A Tough Call: Invisible Phone Or Invisible Friend

(Washington Post Photo Illustration; Images From Istockphoto.com)

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By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 23, 2006

Crazy?

Or cellphone?

It's the latest sidewalk game in the urban canyon:

On K Street, a guy in a tie screams at the air: "Who do you think you are?"

In Dupont Circle, a woman downing dainty bites of a muffin ponders, seemingly to no one, "Ummm, no." Then, more confidently, "No."

Outside the Capitol, a dapper suited young man circles a patch of sidewalk, stabs his pen at a notebook and jabbers whispered words to the ground.

Crazy?

Or cellphone?

Used to be that we knew immediately: The phones were, at first, way too big to miss. Then we learned to spot the subtler signs -- the hand cradled to the ear, the chiropractically problematic crook-necked shrug, the dark wire dangling down the chatterer's neck.

But now --

"Who are you talking to?" an older woman asks Vernal Hardy one day at Neiman Marcus. Inside the store's luxurious hush the noise of "crazy" is not only unacceptable but flat-out gauche. So the 26-year-old wearer of a wireless headset shows the woman the tiny apostrophe in his ear. It connects to his cellphone, and it's so itsy-bitsy it makes his watch face look like the moon on his wrist.

Of course, it employs Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology that creates "personal area networks among your devices, and with other nearby devices," which sounds vaguely kinky, like a new little friend with benefits. With measurements in the millimeters, this is the latest cellphone gadget to change the ways we denigrate each other.


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