Remember those endless debates about Aesop and the tongue in senior high school? We had them in France. But of course, we have Jean de La Fontaine who copied shamelessly the great Aesop.
What’s the story again?
Someone called Xanthus had a wife who left him after a quarrel. Aesop, writer of fables, won her back with his wit.
So Xanthus gave a feast for the leading philosophers of Greece and put Aesop in charge of preparing it.*
Each dish turned out to be a different "tongue" preparation.
"Why?", said Xanthus very angrily.
"Well. You asked me to get the best thing ever. The tongue is the way to all knowledge. What could be better?"**
They all had a good laugh about it and so Xanthus asked them over again for supper on the following night. This time Aesop was supposed to prepare the worst food ever.***
The following night, guess what Aesop had fixed for the meal. Tongue again!
Xanthus who doesn’t seem to be the brightest man after all got very angry.
Aesop had to explain it all...****
"An evil tongue caused your wife to go away? A soft tongue brought you two back together."
The moral of this story: "The tongue is the best and the worst of things. Both of them at the same time."
Well done, Aesop.
So what about cellular phones? Yes. CP stands for cellular phone... Got you!
I love to walk in Paris. I used to love to walk in Paris. Blue sky, wide sidewalks, passers-by talking together, laughters.
The first time it happened to me (a long time ago), I turned around on the spot and grinned at the woman who was walking behind me.
She barely looked at me and kept on talking... on her cell phone.
Good thing too that she didn’t really notice me.
I’m a slow learner so it happened again and again. Feeling good and friendly... because of a slight defect (listening too much about what’s being said around me whether it’s in a store, in the street or in a restaurant).
So I had to learn not to react anymore. Phone in hand and close to the ear means "not talking to you".
And then they invented the earphone for cell phones! Mandatory in France. Just imagine my mental confusion... Now I was bumping into people who were sort of talking to themselves.
How could I know for sure they really were talking to someone else and not asking for directions or feeling like talking to me, the stranger walking alone in Paris.
Yes, I am a slow learner.
There were other experiences too. A lot.
I travel by train. Thalys (from and to Belgium) is filled with very busy businessmen. When cell phones started to be a must, the whole journey would be filled with ringtones and "Allo?", "Hullo?", "Hallo?"... Yackety-yak! All of them trying to sound important! And loud too, thank you. (By the way, there was a lot of industrial spying done on those trains. No kidding! I don’t blame them. It was so easy!)
At the beginning, the fun part was recognizing the cell phone brand since at the beginning, each brand had a very unmistakable ringtone. And there weren’t those many brands around anyway. So one phone would start ringing and 40 man would jump to grab their phone! Funny.
But then they started getting their own ring tone from the net so I quit having fun and focused more on the annoying part like trying to read a very good book but feeling like I was sitting in the middle of a duck pond.
Then a miracle happened. Cell phones were banned from trains... You can use your cell phone but only in between the cars which is not the best part of the train especially when you’re used to travelling first class. There are fewer calls, that’s for sure.
Cell phones were banned from hospitals (no kidding) and Opera houses (unbelievable).
Except that last night, a phone rang right in the middle of a most beautiful Bellini aria. Had it been my phone, I would have died on the spot. But nothing more happened... Pathetic.
Cell phones are still all over the streets and subways and stores and, and, and... everywhere.
What can be so important that it can’t wait till you are comfortably home or at the office to talk calmly about it?
Many times, not many things...
Is it no longer possible to take a walk somewhere or do your shopping while enjoying it fully and peacefully?
"Allo? Where are you? Let me tell you. I met so and so..." Blah blah blah.
But here comes the good part. You’ll love it, coming from me, after all I’ve said.
I’m the proud owner of two cell phones. Have a good laugh now. One is my secret phone... Oops, no longer but I won’t give you the number. The second one is more official and it is an iPhone. Wow!
I love my iPhone to distraction. Why? Because it can hold music and pictures? Because it is nice to play with and easy to write messages with? Because it doesn’t let you forget your appointments nor the entry codes to your friends’ appartments? Because it is the «in» thing and they sold it to me with a theft insurance just in case...?
I love my iPhone because... because... because all my important contacts are fit with their own pictures. Isn’t it great to get a phone call and know who’s calling you and you answer a real call from someone very real? Well, you usually do so anyway but I know what I mean. Don’t you? All of a sudden, things get different.
Most of all, I love my iPhone because its ring tone is so unpretentious (in Europe) that I never hear it and so I miss my phone calls when I’m outside...
(I don't go as far as turning it off all day long.) But it has this nice part called «Missed calls». And the message is right there, very nicely obvious when I get home.
Of course I still can use it in case of absolute necessity, like reassuring instantly my loved ones after a very important test at the hospital or letting them know I’m safe and sound whenever they need to know that. (But only if they begged me to do so.) And it's nice to know whether or not my husband has forgotten I'm nervously waiting for him in the Opera lobby.
This is the good side of cell phones. Being able to get in touch very easily, whenever there is a real need to and wherever you are. I don’t miss the public phone booths because I never had the change I needed or I had to wait so long to call someone (there is a very funny sequence in one of the first Seinfeld shows... Times almost forgotten. So unfamiliar to young people.)
Another good thing, when you think of it, is that nobody really knows where you are when you’re getting a phone call on your cell phone... Except if you’re in Paris, Place de la Concorde, at 6:00 p.m.! Sneaky, eh!
Last Saturday, I was listening to some music in one of the hospital waiting rooms, which is what I usually do when I need to protect myself from unpleasantness. The doctor I had an appointment with told me that he would never do it. He has to be home in a comfy environment to listen to music!
Well, it’s just the same with me. I like getting my phone calls in a comfy environment, in perfect quietness and peacefulness. It is also true when I call my friends and family. Even though I won’t use my perfect and beautiful iPhone but the plain home phone (wireless though. I went that far).
Because communicating deserves privacy and quietness.
Maybe one of these days, I'll give my iPhone away to a friend who won't want it because by then, this phone will be totally obsolete. This is one of the real reasons I don't like cell phones. They are so representative of our consumer society.
Do you remember the time before cell phones?
*Maybe his wife was not a good cook after all hence the quarrel.
**Of course, this story happened well before the web came into existence.
***You have to admit that philosophy doesn’t go well with wisdom... The worst food ever? And coming back for it?
**** He had to be chuckling. He had to!
"Good Luck, and Good Night"*