The joy of signal jamming

Karma chameleon

I’m a lawbreaker. Chances are you are too. At age 62, what I’ve come to realize is that everyone’s a scofflaw! It’s just a matter of which laws you choose to break, and whether or not you get away with it.

Stop or be stopped. (Photo by JSeliger2 via Creative Commons/Flickr)

When it comes to potential criminal behavior, you weigh the benefits of breaking the law with the risks, then make a decision that works for you. I smoked my first joint at age 15 and I’ve been a recreational pot smoker ever since. Every single time I toked, it was illegal. But I’ve never been caught and I have no regrets. I also routinely drive over the speed limit and I often fail to put quarters in parking meters. Plus, I jaywalk. But here’s my absolute favorite way to break the law: I own and use a cellphone blocker.

Mother's little helper

I had no idea such a thing existed until my tech-savvy son told me about them, years ago, when he was still a teenager living under my roof. He knew how much I dislike listening to people yammering away on their phones in public. So when he read an article about a nifty little gadget you could carry around that would block nearby cellphone signals, he handed me the article and said, “This sounds like your kind of thing.”

“I want one!’ I told him. “Can you order a cellphone blocker for me?”

“They’re illegal,” he said.

“Here’s my credit card,” I responded. “When the authorities come to arrest me, I won’t tell them you’re involved.” 

But I was confident a jury of my peers would never convict me -- assuming my peers are, like me, middle-aged women who have had it with listening to everybody’s private business while standing in line at Starbucks.   

The sound of silence

It arrived a week later. What does it look like? It looks, ironically, just like a cellphone! Which means you can take it anywhere, and it sure is fun.  

I’m in line at the supermarket. The woman in front of me pulls out her phone and starts blathering to her girlfriend about the hot guy she went out with last night. As she enthusiastically describes their carnal encounter in way-too-graphic detail, I pull out my own “cellphone,” flick the switch, and -- blessed silence! 

A patron approaches the circulation desk at the Main Line library where I work, hands me her card, shoves a pile of DVDs at me, and continues prattling away on her phone about the latest episode of Poldark. When I scan the card, a message appears on the screen telling me her account is blocked because she owes the library a large fine. Formerly, my only options were to interrupt her conversation or wait patiently for her to shut up. Now I just reach under the desk where I‘ve concealed my Blather Buster, flip the switch, and shut her down.

I cannot begin to tell you how satisfying this is. 

Fair use

I always employ this delightful little gizmo wisely, of course. I would never dream of abusing my godlike powers over your cellphone use. When the folks around me use their cells to make brief calls -- to tell a friend they’re running late or check with their sweetie about whether to pick up Chinese or Indian takeout on the way home, I let it slide. 

But once the inane chatter begins? Let there be quiet! On the train, at the post office, in line at the bank, I now have my very own portable zone of peace and tranquility.

But aren’t I being a bad influence on my son? By enlisting his aid in procuring this wonderful but illegal device and using it when the two of us are out and about, what kind of values am I passing along to him? 

Our family values, of course -- which is to say that when it comes to breaking the law, use good judgment. And don’t get caught.

Our readers respond

Steve Bremner

of Philadelphia, PA on February 04, 2017

Hmm, it's a good job we live in the city that loves you back so goshdarn hard that nobody could ever have a sudden need to call 911. I grew up in the UK, where everyone had Poldark — as in "Had it up to here" — long before anyone had cell phones, so I evolved my own no-tech method of conversation blocking: "Play" loud classical music inside your head. Still works perfectly. "Interesting" people can talk to/at me for ages without having a clue that I'm lost inside the huge, glacial coda of Sibelius 2, and the seeming flash of enthusiasm on my face was the conductor cueing the timpani. Try it, if, by now, you're aren't already doing so?

But on to the Serious Ethical Pontification. What kind of values is Roz passing along to Junior? The same kind passed along by every mom who ever interrupted a tranquil reflection on world peace to bawl, "Well, hit him/her back, then!" Which could well mean every mom, period.


of Philadelphia, PA on February 06, 2017

As a recovering lawyer, and thus an officer of the court, who still maintains her law license, I'm covering my ears, closing my eyes and going, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, I can't hear you," and I'm assuming that the funny smell in your living room must be a hippie room deodorizer. However, as a person who silently stews when people practice cell phone use abuse within earshot, but who relies solely on a practiced stink eye for retribution, my lips are sealed.

Adela Crandell Durkee

of Oakwood Hills, IL on February 06, 2017

I love listening to cell phone conversations. I imagine a whole story around the conversation; I try to capture the syntax and dialect for a character of my own story; I visualize the person on the other end. Once I'm sure that a slovenly man I listened to on the Metra was conducting a phone sex business. If only the person on the other end knew what she/he was talking to.

Watch out, cell-phone talkers, there may be a fiction-writing voyeur within earshot.

Kelly Siderio

of Philadelphia, PA on February 07, 2017

Great idea!

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