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Ear Piece


The first time I saw a Bluetooth it was on the ear of one of my daughter’s pediatricians. He is the only person I can imagine carrying it off. Everything about him screams “I am a little outrageous,” and that is why he is good at what he does. Warm, verbal, thorough and loud, he didn’t look silly at all. He just looked like my daughter’s pediatrician.

But I was in New York a few weeks ago and I saw a guy in the hotel lobby walking around with a Bluetooth on his ear. He didn’t look like my daughter’s pediatrician. He just looked stupid. You blazing idiot, I thought. You’re probably some yokel from Ohio trying to look all New York, strolling down the lobby like you’re closing some deal. You’re probably talking to your wife, back in Akron, driving home after the shift change. And even with his Bluetooth he couldn’t hear me.

Can you believe I could be so nasty? All because some poor schlub—and he may not even have been a schlub—had a Bluetooth. There is nothing wrong with people from Akron or even the whole of Ohio. There is nothing so special about being from New York. So who was I to draw snap judgments about people captive to unnecessary new gadgetry that just made them look silly?

Let’s face it, nobody ever really looked good in Spandex running pants back in the ’90s when people wore them. I had a pair on loan from a boyfriend. He had the good fashion sense not to wear them when he ran. I used to sleep in them. They were so slippery I could just slide out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I’d land in front of the mirror and just laugh. Those pants were the best argument against running I could have ever imagined.

But look, I’m wasting your time. I’m just stalling in order to avoid the searing truth that:

1. First I had all these lousy thoughts about some poor guy and his Bluetooth and . . .

2. A scant six weeks later, I own one myself.

In my own defense, let me say that I didn’t mean to do it. Purchasing it was a sort of out-of-body experience. It was only because of my children that I was in the Verizon store on Monday in the first place. On Easter evening, as I was leaving my office, my cell phone fell on the floor and spilled all its guts. I brought it home to my daughters, as-is, figuring that being a full generation younger than I am they would know what to do.

Madeleine looked at the phone: “Get a new one, Mom. It’s time.”

“But look. It just snapped open along this crevice here,” I indicated the spot. “Just snap it back together for me. With that little copper plate in the right place.”

“Mom,” Linnea said, “That’s the chip, Mom. And it’s not in a part of the phone that is supposed to ‘snap open.’ ”

“It’s time to get a new phone,” Madeleine said curtly and went off to do advanced conjugations of irregular French verbs.

“Really, Mom. Get a camera phone,” Linnea said more softly than her sister and went back to her Roman Civilization computer game of which she is presently the new—and surely compassionate—Caesar.

So I was at the Verizon store Monday morning. I asked the salesguy what I wanted and he told me. He told me what kind of rebate I would get and the date on which I should mail it in. He told me I could donate my old phone to a domestic-violence program. He said nothing about a Bluetooth. Who knows what came over me?

“And these things here,” I said, “These are Bluetooths?”—not really certain of the plural form. “What do they do?”

I spoke softly. There weren’t many people in the Verizon store, but it’s always best to avoid the appearance of utter ignorance.

“They’re just a hands-free device. They take the place of an ear piece. No wires. Nothing like that.”

“You mean you just put it on your ear and you can talk through that?”

“Sure. If you’re buying a Bluetooth-adaptable phone. Which you are.”

I thought about my ear piece, its wires reliably snarled up in my sunglasses and housekeys.

“And this one here,” I pointed, “This isn’t even a bluetooth, is it?”

I was pointing at a pink one. If I were to buy a pink one it seemed to me I would be making less of a commitment.

“I guess you’ve got a point there,” he said.

And as if I were ordering the Bison Burger at the local diner, I said “well, maybe it’s time I try a pink Bluetooth.”

What is there left to say? I promise not to wear it in public? I promise not to coordinate my outfits to match it? Already I have mistakenly called my Bluetooth a Blackberry, which is a mistake anyone who enjoys berries might have made. Already close friends are complaining that I sound ‘muddy’ on the phone. Or too loud. (Yeah, loud and muddy. Right.) Already my daughters have rolled their eyes so many times they have vertigo.

Yes, I bought a Bluetooth. But I gave back the Spandex running pants a long time ago. Things could be a hell of a lot worse.

—Jo Page

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