When I was growing up, and even into my 30s, I never would have conceived of a scene of hundreds of people walking down a crowded street, riding on a bus, driving cars all talking on the telephone. Of course, this was before the age of wireless communications, specifically the cell phone.

Now, wireless has been around for a long time, because you have television and radio. But the 'powers that be' always withhold access to certain technologies for the masses until they have solidified the means to control it and to monopolize the marketplace.

I guess the cell phone first started coming into widespread use in the late 90s, and now it is omnipresent. The cell phone companies have made the technology available to anyone, and, of course, rake in the bucks from rich and poor alike. And, of course, the Internet is now available through the cell phone. Many cell phones also have cameras, both still and video.

What is the effect of this cheap mass communication tool, and does it add quality to life?

This question was in my mind today as I worked at one of my part time jobs, which is playing music on he street. Being a street musician is like being in a 'real time' movie where the action never stops. Literally hundreds or thousands of people pass by me as I play. For me to do this job well, it is necessary to be in a position 'above the action' so to speak. A bit of separation is needed if one does not want to be overwhelmed by the constant traffic and noise.

Now, today I was tired, and my mind was not really able keep up with the flow. But, this being the case, I was still able to observe.

What I observed was a mass of people hurrying down the street, while at the same time talking on a cell phone. I would say about 40% of all the people who passed by were yapping away. The percentage was even higher for the yuppie and business types, and also for those in their teens and 20s. The older folks were not involved in this game.

Psychically, this phenomena produces a large amount of static or 'white noise'. Even if you cannot hear the conversation, the mental airwaves are thick with static. Not only this, but you see people almost walking on top of other folks because they are so involved with cell/self phone. They literally get blinded by the use of this device. Talking on the phone, or 'texting' which is even more awkward.

This phenomena is ubiquitous. On the street, on the bus, trolley or subway, and perhaps the most hazardous, the man or woman behind the wheel yapping on the cell phone.

What do they talk about?

Mostly bullshit. See, 'talk is cheap'. And, with the cell phone, it can become almost worthless. I will be riding the trolley, and overhear conversations. Most are like this:

'Hello...Hello...HELLO!...What??...Yeah, I'm riding on the trolley...Yeah...Yeah...Uh-huh...What are you doing?...It's about 7 o'clock...I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...'

When you have 6 or 7 people near you having this same conversation, it is extremely annoying, to say the least...Also, you get to hear all of the special 'ring tones' that people have on their cell, all extremely moronic and adding to the general sense of chaos.

Or, you might overhear what should be a private conversation but is now public because the cell phone user has no idea of lowering his or her voice or using any form of discretion. Today, riding on the trolley, the woman in front of me was having an animated cell phone conversation with a friend, and they were discussing a 'big fight' that was going to take place somewhere in the general vicinity of where I live, tonite, and that the woman's friend's boyfriend had threatened to kill a number of people. Even though this is nothing unusual in my city, which has a very high murder rate, it still was a bit disturbing, and was certainly not something that you would want to broadcast to the general public on a trolley car. But, with the cell phone, you are privy to all the dirty details of someone's life, since the conversation takes place in a public space. People have very little discretion nowadays.

The cell phone itself is a good tool in that it is portable, serves as an 'in your pocket' phonebook, and is quickly accessible in an emergency.

But the 'noise' it generates, both literally and psychically, can be quite obnoxious and extremely tiring. Perhaps I am just too sensitive.

You see, when something is too cheap and easy to come by, it can lose whatever real value it has. And, as with the computer, even though it is a means of almost instant communication, it can be a tool for isolation, as when people get too wrapped up in these electronic toys, they cut themselves off from a real world of people, places and things. Perhaps the real world is just too much for most people: it is frought with ugliness, danger and boredom. You could say that these toys serve grown people as a kind of pacifier, like a baby sucks on.

Of course, one cannot halt 'progress'.

But, what ever happened to 'stop and smell the roses'?

Will the human race even remember what a rose looks like, let alone smells like, after the brain is fried by excessive cell phone and computer use?

Text me and tell me what you think.