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Crazy . . .

Last week I was standing in line at the checkout counter of the my local grocery store. The clerk was swiping my selections across the scan - reader and, as she did so, the prices displayed on the monitor in front of me.

When the cashier scanned a can of Tomato Soup, a man behind me suddenly snorted, "That's ridiculous!"

I wasn't sure if he was referring to the price or my selection. Perhaps, I rationalized, he is some kind of Tomato Soup Expert and thinks my purchase of this particular canned Tomato Soup is ridiculous. Or maybe he is a Chef and looks down on any canned soup of any kind. I decided the most polite thing to do would be to ignore the outburst.

When the cashier scanned my selection of oatmeal cereal, the man behind me snarled, "Waaayyyyy Tooo Much!!!"

Again, I pretended to ignore the heckler. But now I felt I better understood his complaint. He wasn't upset about my choice of Tomato Soup. As it turns out, he didn't care about any soup at all. His complaint must be with the price of food in general or (maybe) the price of food at this store.

When the cashier keyed in the product-code for my fresh celery , the man behind me snarled, "There is no WAY I would even THINK about paying THAT!"

"That's enough", I thought. I spun around to tell my newfound food critic to mind his own business.

But, that is exactly what he was doing - minding his own business. The man was frantically jotting numbers on a clipboard propped on top of his grocery cart. When I turned around, he momentarily looked up and gave me a friendly nod.

Then, he continued to speak loudly into the microphone on his collar, "YOU tell HIM that I said those prices are WAY out of line! Either he didn't understand the spec's or else he is trying to 'grease' me. But there is NO WAY I'm going to pay THAT! There are plenty of other contractors in the area that would be HAPPY to do the job for a LOT LESS money!"

Back before the days of political-correctness, a person walking down the street having an animated conversation with an invisible adversary might be cruelly labeled 'crazy'. Nowadays, we would refer to that person as a 'cell phone user'. The distinction is a fine one.

Don't get me wrong. I talk to myself all the time. Sometimes, I will practice a speech so that my intent will be conveyed properly. Sometimes, I catch myself repeating a conversation that I could have handled better. Sometimes, I sing to myself.

Sometimes, an event in the day will trigger a song lyric or a favorite poem or a quotation and I will almost involuntarily blurt out the passage.

For instance - lately, the lyrics to a certain tune from the Broadway Musical 'Fiddler On the Roof' seem to answer many of my daily problems:
"Honey, I really think the car could use a new set of tires . . ."

"Oh, If I were a rich man ! Ya Ta De De De De De De De De De De De De Dum . . ."

Maybe that is a little crazy

But, cellphone-users-on-a-wire look like they are talking to themselves. A few years ago, we would all give wide berth to someone standing on the street corner having an animated conversation with an invisible adversary. But today, we don't give the sight a second thought. With a hands-free or a barely visible microphone, cell phone users can converse while walking, shopping, driving, watching a movie, working or even eating dinner.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were enjoying dinner in a restaurant. A woman seated at the adjoining table was shouting into her jacket lapel. Evidently, she was conducting business with a bank, an insurance company or a doctor's office because, at one point, she announced, "My Social Security Number is 123-45-6789."

When she 'hung up' her jacket phone, I leaned over and said, "Do you realize you just broadcast your Social Security Number to every person in this dining room?"

She replied in a huff, "I'll thank you NOT to listen to my private conversations!"

I smiled, "Private? Sorry to interrupt. Enjoy your meal. And - Enjoy your identity while you still have it."

With a condescending frown, the woman snapped, "I'm SURE I don't know what you are talking about!"

Never one to miss a chance to be a smart-alec, I turned again to my own table and loudly asked my wife, "It was 123-45-6789, wasn't it?"

My wife played along, "Yes. 123-45-6789".

Then, almost as if it had been scripted, a man seated at a table opposite mine - a total stranger - turned toward me, winked and proclaimed, "Yes. 123-45-6789".

The woman asked to be moved to a different table. She pointed toward me several times as she complained to the manager.

Yes. I do own a cell phone and I do have an earbud. The earbud came as a free accessory when I received my cell phone. But, I don't use it. The earbud is still in the package unopened. I just haven't had a day yet when I have needed to wire myself to a cell phone. I doubt that day will ever come.

You see, I am one of those loons who doesn't worship the cell phone. I try to avoid situations where my cell phone would become an interruption, a distraction or an annoyance to myself or others. I turn my cell phone off when I need to pay attention. I turn my cell phone off when I am meeting with someone. I turn my cell phone off when it might be an irritation to people around me.

Just call me crazy.

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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