Most everyone has a cell phone now. I have one, and I hate the fact that I do. I don’t really want one, and I don’t use it. But for some reason, I have one. I think they were mailed to everyone who lived in the suburbs in the latter part of the nineties. I don’t remember exactly why I needed one. Distress calls, perhaps? I seem to recall owning a car that would just randomly quit running at certain times, and could not be started again for hours. That could be one reason. I guess the main reason is that, in my early twenties, I wanted a way to be reached by my friends at any point during the day.

If there was something going on, then I wanted to know about it right damn now.

I would get these calls at all hours of the day and night: “Dude! You hafta get over here right now! Justin just got back from his trip and we are getting drunk!” or “Dude! You hafta meet us at Conor’s place right now! He just got back from work and we are getting drunk!” or “Dude! C’mon over! We are getting drunk!”

And there was a time, I guess, when that kind of call was a salvation for me. It meant that I was part of this tight group of friends that would get together almost every night. Even if it was just a couple of my friends, a twelve-pack, and 3 chairs on someone’s front porch, we were just enjoying being young and legal. There was a time when those calls would be the highlight of my day. It meant that I was livin’.

That was then. It seems like a lifetime ago. Now, I don’t like calling people on my phone. I don’t like answering it 90% of the time. And I am one of the 16 people left in the United States who is still a little embarrassed when it rings in public.

Which brings me to today, at the Store. It’s a Saturday, and for almost everyone out there, that means free calling. I know this because it is wall-to-wall people in the grocery, and almost every single one of them are trying to talk on their cell phones while feebly steering a shopping cart one-handed. And at the same time that they are trying to decide between Charmin and Quilted Northern, they are also trying to avoid running into one of the myriad other assholes on cell phones, also pushing their over-loaded carts with one hand.

While I stand in the aisles and put up tags, I try my best to completely avoid the human debris around me. And there they go, pushing groceries around, shuffling zombie-like, with that sort of half-smirk on their faces, their fake-tanned arms holding a little phone up to their ears.

They act like I can’t hear the conversations, but I do.

“Dude! What are you doing tonight? C’mon over, ’cause we are getting drunk!”

One day, they will learn. I did.

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