Oh, sure, this’ll be just swell…

Cellular phone technology is about to take a giant leap forward and make life considerably more interesting for all of us.

According to a recent Associated Press story, the latest generation of cell phones will offer optional video games which will allow cellular subscribers to play alone or join battle with like-minded gamers across the country.

No longer need you simply chat on your ever-present cell phone. Soon you’ll be able to fry space invaders and vaporize zombies with it.

Wheeeeee!

Sounds like fun, but I’ve got to admit that the thought of pop-eyed, cellular phone game players swarming over the landscape with giddy abandon gives me some cause for concern.

Think about it – when was the last time you were confronted by a wandering, 7,000-pound SUV whose grinning driver was happily chatting into a cell phone? Last week? Yesterday? Five minutes ago? Or perhaps it was shortly before you regained consciousness in the emergency room?

Unfortunately, people who try to operate motor vehicles and yammer away on their cell phones at the same time are not the most focused folks in the world. Give them some video games to play – and a crafty opponent to play against – and you’ve got a lively recipe for vehicular chaos.

Of course, the cellular phone companies are going to come out with some wishy-washy warnings to make it all right, telling customers not to play cell phone video games on the freeway if such activities prove detrimental to the operation of their motor vehicles. You know, something like: “Driving while distracted can be hazardous and possibly even illegal if you drive through the front window of a convenience store or flatten the postman…”

I’m sure that hardcore cell phone motorists are going to pay at least as much attention to such warnings in the future as they have in the past – blink, shrug, blink…

Once the video game cellular phones have caught on, you can bet it’s only going to be a matter of time until some genius adds a jack for an electric toothbrush or mascara applicator.

What could be better? Take care of important dental hygiene, customize those eyelashes and engage in a spirited game of Frogger while you’re rolling down life’s highway.

Don’t laugh. There are people who’ll do this. There are people already doing this. And they all drive bigger cars than yours.

Worse, this kind of mobility isn’t limited to crowded freeways or curvy mountain roads.

The same chatty folks drifting into your lane on Interstate 80 are just as likely to inadvertently make your acquaintance on a suburban sidewalk or in the aisle of a neighborhood grocery outlet.

There’s no escape, amigos.

One minute you’re happily picking up a bag of English muffins at your favorite supermarket and the next you’re swept off your feet and mounted on the front of a careening shopping cart piloted by an oblivious lunatic who’s cell phone-bonding with his golfing buddies in Gilroy.

Yeah, a good cell phone video game could really make this a win-win situation…

Originally published May 27, 2001

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