There are people in college, right now, who’ve never seen a rotary phone. At the same time, there are mostly functional people who’ve never used anything but a rotary phone. Spin up this fantasy: A drunken frat boy gets himself arrested in an ass-backwards frozen-in-time backwater town where the teenagers are just now starting to burn Beatles records. When it’s time for him to make his one phone call, he can’t figure out what the holes in the jail phone are for. So he whips out his cellular. The deputy, figuring he’s pulled a weapon, freaks out and stomps the frat boy to death right there on the spot.
:Stranger things have happened. For instance, just recently, a regular American walked into his local Wal-Mart, bought a cordless phone, then went home and started making calls to his doctor and lawyer. Apparently, he made lot of these calls. And by some quirk of electricity and atmosphere, his neighbors started intercepting the calls. They found the conversations amusing, so they listened and talked amongst themselves about it. Eventually, the poor soul found out that the neighbors were having a giggle at his expense.
Did he think, “Oops! Silly me. I was talking about all this embarrassing stuff on a cordless phone. I’ll have to be more careful.”
Nope. He got with his lawyer, and they decided that the whole mess was the fault of that sneaky salesman at Wal-Mart, who never explained that cordless conversations weren’t secure, and those people at BellSouth, who had the nerve to manufacture the evil phone.
I think my phone experience is fairly typical, and I know I’ve heard my neighbors talking on their cordless phones. I’ve heard other people’s cellular conversations so clearly, I could recognize the voices and know whose conversation I’d popped in on. Once, on the supposedly secure land line in my office, I picked up two women gossiping about their boyfriends. It was pretty juicy, so I put it on the speakerphone so that I could listen to it while I worked.
I want a show of hands. How many of you people look at a cordless phone, see that antenna sticking out of it, hear all that crackling in the earpiece, and don’t realize this is a radio. Anybody? Boy, I sure hope not. If you raised your hand, you’re a danger to yourself and others. Turn in your driver’s license immediately, and don’t go anywhere near a lawn mower, you hear me?
Now, back to the unfortunate cordless-phone guy: He says he read in the owner’s manual that it would be possible for other people to intercept cordless calls, but he relied on the word of the Wal-Mart salesman that this just wasn’t so. (In the lawsuit sweepstakes, you have to say you did whatever dumb-ass thing you did because you relied on somebody with deep pockets or a big insurance policy.)
Cordless phone shoppers, listen to me: If my buddy Mark, who currently heads up a research group at MIT, ever gets tired of the elite scientist life and gets a job selling phones at Wal-Mart, y’all go ahead and rely on everything he says. But if the phone guy at Wal-Mart isn’t wearing a name tag that says Mark, and if he doesn’t know Walter Jowers from the old days selling guitars at Jay’s Music Center in Augusta, Ga., don’t listen to him. Chances are, he’s not an expert. Go with what the owner’s manual says. OK?
Now, you lawyers: If somebody walks into your office and tells you he’s got a beef with Wal-Mart and the telephone company because nobody sat him down and explained that cordless phones are radios, and radios broadcast over the public airwaves where any living soul can talk or listen, you tell him that everybody should know this before they get out of the sixth grade. Tell him to suck it up and get a grip. Tell him that there are microphones that can listen through his windows from miles away, and that there’s not a room in the world that couldn’t be bugged with a gadget small enough to blend into a long-nap-roller paint job. Then tell him that there’s no such thing as a lawyer who’d sink so low as to file the papers on such a bogus case.
C’mon, it’s plausible. You can do it.
Visit Walter Jowers’ Web page at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense