but to object to their ubiquity is, I am told, grousing about the inevitable. As Robinson Jeffers wrote, “Be angry at the sun for setting / If these things anger you." . . . . .

This may seem a mere side issue in our delirious day, when the chickenhawks of the US foreign policy coop flirt with nuclear war and moody teenagers are encouraged by the corporate media to mutilate themselves, but altering the most basic and routine patterns of daily life can have profound consequences. Must these damned things be required to engage in even the simplest transactions?

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