Hang Up & Wake Up

Fall 2012

It’s a pet peeve of mine. I happen to deplore being forced to listen to a total stranger’s personal cell phone conversation by mere public proximity.

I am pretty sure I decided this after being inadvertently subjected to a 40 minute dissertation on the finer points of lesbian S&M sex, blood letting and all, while dining out one night in Seattle in the late 1990s. A group of four women were sitting one booth over from mine in a popular Capitol Hill eatery, and they were not only having an open discussion about this topic over dinner, but talking to someone on the phone about it at the same time. TMI ladies. Enough.

Fast forward to 2012:  It’s the greatest case made yet for encouraging chattterbox Americans everywhere to “hang up” and cease & desist talking on their cell phones non-stop in public places. Police departments across the country have noticed a sharp upward spike in thefts of smart phones this fall, following on the heels of the release of the new IPhone 5 and other popular new phone models.

In New York City, 40% of all reported robberies are smart phone thefts. In San Francisco, 50% of all reported crimes are related to stolen smart phones. Cell phone theft in Los Angeles has spiked 27% since the same time last year. 25% of all crimes in L.A. are now smart phone thefts. Police departments are overwhelmed with these burgeoning cases, and the probability of recovering all of the stolen phones is very low.  NYPD cops stated in an interview that they have recovered exactly ONE stolen smart phone in 6 years. Some phones have clever apps that will help locate them, but not all.

As most young people now carry the digital footprint of their entire lives on their smart phones, if the phone is snatched they become instant targets for home invasion, identity theft, kidnapping, rape, child abduction, blackmail, extortion and every other felony offense that can be committed due to suddenly acquiring the entire personal life dossier of a total stranger whose cell phone you have just stolen. Home addresses, bank account data, employment data, Paypal account data, photos of close friends and family, [ including all the women and girls in the family ] every bit of private data imaginable that is pertinent or personal to the owner is stashed away on their smart phone. It’s a hardened criminal’s dream come true cornucopia of possible looting and ransacking to grab one of these gadgets then bolt away and disappear.

In San Francisco smart phone owners have had their phones grabbed out of their hand while they were still talking while sitting on a city bus or transit, then stunned with their jaw still on the floor watched helplessly as the perpetrator jumped off the train or bus and disappeared into the crowded street. That ought to teach anyone a hard earned lesson about yammering incessantly on their phone in crowded public places.

It’s a wake up call, pun fully intended.

The smartest thing a smart phone user can do is NOT to talk on their phones while in a crowded public place. But do you think these “phone addicted” people are going to do that? Probably not.

So since the American public most likely won’t stop talking everywhere in public on their phones, they might at least make an effort to use some modicum of whatever remaining common sense is still left in them, that has not drained into the electronic bowels of their “smart phones.” Here are some of my ideas for this dilemma:

Consider the following safety tips to keep your phone in your own possession, and not lose it to the scabby 92 lb. meth head who follows you to the bus stop everyday:

  1. If you MUST make a phone call in public, step into a ladies or men’s room, check to see how many people are in there before you do, and make the call from inside one of the stalls. If the restroom is crowded, find another private discreet spot – away from crowds of strangers.
  2. Delay non-urgent calls, walk to your car, get in your car, lock your car – [ do not start or drive your car, that’s a no-no] and make your call while locked in your car.
  3. Look around you and keep your awareness UP [ not head down on the phone ] while you walk city streets. It’s child’s play for a crook to snatch a smart phone, as most people now walk along urban streets and parks with their heads down, looking at their cell phones. If someone had been following them for 3 city blocks they would most likely never even notice it. Turn your phone OFF and look around you while you traverse the city on foot.
  4. If you discover that someone you don’t know is following you, do the absolute opposite of what you would imagine you should do [ which is to speed up your steps and try to get away ].  Instead – stop in mid-step, turn and walk slowly past your follower, and look them dead in the eye for as long as you can to memorize their face really well, which will stun and unnerve the stalker. Then turn into the first store front you find, whether you intended to shop there or not. Go straight to the nearest clerk or manager, [discreetly] and ask them to let you out the back door. Tell them you suspect you are being tailed by a possible attacker and you need a safe exit. No one will refuse to help you slip out the back door and make a safe exit. I’ve had to do this before to lose a stalker and it works. Remember this tactic ladies. And don’t forget to remember that face. If you see another crime on the news later, your memory might help to solve a crime.
  5. Tell those you love who are your family where you are going – in person – face to face – before you leave the house. If your phone is stolen, you won’t be able to make contact with them later in those first few minutes and it’s important they knew ahead where you were going.
  6. Travel in cities in twos, threes and fours when you are on foot. This is something I always noticed that college women did in Chico California as the popular college town had a long list of unsolved rapes and murders, which meant a perpetrator[s] was most likely still at large. Traveling in small groups when on foot is the safest possible thing you can do. That fact alone will discourage a stalker or would-be thief, as the odds fall for their crime to be a success with each additional person who is traveling with the group. The incidents of rape and murder of young girls and women would drop substantially if they were accompanied by a friend or a family member when they travel in urban settings, public parks, hiking trails, strange cities they don’t know well, or when they travel anywhere outside their personal “comfort zone” in their own towns. It has always alarmed me that parents still allow their school age children to walk to school alone. It’s really NOT safe to do that anymore in this country. If recent headlines haven’t convinced you of this fact, you are asleep at the wheel in your life. Make a way for your school aged children to be accompanied by someone from your front door all the way to school and all the way back home if you cannot do this yourself. It’s the only way you can be sure your child is safe.
  7. Don’t give your Iphone or other smart phone device to your child to play with while you shop. It’s an invitation to theft and even child-napping. Turn the phone off, put it away inside a pant pocket on your person. Never let your child out of your sight either. This should go without saying.
  8. Finally, make a concerted effort to rediscover the good common sense that you have lost or misplaced along the trail in life. Everything I’ve listed here is a function of common sense which needs to be applied when police departments are cutting back everywhere, less officers are on the street, overcrowded prisons are either shutting down completely [ as was the case earlier this year in part of Oregon ] or they are being forced to let loose many dangerous career criminals who should be behind bars. This [ the crime wave] is not going to get better. It’s the final trickle down effect of towns and cities struggling to keep their budgets in the black and their law enforcement agencies staffed. Start thinking pro-actively and defensively about how you move about in the city, and how, or where, or even IF you really must be on the cell phone all the time.

Hang up, pay attention and look around you. It could save your life. Oh yeah and don’t forget to watch out for bears. They sometimes steal Ipads.