I finally got a new cell phone. It came just a few days before we left for England so I haven’t had a lot of time to get used to it. In fact, after the long break I wasn’t even sure what an incoming call sounded like.
The other evening though, as I was walking across Hennepin Avenue after work, this funky, salsa-style tune starts chirping from somewhere. I half-roll my eyes at the small group of strangers crossing the street with me, wondering who would have such an annoying ring-tone. After noticing that no one was fumbling for their phone I realized the tune was coming from my own briefcase. Oh. Well. Let’s bailar!
I’m of the opinion that musical cellphone ringtones are like farts: a necessary and important function, but they ought to be as unobtrusive as possible when out in public. And never in church.
Yes, technology is a wonderful thing and people should be congratulated for their cleverness in pushing the creative envelope and developing new revenue streams for Verizon and T-Mobile and any other consolidation survivors out there, but, like flatulence, there are narrow windows of appropriateness. When you’re by yourself, feel free to curl the wallpaper if you must, or indulge in the ringtone equivalent: a few bars of “Who Let the Dogs Out.” When you’re in public though, please have a little consideration and self-control; if not out of respect for others, at least for yourself. Sure, you might like the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”, but if you were one of those people next to me on Hennepin Avenue the other day and I heard that come out of your phone I might feel compelled to call the police (not that you’d have much to worry about with Amy Klobuchar in office).
Something else this reminds me of is when telephone answering machines first came out. Everyone wanted to play with this new toy and show off their creativity by creating a two-minute poetic rambling just to say “leave a message,” or else gave in to the preciousness of letting their three-year-old record the nearly unintelligble message. (If you were one of those who did this and were wondering who all the hang-up calls were coming from, it was me.) Similarly, today it’s hard to resist the temptation to be cute. While it might be funny the first twenty or thirty times I receive a call from my daughter to the tune of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (or for her to get a call from me with the lyrics from “Papa Don’t Preach”) the novelty will soon wear off, leaving those in the vicinity to wonder about my home life.
It amazes me how people who would never dream of having a bumper sticker on their car are readily downloading musical ringtones that say just as much about them to total strangers (hmmm, I wonder what’s the ringtone equivalent of “What Would Wellstone Do?”) I don’t want to dismiss this phenomenon entirely, though. I think there is a useful application that the developers are so far missing: Monty Python snippets.
For example, if they mayor ever got my cell phone number it would be handy to hear, “Hello, I’d like to have an argument, please” whenever he rang me up. Or, “Four hours to bury a cat?” when my boss called. All other general purpose calls could be simply, and briefly, announced with, “Nee!”
I think I’ll suggest this to the bright boys and girls developing these things. I only hope that doing so won’t take too much time away from their efforts to find a cure for cancer.