Several years ago, as the scourge of rude cell phone behavior was just beginning, a friend of mine boarded the gondola on Aspen Mountain with a group of strangers, including a man who immediately proceeded to do long and voluble business on his Nokia. When this cretin finished and grinned around at the rest of the riders, another passenger asked him how much his phone cost. "About $300," the caller proudly confided. "May I see it?" asked the other passenger. "Sure," said the caller, passing it to him like a giddy parent showing off baby pictures. The other passenger then calmly tossed the offending instrument out the window and silently handed its owner three C-notes. The rest of the gondola broke out in spontaneous applause.
Unfortunately, not even bold efforts such as this one have stemmed the onslaught of a new social disease¿cellitosis, the obnoxious abuse of the latest personal communication devices. Using a cell phone on a ski mountain to conduct business is an alpine effrontery that should embarass the hell out of anyone who does it. A practice that should be conducted like a peep-show fetish, in shame and secrecy, is instead flaunted. Guess what? We don't care how important or busy you are! And no one looks good with a slab of plastic and an antenna grafted to his ear¿not even the Secret Service.
There are simply some places in this world where cell phones shouldn't be allowed: theaters, churches, museums, libraries, honeymoon suites¿and on lift-served mountains. The backcountry is another matter because a phone can save lives. But even there it can be a bane. I had a guide in St. Anton last winter who received no fewer than five business calls while we were off-piste before he finally shut the beast off and skied like a free man.
Isn't one of the reasons we go to the mountains to get away from the jangle and grind of it all? The horns and sirens, the TVs and stereos, jackhammers, fax machines and printers applying pressure like a daily dose of steel clamps on the brain. We shouldn't let our demons pursue us to our last refuges. In Aspen the city council has actively considered banning cell phone use in cars. I only wish they could do the same thing with the ski areas.
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