I wrote this for our English conversation salon at Tamana Library.
The modern American “Romeo and Juliet” movie came out while I was in junior high school. Just a couple years later, cellular phones became popular. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to Romeo and Juliet if they’d had their own phones. If you don’t know the story, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, so I’ll just say that phones would have been very convenient for many Shakespeare characters. Shakespeare often used mistaken identities, misunderstandings, and coincidental meetings to move his plots forward, especially in his comedies. If the characters could have called each other to work things out, they wouldn’t have had so many problems. To my disappointment, it will be difficult to portray the Bard’s works in modern times from now on. Fortunately, Shakespeare’s strong suits, his beautiful writing and fascinating characters, can never go out of style.
An interesting side effect of cell phones is that we don’t need so many phone booths anymore. My students aren’t allowed to carry cell phones, so the pay phone in our school is used a lot. Also, people traveling to other countries, such as myself, need them sometimes. To my frustration, when I went home for Christmas, I didn’t have an American phone, and when I needed to call my friends one night because I went to the wrong restaurant, there were no pay phones to be found. I’ve heard that England’s famous red phone booths are really dirty and stinky now, because the only people who need to use them are the kind of people you wouldn’t want to talk to.
But in the old days, all kinds of people used phone booths. They were ubiquitous. In the 1950’s in America, many students tried to stuff themselves and their friends inside phone booths for fun. There is a record for the most people inside a phone booth at once. The record is 15 people. The most people to fit inside a booth while someone is placing a call is 12. Sounds uncomfortable, doesn’t it? I’ve included a picture.
Anyway, phone booths are really popular in movies. There are phone booth scenes in comedies and romantic comedies and even dramas. In “The Matrix,” they’re the portal between the real world and the computer world. Eight years ago, there was a movie called “Phone Booth” starring Colin Farrell. A businessman was pinned inside a booth by a man with a sniper rifle, and he had to talk to the mysterious man for 80 minutes. The film was a hit.
I am worried about the possible connection between cell phone use and cancer. Well, I’m not, but my father is, so the fear is in the back of my mind. Some people think the radiation from our powerful phones causes cancer. Even so, I think cell phone use is a modern job requirement so I’ll just accept my phone as a hazard for our era and hope it’s all talk.
A big concern in America as well as Japan is that cell phones separate us from the people who are immediately around us. I often see people at parties draw into corners and text other friends. Some students do it in class. Actors and musicians get really irritated when phones go off during their performances, and rightly so, because they kill the mood: they jar our concentration from the art and bring us back into the real world. Talking on a cell phone, and especially sending a text message, while driving is dangerous. But I think we are becoming more aware of these problems. At my weekend prayer activities with the Catholic Church, we would all put our phones away so nothing could distract us from God.
But all in all, I think cell phones are an incredible invention, and the more people have them, the more productive our economy will be. My current phone has a phone book, a memo pad, and a calendar, and it can send e-mail, so it’s much easier for me to keep my appointments. So I don’t need to keep track of so many files and papers. In elementary school, I was very forgetful, but thanks to my phone, I can take notes right away, so I’m much more responsible and reliable. Also, when I moved to my new house, I didn’t have the Internet for two months, but I could still communicate with my family by sending e-mails from my phone. Cell phone cameras and videos have made it much easier for the common person to send information: we don’t have to rely on newspaper and television companies as much anymore. It’s too bad the great people who came before us could not use cell phones, but I’ll make the most of my own.