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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Shut up!!! Will you shut up you obnoxious moron?...

...At least that what I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs tonight.

I, Mrs. Fando, and the Littlest Fando were out at one of our favorite local restaurants this evening. Normally this is a nice, relaxing way to enjoy ourselves and have a little conversation, provided a television is not within a 270 degree visual radius of the littlest Fando, who will sit and stare at it as though her eyeballs were connected to the screen with taut fishing line.

This evening, to our collective dismay (all right, the littlest Fando was engrossed in the cheap games included with our cellphone package) we were accompanied by a loud, obnoxious, garrulous fellow with a cellphone. I say accompanied because, although he was sitting in the booth next to us, he sounded as though he were inside our heads, speaking loudly into a microphone attached directly to our aural nerves with rusty barbed wire. Had he been actually facing us, I would have expected the plastic glass barrier behind the Littlest Fando to have exploded like one of the televisions in the finale of Antonioni's "Zabriske Point".

In addition to a kind of driving only seen in "The Blues Brothers" and Ron Howard's earliest film work, one depressing side effect of cellphones is to cause their users to increase their vocal volume by at least 50 decibels. Unfortunately, as the fellow in the next booth already had a voice like a busted muffler, he would have easily drowned out a jet engine. In fact, he would have drowned out a jet engine equipped with amplification provided by Pete Townshend.

I'm never quite sure what to do in these circumstances. One option is to turn around and ask the party if they could, perhaps, speak in slightly more quiet tone, if that's not asking too much. I felt it would have been a waste of time on this occasion because he wouldn't have heard a word I said. He would have been sitting there, jabbering away like a jackhammer with a second grade vocabulary, watching me silently mouthing words at him.

I briefly contemplated beating him to death with the cellphone. As I am a Christian, that was plainly unacceptable from a moral perspective. Even had I been completely without moral scruples, there is the unsettling problem of explaining such action to the police. ("Umm... yes, he slipped and cracked his skull on the phone... yes, it happened 22 times in a row before he finally snuffed it. Well, we tried to help him, but he couldn't hear a word we said.")

Fortunately the person in question was not Jack Nicholson or Eddie Murphy (both of whom, I think, would have been far quieter and more respectful) or we would have spent the rest of the evening explaining to the Littlest Fando how some words are not considered appropriate for dinner, the playground, young children, or in this case even merchant seamen.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the whole situation was the apparent mirth of the conversation occurring on the phone. Unlike the very skillful one-sided phone conversations with which Bob Newhart gained early fame, this conversation appeared to be one of those where even the entire transcript, delivered by professional comics in a room full of nitrous oxide, would have been dull enough to kill a hippopatamus at 200 yards. Except that for the participants it seems as though the laughs would never end. Every other sentence was punctuated, more often interrrupted, by a series of painful guffaws. I'm sure you've seen the type before, the person who can barely stifle a laugh before getting halfway through telling us whatever is supposed to be so funny. Only in this case there were apparently two of them, polluting the microether with half-delivered comedic banter that would have invited a broken bottle beating from an otherwise sympathetic audience on open-mic night at a comedy club. At one point I half expected one of the waiters to shove a taquito down the man's throat, but instead they only offered his party more salsa.

Towards the end of the phone conversation I was vainly wishing that the restaurant was equipped with the old "Cone of Silence" from the "Get Smart" television series. This device would come down on the heads of the people using it as a means of keeping their converstaion private and inaudible to outsiders. The downside was that they couldn't hear each other as well.
In our case however, it would have been a vast improvement on the evening. In a small Mexican restaurant somewhere tonight, the person going through suggestion cards is going to be wondering just what a cone of silence is and where they might purchase one?


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