Tough Calls

Bust your cell phone, and give the cops a break.

A few weeks ago on the radio, some guy called me up and attempted to take me to task for my public dislike of the misuse of cell phones (in cars, in movie theaters, in doctors' offices, IN GROCERY STORES!, in the hands of just about anyone under the age of 75...). He thought I did protest too much. (What's the past tense of "doth"? I thought it might be "dith," but that's just probably the way a rapper with a lisp would say something derogatory about somebody else. But I stray.)

The guy accused me of being a closet cell phone user, to which I replied that I wouldn't mind it at all if people went into the closet to talk on a cell phone, unless, of course, it were my closet.

I don't hate cell phones; I hate their misuse. I hate the fact that technology has outpaced manners (although manners seem to be catching up). A cell phone is a reasonably convenient gadget, but the problem is that many people inconvenience others while availing themselves of this convenience.

So no, Dear Caller, I do not own a cell phone. My wife and daughter have cell phones, but they're women, which automatically makes them infinitely hipper than me. But neither of them would ever dream of using the phone while driving or in any of those other aforementioned places. But then, they have manners (and perfect driving records), while most of the rest of you don't.

But, I'll never say never. Who knows? Maybe someday when I'm old and feeble and my genitals no longer work in a robust manner, I may think that having a cell phone would be a really nifty idea. But in the meantime, I like the fact that I don't need to be in constant contact with every human being I've ever met. I like the fact that I can store important phone numbers in my brain. And I know that in those rare cases where I do have to call somebody, I can use a pay phone.

Thus I pulled into the Circle K at Oracle and Grant Sunday night, needing to call home. I dug a couple of quarters out of the console thing. Even weirder to some than my no-cell-phone policy is that I never use credit cards or checks. It's all cash and the change accumulates at a furious pace.

Pay phones cost 50 cents these days. They claim they had to raise the rates because cell phones have caused a precipitous falloff in usage. I remember when they raised it to a quarter and claimed they had to do so because there was such a high volume of calls. I don't know why they even bother lying to us. We have Republicans on the Corporation Commission so there's no way the utilities are going to get turned down for a rate increase.

I had to call my son, who just turned 15 and therefore eats constantly. He eats before football practice and after football practice and, if Coach Santa Cruz would allow it, he'd eat during football practice. It really didn't matter that it was 10 o'clock at night; he was probably hungry, so I called to see if he wanted something. He knows all the fast-food combo items by menu number (these are the important numbers he keeps in his head), so the call wouldn't take long.

As I awaited his decision, my eyes wandered. There, pasted to the ice-cube storage box, was a bumper sticker. It read, "KILL ALL TUCSON COPS And The Politicians Who Back Them."

I almost dropped the phone. Why would somebody allow those thoughts to drift through their head, let alone write it down, let alone go to the trouble and expense of making it into a bumper sticker, let alone posting it in a public place?

Hey, I grew up in the late '60s under the thumb of the ghetto branch of the LAPD. I remember smiling the first time I heard the Neil Young song "Almost Cut My Hair" (on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu), in which a delightfully paranoid Young groans, "It's like looking in the mirror and seeing a po-lice car."

I know that feeling. I've never been pulled over by a policeman in my 30 years of driving, a record I can attribute to equal parts luck, Caucasian-iosity, and a willingness to do silly things like stopping at stop signs and staying within shouting distance of the posted speed limit. Despite all that, I still get nervous when a cop pulls up next to me.

I teach my kids to respect the law but to be wary of those who enforce it. But this is insane. Who could have that big a beef with a cop that they would want to kill Dan Eckstrom, for example? There was a time when I wanted to see Mike Boyd kick his butt in the boxing ring, but that's about it.

We learn on an almost-daily basis that police officers are all too human. Some are bigoted and some hold grudges. Some even fire their guns and then claim not to remember having done so. But then again, we as a society give them a crappy job and then reward them with crappy pay. We ask them to risk their lives and then, from the smug safety of distance and time, we second-guess the split-second decisions they had to make.

When you get down to it, most cops deserve our respect. Some deserve our scrutiny and scorn. But no cop deserves this.

This bumper sticker isn't illegal, nor should it be. It is, however, disgusting. All we can possibly hope for is that there is a God or a Karma and that whoever made the sticker will someday find himself on the receiving end of a pimp-slapping and he will choke on the irony that his first instinct is to yell, "Help! Police!"

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