I read Robert Samuelson's Aug. 18 op-ed diatribe against cell phones. Samuelson (and your readers) should know about a few uses for cell phones that my wife and I, who are of the pre-baby boomer generation, have found over the years:

* During Hurricane Isabel, with the regular, land line phones out, we could keep in touch with relatives and the world. Similarly, we could reach my brother in Florida recently as Hurricane Charley was passing by.

* When my wife was housebound for weeks after an accident, I could call her from the supermarket to ask about her shopping preferences, and it was added insurance to know that she could reach me quickly when I was out.

* When my car was hit in a parking lot by a woman who later refused the usual exchange of information, I could call the police, who came in a few minutes and extracted the information from her.

* When my daughter's car was hit head-on by a car that slid across the road on a turn, a witness was able to call for help immediately (air bags saved my daughter from serious injury, but the other driver was badly hurt).

* On a lonely stretch of road in Pennsylvania, when we saw a car pull over with engine failure, we were able to call the police to help the driver at once.

* When traveling, we can keep in touch with our family using our cell phones without having to pay the often outrageous fees charged by hotels for long-distance calls from room phones, and we can let people waiting for us know of travel delays. Several times, when we have become lost trying to find a friend or relative's house in a strange town, we could call from the car, say where we were and get instructions from there.

That's just a few of many instances. Yes, we, too, are annoyed by all the misuses Samuelson described, but he shouldn't condemn a useful technology because some people misuse it. He should go after the people!

-- S. J. Deitchman

Chevy Chase