The New Nicotine

Cellular, Mobile, Cell Phone, Phones, Generic, RKF
Weekly commentary by Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

Another of our occasional reports on the end of Western civilization as we know it. Today's chapter: cell phones.

First, a disclosure. I have a cell phone, and it is a great way to stay in touch, but two weeks on the road has convinced me that staying in touch is not why people have cell phones. No, cell phones have become the new cigarettes, the crutch we lean on when we're nervous; something to fiddle with when we have nothing to do with our hands. Think about it.

Back when we all smoked, the first thing we did when we got off an airplane was grab a cigarette. Now we grab a cell phone. The hold that these things have on us is stronger, though, than nicotine.

I watched a man the other day try to take off his coat on a moving train and put it in the overhead rack while talking on his cell phone. Did you ever try to take off your coat one-handed?

Most cell phones calls come down to no more than this: `Here's where I am at this very minute, and I'll call you later,' which is harmless enough. But here's why I worry. Sooner or later someone will decide these things are bad for you, because that's what someone always decides sooner or later, and they will be banned, which means the sidewalks of New York, which is a city of tall buildings surrounded by young women smoking cigarettes, will be jammed up even more with all those people coming outside to use their cell phones.

That will leave the rest of us no choice but to walk in the streets where we'll have to dodge all those drivers using cell phones. This is not good.

By Bob Schieffer