Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thick Planks Talking to Brick Walls

I've concluded that some people have just been put on the earth to piss me off, like karmic toadstools littering the landscape after a hard acid rain.

Which group is the most annoying is a subject of debate--it changes and shifts from day to day--but after this weekend, I've decided to award the crown and sash to the Oblivious Ambient Phone Yakkers, or OAPYs. For those of you who are unfamiliar, those are the diseased people who constantly have to be on their cell phones, compulsively chattering to their addlepated friends about their exes and sex lives, or arguing with family members like mullet-wearing white trash at a Pizza Hut, all the while ignorant of (or apathetic to) the immediate and unrelated physical environment they actually inhabit at that moment.

This weekend I was at Target, like I am most weekends, doing my weekly canned-good buying and scoping for discounts on yet another season of "SNL" on DVD (it was Season Three this week--bet you were dying to know that). In front of me (and many others as she weaved slowly and vertigo-like through the aisles in a haze of apathy) was a petite brunette 20-something with a stocking cap that put me in mind of a mid-90s Alanis Morrisette, circa her "Ironic" video. I should be grateful, I suppose, that this girl was at least muttering softly to her imaginary friend on the other end, and thereby sparing us the grisly details of her latest Brazilian wax, her plot to entrap some dopey recent law school graduate into marriage, or her plan to return to community college for her daycare teaching certificate.

Sadly, however, she had an unfortunate laugh. Unfortunate for me. High-pitched and squeaky, it sounded like Topo Gigio having an orgasm against an electric fence. It emerged whenever she said or heard something that amused her. And she was amused a lot.

Worse still was the fact that she was absolutely inescapable--every corner I turned to go into an aisle, she was there, blocking the way, oblivious to her surroundings and gweaking (that's "giggling" and "squeaking" combined--eat your heart out, Lewis Carroll) at her friend's story of a drunken apartment lockout, or the time she threw up an entire twelve-pack on some traffic cop or something.

Mutter, mutter. Gweak, gweak. It made me long for a block of poisoned cheese to slip into the basket over her arm.

Now lest you think I'm being misogynistic, not all OAPYs are women. Some are gay men who chatter about their Manhunt profiles, and about their current crop of prospects who can't measure up to their impossible expectations or be worthy to shake the peaches from their trees (these little turds clearly haven't gazed in the mirror lately). The universal element, however, is a fundamental disconnect from their physical surroundings. They seem to forget that they are, right this moment, in a public place, with other people who cannot avoid and are forced to hear the intimate details of their lives, and that their attention to these conversations has distracted them from simple motor activities--like walking and talking, for example. (I don't even want to see them TRY to chew.)

It's worse outdoors, where people have to shout in order to be heard over the environmental noises of traffic or commuter trains. It's more dangerous, too, as people pay less attention to approaching motorists and other street hazards. It's commonplace to have to slam on your brakes for an OAPY who's crossed the street without looking and who doesn't even look up from his conversation at the sound of your horn to see the middle finger you offer in greeting. Maybe this is Darwin's theory in action. Perhaps this is the "magic bullet" that will actually thin the herd.

I can't understand the need to be constantly talking to somebody else who's not even present. Does it feed into the self-obsession of the new world, where we must be talking about ourselves constantly, so as not to turn into pumpkins? Or is it, as one of my friends suggested, a reaction to the ever-increasing prices of cell phone calling plans? (I.e., since they're paying so much for all those minutes, they'd better use them!) If the latter is the case, I wish they'd just call Dial-a-Prayer. I'd be glad to give them a reason.

I wonder sometimes what these people did before we were constantly "connected" and accessible. What did they do when there were no cell phones, no emails? Then I come to the eerie realization that they probably don't remember a time when these things weren't available. I wonder if they've ever used, or even seen, a postage stamp in their lives.

And what about the nature of their conversations, the intimate delicate details of their lives (however wasted) served up like an unsavory cheese board for the rest of the world to pick through for the least green and smelly bits? Is it deliberate, a perversely gleeful bid for attention, like guests on "Maury Povich?" Or have they assumed, like the nose-picking stoplight motorists of yesteryear, that because they're not involving anyone else in their physical activity, it's neither heard nor seen by the hordes of unwilling others forced by proximity and errand into attendance?

Well, one thing's for sure: next time, I'm turning my iPod up higher so I can't hear.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those cell phone groupies are a pain. Many's the time I turned around with a smile up on hearing a friendly voice behind me say,"Hey. how are you doing?" only to see the person is on their cell phone. I hate to think how a person can talk on the phone and drive their car. I hope they don't crash into anybody but I would like to see them drive off of a cliff. Is that so wrong? Ted

5:14 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I hope not, because I've wished it often.

5:50 PM  

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