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Phone Phreaks 

Stuck inside of mobile with the cellphone blues again

In my humble opinion, cellphones have three uses:

1. Receiving obnoxious calls from relatives (including boyfriends/girlfriends) at the most improper of times. Examples: your mother needs a favor when you're in a meeting at work; a drunk friend needs to tell you how much he (or she) loves (or hates) you -- at 3am; your partner (as in sexual partner) needs answers to questions about life, the universe and everything involing your relationship when you're in the middle of a project you need to finish in five minutes.

2. Receiving obnoxious calls from bosses wondering about the project you were supposed to send five minutes ago (you know, the one you were in the middle of when the significant other wanted to know about life, the universe, etc.). Sometimes bosses get excited and call for very specific data that you have at the office, a few yards from where the boss is sitting and nowhere near the traffic jam off I-77 that you're currently stuck in. Since bosses don't know how to operate Excel -- or a computer, for that matter -- you tell him the information in a garbled cellphone voice that he doesn't understand. He eventually tells you he'll just look at it once you get into the office because it really wasn't all that urgent anyway.

3. Sending/receiving emergency calls. This is the reason cellphones were invented in the first place, which is why doctors had them before the rest of us did. At this point, though, emergencies have become everything from the very important secret in a cooking recipe to the very important gossip someone forgot last night and just has to call you to find out.

Within those three uses, we get calls from that subspecies of cellphone user known as the perennial teen -- you know, the friend who calls and asks, "hey, what're you doing?" just because he has nothing better to do and his life is so useless he needs to know what other people are doing with theirs. Everyone has one of those friends, and with cellphones there's no escaping from them.

In Mexico -- and most of the third world -- mobile technology is a little behind, service is still a little noisy and the phones are not as cool-looking as they are here in the United States. And since economics is a big factor in the plans, ours have a feature called "whoever calls pays," which takes the burden off the recipient. It allows you to avoid the anxiety of having to think about the cost of an unwanted call from number 2 above, and makes number 1-type callers think a little before hitting "send."

This says a lot about how phone companies in bigger economies are able to find more ways to take people's money. But if people are stupid enough to make a call every time they feel the need to say hi to Mom, or hold up their phones during the power ballad at a rock show, or talk from the stands at a NASCAR race, they deserve to pay a premium.

These are the same people who act surprised when their bill comes in, and argue with some poor service clerk about "stolen minutes," protesting, "But I just use my cellphone for emergencies!"

Hernan Mena, a native of Mexico, is the associate editor of the regional Hispanic weekly newspaper, Que Pasa.

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