The phone cult is calling you

   Like anyone else, I have a few convictions that I have held sacred for a good portion of my life. One that has always been dear to my heart is that it would be a cold day in hell before I ever bought a car phone.
   I havenít been down there lately, but the word is theyíre blaming El Nino for the frigid temperatures.
   Iím still trying to understand why I sold out and had a car phone installed a few weeks ago. I have always despised the idea of having someone reach out and touch me in the sanctity of my car. It was a private place where I could listen to the radio and daydream, uninterrupted by the outside world.
   Not anymore. What changed? Where did I go wring? Who yuppified me?
   Iím convinced itís a cult, and I was slowly brainwashed into joining. To my credit, I should note most of my friends and business associates were sucked in first. I held out, but the pressure became too great.
  The calls to my office or home would come infrequently at first. A warbled voice with heavy static would proudly announce that he was driving in his Dodge as we spoke. Then, just as the conversation got interesting, the connection would be lost.
   "Sorry, went though a tunnel." He would explain upon calling back. "I have to talk fast because I may lose you again up the road a bit."
   GRRRR. "Why didnít you just call me from your office?" I would ask.
   "No time. Youíve got to get a car phone. Theyíre lifesavers."
   As the years passed and the technology improved, the calls came more frequently. And while many times I wished the connection would be lost, it seldom happened anymore.
   A couple of years ago I felt the first twinge of longing. Searching for a pay phone, I found myself wishing I could just call from the car.
   A hard slap across my face snapped me out of it, but as the months passed I felt it more and more. Then I caught myself spotting antennas on the rear windows of cars. I subconsciously began associating phone antennas with importance and even worse, success.
   Realizing that was an incredibly shallow assumption, I tried vainly to rise above it. It was no use. Sad as it sounds, the cult was dragging me in.
   My consciousness awakened, I could come up with dozens of incidents each week where a car phone would have been invaluable. And my feelings at the sighting of an antenna had gone from disgust to curiosity to jealousy.
   I had been called dozens of times over the years by the cellular companies trying to lure me into their tribe. When they called a few weeks ago with yet another "special promotion," my resistance was gone.
   "Wonderful," said the saleswoman, "did you want the standard car phone or our transportable model, which you can take anywhere?"
   They never rest. First my car, then theyíre going to want to invade the rest of my life.
   "Only the car phone, please," I added, hoping she would be satisfied.
   She was, for the time being. We scheduled an appointment for the following Monday. They are so eager to sign you up for the cult that their mobile van will come to you to do the installation.
   I had it done in front of my house, so the neighbors could see how important I was. Naturally, I couldnít be there because I was too busy. Thatís why I need a car phone, obviously.
   When I came home, I took a glance at my high-tech executive automobile and was sorely disappointed. No one had told me that because I drive a station wagon the antenna couldnít go on the rear window, where everyone would see it.
   "How will people know I have a car phone?" I whined to my wife. "How will they know how important and busy and successful I am if they canít see the antenna?"
   She wasnít very sympathetic. And she wasnít very impressed with my car phone.
   That changed within the first week, though. Iím now convinced that the reason for the drop in the divorce rate in the United States is the explosive increase in the number of car phones.
   In my first week as a busy, important, successful executive I made 12 calls on my new car phone. Nine of them were to my wife, confirming that good communication is the key to a successful marriage.
   So Iím hooked, and someday, so will you. Weíll get you. You want to be important, busy and successful, donít you? Come on. Sign up now. We want you.

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