Yuppies on cell phones? I should be so lucky.

The recent “damn inconsiderate cell phone users” thread, while an admirable rant, just doesn’t get me as ticked off as I should be. You see, the complaints by the Teeming Millions don’t hold a candle to what I experience every day.

I live and work in a demographic anomaly that collectively is known as “West Orange” – the western suburbs of Orlando, Florida. Until quite recently, West Orange was culturally and economically isolated from the rest of the Orlando area; what drove the economy here wasn’t the theme parks or the spin-off industries, but rather citrus production. The population, much more so than other parts of the Orlando area, has a “rural Southern working class cultural orientation,” to be PC about it.

Well, now citrus has faded into the limelight. Now, roughly half of West Orange’s population works in construction. Seems like everybody and their cousin is a general contractor, drywaller, roofer, or otherwise employed in an allied skilled or unskilled trade. In my comfortable middle class subdivision, about half the vehicles in residents driveways are well-worn pickup trucks; restrictive covenants 'round here don’t ban 'em, because if they did, they couldn’t sell any houses. We’re talking about an area where people get excited not about a new Olive Garden or something like that, but rather a new United Rentals.

So, where does the “worse than cell phones” rant come in? Easy. Name something that everybody involved in construction has – something that they never leave home without …

No, you can’t guess it, because you’re lucky enough to live around yuppies and their shiny e-leashes. Here in West Orange, though, everybody – and I mean everybody – has a Nextel. It’s part of the culture. I’m an urban planner, and I got handed a blue collar e-leash on day one at work. My colleagues in other West Orange municipalities have Nextels. Planners elsewhere … nope.

No, I don’t have to endure upscale professional types making stock deals on their Nokias during lunch. Nope … instead, I’m surrounded by the sounds of Direct Connect beeps and alerts, followed by loud, barely intelligible, low-fidelity sound that sounds something like …

“B-B-B-B-B-EEEEEP GRAW GARR BARR GRAW GODDAMN DRYWALL GARR BAAAA GRAW BAAR BAAR FUCKIN’ SUBCONTRACTORS GRAAA BAAAAR ARRR ARRR GODDAMN INSPECTOR GAAAR BAAA B-B-B-B-B-EEEEEP!”

Now, imagine that, every five minutes, in every public place you go.. Restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, filled with loud, tinny walkie-talkie conversations, most of which consists of profanities, a roll call of items from Home Depot, and maybe a little holdin’ forth on good 'ol Number 8.

Surely you don’t hear this in good restaurants, you say. Uh huh. The decent chains and the more upscale independents … B-B-B-B-B-EEEEEP! ARRRR GARRRR BRAWWWWWW GODDAMN JOBSITE ARRRR BRAWWWW GARRRR ARRRRR AIR COMPRESSOR B-B-B-B-B-EEEEEP! What about someplace like Bed Batha and Beyond, or Pier One? Yup, because odds are that cute woman checking out the cobalt blue glasses is a jobsite supervisor for some homebuilder. Movie theaters on weekends? Uh huh. Joe Contractor will be rambling on with the landscaper about irrigation zones while the film rolls, AND NOBODY SEEMS TO MIND, because everyone else is a Joe Contractor too. I’d get peace and quiet in a movie theater in Tel Aviv by comparison.

Those of you living in normal communities … be lucky, be very very lucky you just have obnoxious twits talking about “deploying robust e-business solutions” or something like that, because it doesn’t compare to the booming voice – and screechy response – of two guys holding forth on a framing inspection. Everywhere, all the time.

I can’t really compete with that, but I live in a college town - there’s pretty much nothing here but the university. So the cell phone users WE get are all college and high school students.

HEY WHATCHA DOIN HEY HEY WATCHA DOIN HEY OH MY GOD HEY NO WAY HEY DUDE WHATCHA DOIN HEY MAN OH MY GOD HE DIDN’T HEY MAN OH MAN DUDE WHATCHA DOIN HEY DUDE WHATS UP NO WAY HEY MAN DUDE WHATCHA DOIN I’M JUST CHILLIN DUDE WHATCHA DOIN HEY WHAT’S UP OH MY GOD HEY MAN HEY HEY DUDE HEY WHATCHA DOIN

Explain again why blue collar business conversations would be any more or less annoying than white collar business conversations (or the mundane banter of students for that matter) if both take place at a restaurant or theater.

Shit, that’s nothing!

Here in Seoul, I hear this almost every day:

Me, droning on and on…

ring…ring…

(In Korean) “Hello? Hey! Where are you? I’m in class! Oops, wait, my English teacher is yelling at me… hang on…”

TURN OFF THE FUCKING PHONE WHILE YOU ARE IN CLASS!! Is that so hard? It’s really rude to me and to your classmates to answer the phone during class!!

Sheesh!

If I understand the OP correctly, it’s not the conversations, it’s the fact that they’re using 2-way radios.

Exactly. Nextel telephones use the iDen system, which is an offshoot of TDMA technology. It’s a combination of a cell phone and an “addressable” two-way radio. Thus, you’ll usually hear both ends of the conversation – and it’s loud. Along with that, there’s a loud “beep” at the start and end of every “interaction,” for lack of a better word.

I got it. I knew those phones could be used point to point; I didn’t realize they were also rudimentary public address systems. So I guess it’s roughly double the intrusion, eh?

I just got back from the neighborhood Borders. Not one, but two dueling Nextel phones. In Borders, a damn bookstore, ten P.M… A chess club plays against a din of B-B-B-B-B-EEEEEP GRAW GRRR ARRR GODDAMN BARRRR GRAWWWW GODDAMN GRADE INSPECTION GARRRR BAAAAH BARRRR GRAWWW GET A GODDAMN BOBCAT TOMORROW MORNING GARRRR GODDAMN ARRRRRR B-B-B-B-B-EEEEEP. Nobody notices; screeching Motorola iDen phones are as much a part of the ambient background sound here as car horns are in Calcutta.

Hmmm…would this be the region that hosts the Florida State Fair? The fair where I just about shit four kind of fritters when I saw the magnificent sign pointing us fritter eaters to the exhibit of the state’s ‘rural Southern working class’ past; aka Cracker Country ? Yup, state sponsored ethnic slurs.

I bought a great cookbook there, full of ole timey fritter recipes. Did I mention I liked the food there?

Yesterday I was in a grocery store, and “overheard” the following (quotes because it was impossible to miss):

Woman about ten feet away, with a cell phone glued to her head: “Turn your cell phone on!”
Disembodied voice from the next aisle: “What?”
WATFAWACPGTHH: “I said, turn your cell phone on!”
DVFTNA: “OK, its on!”

Then the woman proceeded to have a cell phone conversation with someone in the next aisle over! I didn’t stay to listen–I had to get away to savor the bizarreness of it all in relative peace.

Anyone else remember The President’s Analyst? Central to the story was a plot by TPC (The Phone Company–this was back when it was THE phone company) to get the President to support a law that would require everyone to have an ultraminiature phone implanted at birth. But incidents like the above give me a sinking feeling that it ain’t gonna take a law. . . .

(For the record, I do have a company-supplied cell phone. But nobody knows the number. I also have a pager–set to “vibrate”–and I use the cell phone to call back when I can AND I’m in an appropriate situation.)

I don’t know, to be honest – the county fairgrounds aren’t far from here, but I don’t know if the state fair is held there.

We’re talking about Orlando’s western suburbs, an area that is more or less off the mental map of most locals. A West Orange address, I’ve discovered, renders one a “hick” by the I-4 crowd, even if you live in a neighborhood that shames the corridor communities. Winter Garden – populated by the old citrus folks, the mullet n’ meth crowd, the hard-working day laborers and those living from paycheck to paycheck performing mostly tough physical labor at construction sites. Ocoee and Clermont have the middle class contractors and skilled tradespeople. Windermere is where the developers live. Oakland and Montverde are tiny white collar enclaves.

When I was a kid, we used to call those things “walkie talkies.” Are they now gone the way of the CB?

Keep on truckin’,

Sofa King

It’s all Dennis Franz’s fault.

I still fail to see why this bit of technology is useful.