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  • Robert Farago

Smart Phone Abusers

Security Guards, walkie talkers, you?

It’s hard to imagine life without a smart phone. No texts? Social media? Instant news? Apple Pay? AI? Substack stats? Hidden photos? No way José! Even so…

Some cell phone users make me want to smack them upside the head with a Bakelite telephone. Here’s my choice of the three worst offenders, and why they grind my gears.

Security Guards

I can’t remember the last time I saw a security guard at a store who wasn’t on his phone. People paid to pay attention to the real world.

Oh I get it. Watching shoppers shopping is about as exciting as reading one of John Stuart Mill’s endless paragraphs. Tough guys smirk at you, bad guys give you the stink eye and elderly women want to take you home. Who wouldn’t want to escape into Dumb Ways to Die 4?

Sure, shoplifting is a thing. An exciting thing? Most stores don’t let security guards do a damn thing about thieves, never mind apprehending and detaining them (despite what one might see on PornHub).

Imagine explaining that to a customer reporting someone taking a five-finger discount on an item they struggle to afford.

I find POSGIS (Phone-Based Security Guard Inattention Syndrome) an offense to my Puritan work ethic and sense of justice. It really gets my goat in places where I can’t carry a gun and shoplifters get a free pass. Like… the entire state of California.

Surfing/gaming/texting security guards are phony in both senses of the word. Security theater.


Staying in the realm of personal defense, there’s nothing more important than situational awareness.

As I’ve said many times, it’s the bus (i.e., mugger or rapist) you don’t see that kills you.

Thanks to earbuds, the majority of folks walking around town are having a conversation on their cell. They’re oblivious to potentially dangerous sights and, especially, sounds.

Yeah I care - if only because the smug walkie-talkie types are a constant reminder that the world is full of defenseless idiots keeping bad guys in business.

What really gets my dander up? Ambulatory earbud telecommunicators have all but killed one of the greatest things about living in Texas: friendliness.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t go for a walk without receiving a smile, a “hey” (the standard Austin greeting) or a tipped hat from everyone passing by. Shy retiring person that I am, at some point in my peregrinations I’d have a conversation with someone about something.


The plethora of mobile phone users strolling through town yakking-it-up have me wondering why we don’t give homeless schizophrenics a set of earbuds so it looks like they’re on a phone call. Like everybody else.


For most people, setting aside the virtual world during a casual conversation (or walking or taking a shit) is as difficult as leaving a line of cocaine sitting on a table. Not petting a puppy? Stopping for a yellow light? Something.

When I’m right there in front of you, blessing you with my most precious possession (my time), I’d prefer you don’t break our chin wag to text, read your emails or surf social media.

Is it rude to say “Do you mind putting your goddam mother-fucking phone away for ten fucking minutes”? I would never. Well, not more than once. What would be the point?

My point: even as the smart phone has taken a bite out of boredom, it’s dinged the value of “being present.”

That’s both dangerous and depressing. The reason I eschew in-helmet connectivity and turn off my phone for at least an hour a day. And twice on Sundays.

If Elon Musk has his way – and the success of his many endeavors and the number of children he’s produced indicates he will – there’ll come a day when we won’t need our phones. An incredibly useful evolutionary adaptation that’s sure to ruffle my feathers.

Will a smart phone plumbed into craniums have an off switch? If so, will anyone use it? Other than the fascist mandarins in The People’s Republic of China, I mean.

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