Talk about jaw-dropping. Last Sunday's article, "Hear What I'm Saying?", on the new frontiers of digital technology use -- oblivious iPod zombies, cell phone-focused salesclerks and multi-taskers who text message from the bathroom -- brought a torrent of e-mails from readers eager to share their own amazing anecdotes. Below, some of the best.
I can add to your list of Amazing Scenes with my own anecdotes about patients who have been multi-tasking while I was performing a physical examination or about to tell them some grave medical information. No kidding. Several women have answered their cell phone calls, or initiated a call, while I was performing a pelvic examination. On more than one occasion a patient has asked me to put the explanation or examination on hold while she answered her phone.
-- Jerry Naradzay, M.D.
I write a guidebook used by the people who hike the Appalachian Trail. For almost a decade, I have been trying to get them to leave their cell phones at home, or, at the least, to use them only in ways that don't destroy the illusion of wilderness other hikers expect. I've suggested various guidelines, but this year I finally wrote: "Rule of Thumb: Use your cell phone only in locations and situations where you could have a bowel movement without risk of offending anyone." It's blunt, but this year I have had no one asking about possible exceptions to the guideline.
-- Dan "Wingfoot" Bruce
I got into a cab outside the CNN building and rode to the corner of Connecticut and Cathedral. The cabbie was on the phone the entire time -- no earpiece -- conducting another business. He went to change lanes and had to swerve out of the way of an oncoming car, throwing me across the seat. Since then, I have asked cabbies to stay off the phone.
-- Barbara Jackson LeMoine
A young staff member at a computer store kept looking down at the cell phone cradled in his left hand while I was asking him questions. I had to repeat some several times, and he gave me very short answers. So without warning or a word, I reached over, took his phone and put it in my pocket, saying, "I'll give it back to you when you've helped me." He was a bit shocked, but I have absolutely no tolerance for that kind of behavior. I also later mentioned his behavior to the manager.
-- Ann Winter Odette
I am an Australian teaching English in Japan, where is it not uncommon to see couples sitting down to dinner, both texting someone else on their cell phones. I can think of another use for the Walkman, however. Often, when I am traveling home from work, I am approached by a Japanese person wanting to practice his or her own English. Since this is what I do for a living, I do not want to do it while commuting. I found that if I put in my earphones, I am ignored. The batteries had been dead for months, but it serves a much greater purpose than giving me music -- it gives me peace.
-- James Marshall
Editor's Note: A typographical error in a graphic with last Sunday's article resulted in a misstatement of the number of personal digital assistants expected to be shipped worldwide in 2005. The correct figure is 15.2 million, not 15.2 billion.