I was walking down Fifth Avenue the other day when I saw the strangest sight--a man who was not talking into a cellular phone. No one walks in New York anymore unless he has a phone stuck in his ear.

"Is anything wrong?" I asked him.

"No," he said. "The airline I was calling put me on hold, and after 50 minutes my battery died on me."

"Does it bother you to walk down Fifth Avenue without talking to someone?"

"It's no fun, but since everyone else is talking they don't notice. From now on I'm not going to leave the house unless I have an extra battery."

The cellular phone has become so much a part of our culture that medical scientists are experimenting with implanting one in a person's ear at birth. The phone companies would pay for the implants.

All communication between people would then take place over the phone.

"You have to be home by 10 o'clock."

"I'm sorry, Ma, I'm in a dead spot. I can't hear you."

"If you're not going to marry me I wish you would tell me over the phone like an honest person, instead of to my face like the rat you are."

"Hello, Alfred. I just had a fender bender. Call the insurance company and then your brother Harry and tell him we can't come to dinner. Stop and pick up a rental car for a week, and go over to the police station to explain why I was driving without a license. I love you."

No one knows who invented the cellular phone, but he belongs in the history books with Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the person who developed Nintendo.

What makes it so essential for people to carry a cellular phone is, if a car hits them, they can always call 911.

The weirdest thing you can see in New York City is a person without a cellular phone. The odds are he is either from Wisconsin or North Dakota. It is not that they don't have phones there, it is just that they think it's bad manners to talk and chew gum at the same time.

I hope I will never see another person walking down Fifth Avenue without a cellular phone in his ear. It's enough to make a grown man cry.

(c) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate