The Mutable People

Start writing for 20 minutes with the following opening line:
“If the mute button worked on people . . .”

If the mute button worked on people I would put it to good use in cafes, trains, planes, and other public places. Cell phone technology has advanced to the place where even people who shouldn’t have cell phones do. They treat the phone as an extension of their homes; as if holding a thin chunk of plastic with a chip in it brings a slice of home to wherever they are, enabling them to talk as loud as they please.

These cranked up conversations cover any number of inane topics that exhibit the listlessness and lack of creativity so rampant in our society. With so much drama, tragedy, and comedy in our world, we have to find better topics when using cell phones. Sadly, these conversations begin with a description of the caller’s location, since it’s so novel to use a phone from somewhere other than home, and then naming some poor excuse of a reason for calling.

A typical conversation usually goes something like this: “Hey Jane, I’m on an airplane right now surrounded by people so I thought this would be the perfect time to call you and speak up very loudly. Our plane won’t come down for 3 hours so I can talk about anything I want, such as our plans to meet for lunch two weeks from now, while everyone around me plugs their ears and casts mean looks in my general direction for no particular reason that I can discern since everyone uses cell phones these days and the captain himself said that it’s now safe to talk on cell phones, and I just love to use this wonderful new technology since I grew up with one rotary phone per house on the block and we sometimes had to walk a mile in the snow for days on end, swapping our last piece of cheese just to dial a single number on the phone unless you were willing to give up a week’s worth of pay in order to call a distant relative who always forgot your name because they didn’t have caller I.D. or cell phones back then.”

Now imagine the same person on a plane, but this time you sit behind him with a remote control that works on people tucked away in your carry on luggage. You hear the bleeping of the cell phone to the tune of some has-been top forty pop song and scramble for your remote. Your neighbor gladly takes your book because he knows the importance of your task for the common good of humanity.

You hear the person flip his cell phone open and imagine him surveying the number displayed on the screen. You paw through your carry on bag with books, magazines, an extra pair of underwear, and even toss your tooth brush on the floor just to grasp the remote in time to punch the mute button and cut off the deadly dialogue that is sure to begin.

Peeking through the seats, you observe hands flapping and a jaw moving up and down, opening and closing. Palms are up-stretched and sweat beads on a worried brow. The phone lies helplessly open in the passenger’s lap. The muted passenger looks to the woman to the left, but she is unconcerned and unsympathetic, refusing to be roused from her magazine. The passenger bows in resignation and punches the end button. A series of taps indicates this person is text messaging the would-be caller to explain this strange scenario.

Beaming with pride you hoist the remote control above your seat to the delight of the smiling, grateful masses on the plane who gaze on in awe and rally to your standard for you have stopped a cell phone conversation in a public place.