I accidentally posted both a rough draft and final post earlier – this is the final post. Sorry for the inconvenience

I do a lot of traveling on the cheap. To do that, you have to have a pretty high tolerance for the weirdness of strangers.

How high is my tolerance? High. One year I flew in and out of Orlando 10 times. On Southwest. In ye olde cattle call boarding days.

My travel tolerance is pretty fucking high.

The one exception may be the flight that still lives in infamy as Travels with Chandlers, but these were very special people who drove everyone on the flight around them insane. Even then, I didn’t actually disembowel them, I merely fantasized about it.

When I fly, I knock back some valium with a cup of coffee and nothing matters. When I take the bus to New York, I don’t do this. I don’t mind bus rides, for starters, although any rational person ought to be much more afraid of being on the Jersey turnpike than being on an airplane. Also, I take the bus so that I can do homework and Husband can relax and read. Any homework I do on tranquilizers probably isn’t going to be my best work, so there’s that.

This past weekend, Husband and I went up to New York City for a belated celebration of his birthday (William Shatner in Shatner’s World) and an early celebration of my birthday (Alan Rickman in Seminar). Plus visits to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This post is not about those things. This post is about our bus ride home.

There were a few people on board our bus who couldn’t stay off their cellphones. Three of them knew how to use their indoor voices and were barely noticeable, but more on them later.

The 4th was sitting directly behind us.

We’ll call her Mimi Delicious.

It’s kind of a sin to talk loudly on your phone on the bus. Our driver on the way up would have shamed and humiliated Mimi Delicious.

Sadly, our driver on the way to New York was not our driver on the return trip.

Husband had the window seat and Mimi Delicious was seated directly behind him. She got on the phone while the bus was still boarding. A woman took the aisle seat across the row from Mimi Delicious and parked her small child in the seat next to Mimi Delicious. The child then produced a hoarking mucousy cough. I’m ashamed to admit that this filled me with a little bit of glee. I was later glad for the child that she had no further coughing spells, but I admit I was maliciously disappointed at the same time that Mimi wouldn’t have to endure a small snot-nozzle for a seatmate.

If anyone deserved that, it was Mimi Delicious.

Mimi could have changed seats with the mother, so that mom could have sat with her child, but she didn’t.

Despite being from LA and living in DC, Mimi Delicious apparently hadn’t seen any Jews in the wild in a while. She was very excited about being around her people, and who can blame anyone for that? I was willing to cut her a little slack. At first. At first, it was cute. She reminded me of a friend I went to Temple Beth Shalom kindergarten with – this probably allowed me to cut her a little extra slack.

But then her call went on for over 30 minutes.

Ten minutes later, she took another call. She then spent 25 minutes repeating every story she’d just told the last caller. Verbatim.

Third caller, same as the first. Two.

The 10 people she’d known at camp who now lived in The Ci-tay.

The delicious everything bagel with delicious scallion cream cheese and delicious whitefish salad and 8 delicious pickles she had for breakfast.

The delicious meal she had at the delicious french restaurant in NoLita.

The delicious tuna sandwich she had at Katz’s Deli at 2 a.m. (it was crowded, but it was delicious).

The 2 drinks she paid $33 dollars for last night. (Delicious!).

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The fact that I could hear the people two rows ahead of us saying “whitefish!” and “delicious!” and giggling madly suggested to me that Husband and I weren’t the only ones suffering.

Admittedly, it was pretty funny and Husband and I laughed at her. A lot. And we’re still talking about Delicious everything bagels with delicious scallion cream cheese and delicious whitefish salad and 8 delicious pickles.

When she got on the phone with the owner of the couch she slept on Friday night and started recapping the weekend, which I knew he’d also just lived, I knew I had to make a choice

The devil on my shoulder – who in these situations always looks like Bea Arthur for reasons I can’t fully explain – wanted me to call someone, anyone, and begin loudly recounting Mimi Delicious’s adventures as though they were my own.

Fortunately, the angel on my shoulder – who currently resembles Misha Collins as Castiel from Supernatural – convinced me this would be rude. And slightly crazy.

Because talking to the imaginary Misha Collins and Bea Arthur on my shoulders isn’t crazy. Not at all.

Instead I turned around, waved my hand until she couldn’t avoid catching my eye any longer, and quietly asked her to please keep her voice down.

What do you know? She had an indoor voice and she actually used it!

Then she got off the phone and passed out for an hour. Last call in New York Ci-tay is 4:30 and she’d played hard all weekend and had only slept until noon each day before having a delicious brunch with her friends who she knew in the Ci-tay, so I imagine she was pretty tired.

Sadly, she woke up when we stopped in Delaware at a rest stop. Later, she got back on the phone but only long enough to inform the caller that she’d lost her phone charger so she couldn’t spend much time on the phone, which made Husband and I laugh, until she informed the caller that she could call them back from her blackberry.

Thankfully, she didn’t.

Those other three people I mentioned at the beginning of the post? One was sitting directly in front of Husband. The other two were in the aisle seats – one across from me and the other behind her (the mother of the child seated next to Mimi). At one point they were all on their phones at the same time. What are the odds of that? Husband and I both found it generally amusing. It could have gotten really annoying, but fortunately only Mimi was speaking loudly enough to be intelligible.

You have to push me really, really far to earn public mocking on my blog. But Mimi, she succeeded. Compared to paying for gas, tolls, and parking in New York, the $28 for 2 bus tickets is a bargain, especially since most people who take the bus have some vague understanding that they’re crammed into a metal tube with strangers for 4 hours.

That little girl sitting with Mimi? She was much better behaved than Mimi. Mimi didn’t deserve to be her seatmate.

When the little girl started to get fussy about 10 minutes away from Union Station (our destination) and her mom coaxed her into singing “The Wheels on the Bus,” Mimi deserved that.

I tried to be charitable and remind myself that Mimi is young and she’ll grow up eventually, but Imaginary Bea Arthur kept reminding me that Mimi has been out of college for two years and it’s really time for her to figure out that her need to talk on her phone doesn’t outweigh the needs of everyone around her. Imaginary Misha Collins and I felt sorry for her, because we aren’t sure people with that much of a sense of entitlement ever really get a clue and that’s just sad.

It’s probably also sad that I was having imaginary conversations with Bea Arthur and Misha Collins on the bus on the way home from New York, but like Mimi Delicious I was also exhausted beyond belief and a little delirious. Husband tuned it all out and eventually took a nap.

A few weeks ago, Beth B and I took Megabus to New York City for the weekend. The bus itself was unpleasant (too warm, no legroom, no overhead luggage bins, blinding sun through the sunroof, and an extremely bumpy ride), but the trip was largely without incident.

Beth immediately made an enemy on the bus on our way up to New York, but that guy was the biggest ManBaby I’ve seen in a while. Even his girlfriend seemed to hate him. Luckily, we were able to immediately change seats before the ride even started, heading off 4 hours of potential unpleasantness.

This time, Husband and I took Boltbus, which we’ve taken in the past. Happily my memory was correct and Boltbus does have much more legroom, a luggage bin, and, you know, shocks. Megabus has many loyal fans and I say, “more power to them.”

I’m hoping Mimi becomes a Megabus fan. Maybe she and ManBaby will fall madly in love and live happily ever after. I’m sure the cake at their wedding will be delicious.

Mom and I were discussing cell phones and other etiquette conundrums.

Mom remarked that her geezer pals get up in arms when their spawn or grand-spawn take every cell phone call they receive, regardless of what else they’re doing or who they’re with. She’s also noticed that these same geezers can’t stand a ringing phone (landline or cell) and feel compelled to answer every call they received.

Her geezer crew is saying,in essence, “It’s rude when you take a call instead of letting it go to voicemail,but it’s polite when I show a caller the courtesy of taking a call instead of letting it go to voicemail.”

I thought this was a pretty astute observation. I had plenty time to think this because her phone started ringing in the middle of the conversation and she immediately took the call even though she knew it wasn’t important and didn’t even want to speak to the caller but she didn’t want to let it go to voicemail because that would be rude.

While I was sitting there waiting for mom to finish her conversation,I had time to think about a minor incident that happened once when we were at Target. The checkout lines were long. A woman and her developmentally disabled son were in the next line. The kid was asking his mom questions about everything in the impulse buy rack. There was nothing obnoxious or rude or loud about their polite conversation and it didn’t seem to be bothering anyone other than the two women in front of us.

As the wait dragged on,the women in front of us – who I came to think of as the Rabid Grannies – started talking about how their parents raised them properly and they had good manners and they would never have been obnoxious in public as a child in the 1960s because they knew how to behave.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard for people to understand that this kind of passive-aggressive nonsense is really the antithesis of good behavior. Their smug discussion was making everyone around them uncomfortable. My mom finally turned to me and remarked,”Have you ever noticed that the people who talk most about having good manners…usually don’t.”

What mom did was rude. It was passive-aggressive. It was also incredibly funny and it appeared to make the woman and her son feel better.

Thankfully more registers opened up,because I was afraid that mom and the Rabid Grannies were going to rumble if we stood there any longer.

What can I say? Mom and I never claimed to have good manners. You just can’t take some people anywhere.

Thanks to the ubiquity of cellphones, horror and suspense writers have a new set of cliches to work with when stranding or isolating a character. Unless that character is like me and owns an iphone, then the act of getting a signal and making a successful call becomes a far-fetched plot-point. But my point isn’t to rant about how, as a phone, my iphone sucks. Although it does. It sucks, a lot. It sucks so much it should be investigated as a public safety issue. My phone rarely works in my house. I’ve had perfect service on my AT&T blackberry in my house for years, but I switched to an iphone and now, nothing. Which means I have to keep paying for a landline, which aggravates me.

My point is just to post this, because it’s funny:

I was chatting with a couple of friends and I vowed not to answer my phone or even say the word “artomatic” tomorrow. Well, today, but I’m about to post this and go to bed so it doesn’t count.

I made a joke about how maybe I needed some aversion therapy to keep me from being tempted. I was envisioning all sorts of comedy with some sort of shock collar.

They, being new moms and puppy owners, immediately got serious about the task at hand and made all manner of helpful suggestions about various bitter apple products. They were so intense about it and clearly eager to feel useful to someone who used polysyllabic words and didn’t want to watch the Wiggles that I didn’t have the heart to remind them that the issue isn’t that I have a compulsive drive to put my cellphone in my mouth. Or artomatic, for that matter. Who knows where that thing has been!

There’s another hoax email going around, this one stating that December 14th is the deadline to get your cellphone onto a do not call registry. Here’s the FCC page about these hoaxes.

You may be one of many consumers who have received e-mails saying you’re about to be assaulted by unwanted telemarketing calls to your wireless phone. Rest assured that placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is — and always has been — illegal in most cases.

Read the whole advisory page

Recently I’ve been involved in a fair number of conversations with musicians and band managers where the topic of downloads – complete songs versus ringtones – comes up. Much marvelling then ensues about why consumers are perfectly content to “steal” musical content in the form of entire songs but pay real money for ringtones.

Now, the issue they don’t understand isn’t monetizing their work. They get that selling ringtones is a nice way to make money. They just can’t get beyond the creator’s perspective that the work only has value to the listener in it’s entirety.

The working assumption is that a ringtone is merely a small piece of a larger work, not it’s own entity. The 3 minute pop song has more value because it is “complete,” a supposition that misses some of the psychological and anthropological implications of cellphone ownership and identity-building entirely. I’ve been digging around in The Literature a bit because I’m sure there’s loads of theories about why people choose certain ringtones. I haven’t come up with any great summaries yet, as it’s slow going and I have other things on my mind.

I don’t know why it’s hard to understand that ringtones aren’t really for the phone’s owner. One exception being when someone chooses ringtones that differentiate one caller from another for convenience of amusement, rather than to tell others something about themself as the owner of the phone. Family members calling my phone are signified by the Addams Family theme song, for instance. Jim Dornan, Katherine Harris’s former campaign manager apparently programmed his phone to play the theme from the Exorcist when she called.

Your ringtone sets your phone apart from others in the crowd. Or, paradoxically, in the case of people who load the latest hit, it can help you fit in with the crowd.

Ringtone selection broadcasts information about the individual who owns the phone and it’s information that individual chooses to try and shape the way they are perceived by their peers. Ringtones are not privately consumed like tunes on an ipod, they’re broadcast into the public sphere and they’re loaded with layers of cultural meaning due to the fact that they are also musical.

If you want to focus on the issues relating to cognition, there’s loads of scholarly blahblahblah on the psychology of ringtones over on google scholar. Personally, I’d suggest ambling over to the site of the RutgersCenter for Mobile Communication Studies – they have enough information to keep you busy for a long, long time.