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Can you hear me now?

Illustration by Patricia Tompkins
By Katie Paulson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
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Our generation has experienced the improvement of technology in leaps and bounds (and even hops in nerd-speak). Cell phones no longer resemble bricks (recall Zach Morris' stylish piece) but easily fit into the palm of the hand. Text messaging features replace archaic pagers.

But, with this vast array of new gadgets and gizmos, we have also seen a troubling side effect: the decline of people's ability to function and reason while engaged with such a device.

On campus each and every day, three main categorical offenders strike their victims, resulting in missteps, collisions and the all-encompassing "dirty look." These over-generalized but highly visible types include the Text-Messaging Tyrants, Cellular Catastrophe Causers and Gawking Gamers.

First, the ubiquitous Text-Messaging Tyrant grips her phone as she quickly punches out the latest message to her friend regarding that ridiculous party Friday night. While concentrating diligently on fixing the "R" to an "S," she weaves across the sidewalk, causing other individuals to dive into nearby bushes instead of facing the wrath fueled by her overstocked purse.

Even better, there are those who partake in the messaging process while operating some vehicle (usually ranging from a simple bicycle to the death-promoting Hummer). Drivers resemble bobbleheads as their necks snap down to the incoming text and then immediately back to the road, which tends to result in severe emphasis on the brakes.

During class, students whip out their phones and slyly send text messages to their friends underneath the desk. Although under the belief that their actions are not obvious, it's hard to imagine students staring down at a desk with such deep concentration unless they were taking an exam or completing the daily crossword puzzle.

Next, the Cellular Catastrophe Causers embody numerous faces among the throng of students. For instance, those students who equate cell phone conversation to a decrease in forward motion; basically, the student loses the motor skills to both walk and talk simultaneously, which perpetuates the domino effect commonly witnessed in rush-hour traffic.

Katie Paulson

Not to be outdone, these individuals also impart their mobilized telephones on the world around them through obnoxious ring tones that interrupt the classroom experience. While some of us do (secretly) worship her, who really likes to hear Kelly Clarkson during an 8 a.m. calculus test?

However, some have attempted subverting the auditory ring by settling on vibrate mode. Although an appreciated effort, some phones placed on vibrate tend to emulate the F-16s that fly over campus during their training missions. Backpacks begin to scuttle across the floor as all the students in the classroom glance at each other to find the appropriate owner.

Other Cellular Catastrophe Causers feel the need to shout into the mouthpiece instead of conversing normally; this leads to accusations of belligerence and sometimes can segue into awkward "Are you talking to me?" situations.

When students can't reach their Xboxes, they whip out their phones or handheld gaming devices, which labels them the Gawking Gamers. Whether engrossed in a fantastical world or trying to break the high score on "Snake," these individuals provide much entertainment to the viewing audience.

With tongues peeking out of mouth corners and body movements mimicking the motions of the character, students display their theatrical performances on the sidewalks across campus. Similar to the Text-Messaging Tyrants, the Gamers also crash and burn when it comes to mingling in large crowds.

While these three groups often overlap in daily life, members of each inadvertently tend to push the definitive boundaries of that specific group. For instance, those individuals who send text messages in between phone calls offer a combination from the Tyrants and Causers.

Elbowing, stepping on heels and other general jostling occur when the mass of students converge between classes. It only takes one individual to not pay attention and create chaos, which in turn leads to a total meltdown of social structure. So, how do we solve the epidemic that inhibits individuals from multitasking?

Requiring aggressive training seems slightly outlandish and impractical. But, with the growth of even more advanced communication devices, it's imperative to solve the dilemma plaguing college students everywhere: how to ensure that life doesn't interfere with our next phone call.

Until then, chase those vibrating backpacks and answer when the phone blares "Since U Been Gone." Three cheers to technology.

Katie Paulson is a junior majoring in English and political science and is a reforming Text-Message Tyrant. She can be reached at

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