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Cell Phones–Boon or Bane?


Dear Source:
I think I'm probably akin to a dinosaur because I don't have a cell phone. It seems like everyone over the age of 6 is carrying one around these days and the advent of those little earpieces has led to some interesting experiences.
I was in the supermarket the other day and assumed a little old lady laboriously pushing her cart around was talking to herself at length (not uncommon and I'm known to talk to myself while shopping!) until I realized she was yacking away to a friend via that earpiece and continued to do so even while going through the checkout. There are many times when someone close to me has said something and, thinking they're talking to me, I've turned to say, "Sorry? Excuse me?" only to get glared at. Oops – that little earpiece again!
And I really don't need to know everyone's personal business when standing quietly in line awaiting my turn at a shop, bank, business office, etc., and cringe with embarrassment when a cell phone user goes off loudly about the boyfriend/husband's infidelities in great detail. I've been forced to be privy to gory details about a recent surgery, a bad traffic accident and countless other personal experiences and observances which I've no need or desire to know.
I gave a lot of thought a while ago to getting a cell phone, mainly to use in case of emergency. I thought it would certainly be handy, if not a lifesaver, if I were away from my landline and had a problem as in car breaking down, getting involved in an accident, getting car- jacked, even landline going down, whatever. The more I thought about it the more the expense seemed more prohibitive. And now the crux of this letter – the reliability of cell phone service and the ability to use it, period.
From my experience, reaching someone on island on their cell phone number, particularly after 6PM or on holidays, is next to impossible unless one is ready, willing and able to devote time to continuously re-dialing. Calling someone off island doesn't seem to be a big problem and these calls seem to go right through.
"Your call cannot be completed at this time, please try your call later" is the constant pre-recorded response. Depending on the carrier, the message is either in English or in Spanish or one followed by the other. My knowledge of Spanish gets me through, "per favor" and "mas tarde" so I get the gist.
It seems obvious that cell phone providers here can in no way adequately accomodate the needs of locals and our transient society. Cruise ship employees and visitors tie up all the circuits on heavy cruise traffic days; island "newbies" and snowbirds opt for cell phone service; and even if the "newbies" do eventually decide to stay here for a while, Innovative has gained a pretty bad reputation for new installation requests.
Cell phone etiquette is one thing but the lack of available circuits for cell phone users is infinitely more serious. God forbid we have another major hurricane and the landlines go down. I can see resulting mayhem on the horizon!
Anna Clarke
St. Thomas

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