Attack of the Cellfish

Cell phone users are quickly becoming one of the most egregious abusers of the First Amendment. Now, I’m a big fan of that amendment; it may very well by my favorite of all the amendments. But we all know that freedom of speech has certain limits. Of course, some people like President Bush consider there to be more limits than others, but each of us have a line over which freedom of speech should not cross. The hoary old cliché about not yelling fire in a crowded theater is particularly apt when considering how cell phone users take advantage of the right.

How often have you been at the movies and in the middle of the story when someone’s cell phone went off? And to add insult to injury the sound isn’t simply the ringing or beeping or twittering that cell phones used to send out, now the annoyance is exponentially worsened because moviegoers have to listen to sophisticated ringtones that feature repetitive rap songs or the painful attempts by Michael Bolton to reach notes he simply isn’t capable of reaching, but never gives up trying to. And why is it other people’s ringtones are always so much louder? Most of these people whose cell phones ring in the middle of a movie at least have the decency to get up and leave before carrying on their conversations. These people will hereafter be referred to as Humans Beings.

Unfortunately, another breed of cell phone users exists. A breed that seems to be multiplying faster than the justifications for invading Iraq. I like to call these people Cellfish. What makes a person a Cellfish? Cellfish are cell phone users who not only answer the phone while remaining in their seat during a movie, but then go on to actually engage in conversation. Cellfish are cell phone users who may occasionally try to carry on these conversations in a low, whisper-like tone, but whose conversations are nonetheless broadcast to every other moviegoer.

A Human Being understands that others in the audience paid often ridiculously good money to sit within the comfortable environs of a movie theater while watching films on a screen almost as large as your average big screen plasma television while listening to music and dialogue spewing forth in high quality THX sound. Human Beings understand that a trip out to the movies is more than just an opportunity to enjoy a flick; going to the movies is and always has been a social experience. It is far more preferable to enjoy what’s onscreen in the even more comfortable environs of your own home where you have the convenience of eating candy that doesn’t four dollars and drinking two liters of non-watered down soft drink that doesn’t cost six bucks and where you can pause the movie when you have to take a crap, get something else to eat…or answer the phone. No, the reason that we continue to shell out more and more money to receive less and less entertainment on smaller screens and smaller chairs inside a movie theater is due to our innate need to share communal experiences with others like ourselves. Moviegoing is the modern day equivalent of sitting around a fire and sharing stories that would eventually get turned into legends, myths and religious tales.

Take a moment to consider whether those legends, myths and religious tales would have successfully been turned into written history if our prehistoric ancestors had kept getting interrupted because members of their audiences kept getting phone calls and carrying on conversations. Would we know that the shoe fits at the end of Cinderella or would we think that the theme of the story is that the rude and ugly win the end if Stone Age Brittany had kept getting calls from Stone Age Haley about how Stone Age Justin wanted to date her?

I kidded before about the size of movie screens and TV screens, but the actual fact of the matter is that we really cannot duplicate the whole experiencing of a night out at the movies. Yes, home theater systems are getting more and more complicated and technologically advanced, but it will never be quite the same thing as watching a movie in a darkened theater with a bunch of other people. Going to the movies is a social ritual and it just should not be allowed to be undermined just became some incredibly rude Cellfish doesn’t know better than to walk his or her sorry butt out of the theater and into the lobby when carrying on a conversation. Are you a Human Being or a Cellfish? If you are a Cellfish, then I have some keen words of advice to you. Read these words and remember them. Your mama may have told you that you were the center of her universe, but we ain’t your mama. Not one single soul sitting in that theater paid outrageous sums of money for the privilege of listening to you.

The problem is that because of the rudeness of Cellfish, governments around the world have been forced to look into the possibility of changing laws. Some countries have already taken the drastic step of modifying their telecommunication rules so that cell phone radio waves can be blocked inside buildings such as theaters. That solves the problem of Cellfish, but at the expense of the rights of Human Beings. If no cell phone ever goes off then that means that emergency calls that truly should be answered also aren’t received. We Human Beings who were thoughtful enough to put our cell phones on vibrate or silent modes will now have to wait until the credits begin to roll in order to find out that someone was trying to inform us that some emergency had happened. And why? Because some Cellfish named Brittany just couldn’t wait to find out from her friend Haley that Justin wants to date her.

It doesn’t have to come to that, however. Because the world isn’t neatly divided into Cellfish and Human Beings. You see, Human Beings can be subdivided into two categories. There are Human Beings I and there are Human Beings II. But most Human Beings II are better known by their unofficial epithet: Movie-Loving, Cellfish-Hating Face-Punchers.