Fact: Cell-Phone Users' Brains Are Damaged

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

Fact: Cell-Phone Users' Brains Are Damaged

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

Fact: Cell-Phone Users' Brains Are Damaged
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Nov. 3 1999 12:01 PM

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

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Of course, the Cell Phone Haters Club has already convened an emergency meeting to discuss these exciting rat-related findings, which was the whole reason I had to rush out of the house so early this morning instead of helping you feed all the children, round up lunch money, sign permission slips for field trips to the Bronx Zoo in June, pick a wad of gum from the baby's hair and hustle the older ones off to the bus without jackets. The "dumb down" feature that cell phones are offering rodent users is no surprise to club members, however. We noticed the same phenomenon in human cell-phone users years ago and were just wondering how long it would take to make the species leap to rats. If cell-phone use did not cloud one's judgment and impair memory, then no person would ever use a cell phone a second time. The memory of the first "incident"--the fuzzy, barely audible sound of the person on the other end of the line, interrupted by "break up," the need to scream insanely into the phone, "BRING HOME A QUART OF MILK I SAID" while passersby stare curiously--would be enough to convince people to throw away the damn things immediately. If a cell-phone user retained any memory at all of how it once felt to have human dignity and not be enslaved to a ridiculous chirping machine that can summon you anywhere anytime to talk about the most trivial things, then that would be the end of an entire segment of the customizable digital gadget industry.

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Of course, cell-phone users, who don't remember what it felt like to live without the threat of severe mental impairment hanging over them, will rationalize the rat news. At least until, as you suggest, the rats do something interesting in a vat of beer. Don't forget, people have been ignoring possible health threats from cell phones for a long time now. Last fall, the venerable New York department store Barneys actually sold trench coats that had specially lined pockets for cell phones. Put a cell phone into the pocket and no harmful rays would waft through the fabric to attack your body. The coats sold well, I was told.

So if the rat work holds up, we'll probably see cell phone mittens next. And special muffling ear muffs to block waves from entering the brain through the unprotected ear canal route. And maybe nose plugs for good measure, because those waves are sly. You'll know the cell-phone users when you see them, that's for sure.

In other news, did you notice that a disgruntled office worker in Hawaii drove to work and shot seven co-workers yesterday? And our synagogue just installed an electronic security system that makes it impossible to get into the building if you don't know a multi-digit security code.

Joshua Quittner is Time's technology columnist and editor of Time Digital. Michelle Slatalla writes a weekly column about online shopping for the New York Times "Circuits" section. They are the authors of Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace (click here to buy it).