Ed Cullen’s “Attic Salt” column for July 8, 2012

BY ED CULLEN

Advocate staff writer

People who are ambivalent about cellphones know they have a receptive ear or inbox with me.

Only this morning, a kindred person sent me a diatribe from the New York Times that takes way too long to say: “We have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.”

No we haven’t. People whose idea of a big time is sitting around talking may be found doing just that in coffee shops, restaurants, friends’ homes and on street corners.

Often, these congenial people have summoned each other by cellphone. Easily alarmed essayists contend that the cellphone conversation is becoming the gathering.

People my age like to simplify everything. We call all instruments cellphones that allow us to talk to one another without benefit of wire or loud hailer. We call all other devices smart phones.

If I bear down and squint, I can tell the difference between a cellphone, a smart phone, a pod and a pad. Depending on how old you are, a pod is a bunch of whales, something with peas inside or a device for playing music.

Pads are what hippies called the places they kept their stuff and crashed. If you think crashing can only be a bad thing, the kind of pad you know isn’t big enough to store a sock.

There’s been a rash of essays in the newspapers and magazines that credit young people with discovering the ease of gathering while remaining where they spent the night.

The image calls to mind hipsters littered about the city on sofas and smart beds as they gather in the ether for coffee.

I ride bicycles with young people who never stop talking. Rolling down the street, gathering at tables outside restaurants or leaning against park picnic tables, cyclists use cellphones to see more of each other.

When the essayists aren’t griping about getting together in ways that don’t require tipping, they’re bragging about taking the bus, walking or riding bicycles (dumb cars).

The chic carless require smart phones to bail them out. The carless who can’t afford a car or a smart talkie thing resort to walking and walking and walking until they get where they’re going.

They do not write essays about all the walking one does when carless.

Soon, in this Next Great City of ours we’ll be able to ask our smart phones when the next bus will roll up. If we’re not willing to wait that long, we can call someone to come get us.

Now, this is hard to believe, but I’m told these phones are so smart they know who’s calling before we do.

That lets us decide if we want to go to the assistance of smart people who have our phone’s number or if we want to let them discover that the answers to all of life’s woes don’t fit in pocket-size, highly intelligent, thingamabobs.

People section writer and columnist Ed Cullen welcomes comments by email to ecullen@theadvocate.com.