Monday, June 28, 2010

Privacy And The Cross Town Bus

When I was a kid  gas was  cheap and cars were still new enough that going for a "ride" with no where particular in mind was considered an afternoon out. A road trip vacation that piled  our family in the car for hours on end was exciting. Since there were no portable DVD players to keep kids occupied and I for one got nauseous if I tried to read, my brother and I  would invent road games. Sometimes it was as simple as counting license plates from different states.

I created a new version of a road game the other day sitting on the Crosstown bus on 57th Street. It's called counting how many people have their eyes glued and their hands locked around their cell phone.  Let's just say I ran out of fingers to keep track with.

The profile of the people engaged with their hand held was pretty interesting. It was as ethnically, chronologically and economically diverse as the city is with shopping bags ranging from Daffy's to Bergdorf's.  Apparently television can no longer reach the masses but hand held devices can.

I was distracted from my counting by the woman two seats behind me who made three phone calls between 8th Avenue and Madison. It was hard not to be. Her voice was loud enough that I now know her phone number, that she has not been feeling well for several days and thinks she should have a blood test. I also learned  the flight dates of an advertising campaign she was booking for a client. She probably didn't think anyone would understand  the business transaction she was engaging in but I recognize words like ratings, three stations combined and presenting sponsorships. That was my business for twenty five years.

In a world in which people are in an uproar when FaceBook changes its privacy policy it is fascinating that no one seems to care who hears their conversation when they are on the phone.  Or that they worry about that seldom spoken but very common phenomenon called six degrees of separation.

I found myself traveling in a time warp remembering the days when I too would be frantic to get business booked no matter where I was. Although I don't recall ever conducting it on a bus full of strangers in a loud voice. I was trained at an early pre cell phone age not to use last names in public and speak in a whisper, because you just never knew who might be listening in.

I amused myself trying to figure out whether the three stations she was talking about were radio or television and if I knew who she worked for but my stop came.

I stole a good look at her before I got off. It was met with disdain. Apparently she found me rude.

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