This is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for quite some time, but with the new cellphone laws set to take effect in California starting tomorrow, it takes on a new urgency …
I know you’ve seen him. Walking aimlessly in public, deep in conversation with a seemingly invisible companion, oblivious of anything around him. You assume he’s just another crazy person, until he turns his head and you see it – sticking out of his head like an icepick jammed in his ear, controlling his every thought and movement. Yup – it’s a Bluetooth wireless earpiece, tied to his cellphone.
Now, it should be obvious to anyone who comes here often that I’m a big technology fan, and an early adopter of most new ideas. I’m the last guy to suggest that we go Luddite and turn our back on technology. But two things really grind my gears – those who blame technology for the problems of society, and those who use technology as an excuse to undermine the rules of common courtesy – and they are the two sides of the same coin.
Bluetooth technology is not new – I’ve been using it to sync my PDA for years. But starting tomorrow, if you want to use a cellphone in a car in Cali, you have to go hands-free. For most people, that means the aforementioned Bluetooth wireless earpiece.
Here’s the problem, and it’s not a new one. Whenever new technology comes along, it takes a certain amount of time for society to adapt the rules of conduct to accomodate it. As the time between generations of technology continues to get shorter, the harder it is to make those changes. You knew that at some point, society wouldn’t be able to keep up, and people would simply make up their own rules – no matter how selfish. I thought it was going to be those damned Nextel walkie-talkies that would be the last straw, but we survived those. Instead, it’s the asshat.
“‘Asshat’”, you say? “What’s that?”
Clearly, “Bluetooth wireless earpiece” is just too much of a mouthful for normal conversation, and with the proliferation of the devices, we need a simple, catchy, descriptive name for them. The first time I saw someone wearing one in public, looking like some kind of a Star Trek reject, my first thought was, “Man – what an asshat!”. That’s when it dawned on me that it was the perfect term for both for the earpiece and the person wearing it – voila! Someone has to name it, and it might as well be me.
Henceforth, the Bluetooth wireless earpiece shall be known as an “asshat” (lower-case), while the person wearing it inappropriately shall be known as an “Asshat” (upper-case).
You laugh now, but I guarantee you the next time you see one of those nimrods, the first thing to go through your mind will be “Asshat” …
Let’s be clear – I think the asshat is great technology. Being a reasonably law-abiding citizen, I own one myself – a Plantronics Voyager 510 that pairs up to my BlackBerry. I selected it in part because of performance, but primarily because it’s the one that looks the least like some kind of earring. Unlike Asshats, I see an asshat for what it is – a business tool. It’s not a damned fashion item. I put it on as I get into the car, and take it off as I get out. And yet, you see them everywhere you go – Asshats sporting their asshats as they go about their daily routine. I’m not sure which message they’re trying to send – “I’m so damned important that I have to be in touch every second of the day”, or “I’m too stupid/lazy to take it off when I get out of the car”. Maybe it’s just “Look at me – I’m a pretty pretty pony.” Personally, I’d no more wear an asshat in public than wear diamond-encrusted grills on my choppers, but at least they give me something laugh at. And if all it were was a fashion statement, I’d dismiss it the way we used to do with parachute pants.
But it’s so much more. Once Asshats start to wear their asshats in public, they start to use their asshats in public – and that’s the problem. I assume most Asshats wouldn’t walk around in public talking to themselves in a loud voice and risk being branded as crazy. But they’re perfectly happy to talk through their asshat that way – even though everyone around them only hears the Asshat, and brands them an asshole. Rather than move to a quiet place and hold their conversation, they prattle on about their kids’ latest exploits or their recent herpes breakout wherever they happen to be – and we all get to listen.
Several times in the last few days, I’ve been held up by one of these idiots. Once was in a fast food drive-thru (I was just getting coffee, if you have to know …), where the Asshat couldn’t multi-task counting out his money and holding a conversation simultaneously, and held up the line as he stumbled through (but we’ll let them talk and drive – sounds like a good law to me …). The other time was in the check-out at Home Depot. This particular Asshat probably could multi-task, but she wouldn’t – her conversation was just too important, and the fact that we all had to wait for her simply didn’t matter to her.
To me, that’s the real problem – because the technology is available quicker than the rules for its usage, people make up their own. And when that happens, the mob mentality kicks in, and it’s everyone for themselves. That’s why they decide that it’s OK to impose themselves on the people around them, no matter what. And that’s just plain wrong.
So, buy your Bluetooth wireless earpiece, and use it where it’s appropriate – like in your car. But wear it in public or – worse yet, use it in public, and expect to hear it from your peers …
What an ASSHAT!!!