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They're everywhere--in the library, at the gym, on Locust Walk, even in class; there is no escaping the cell phone. I've never seen such product have such dramatic effect so quickly. Just five years ago, cell phones were practically nonexistent, and today it seems everybody has one.

I didn't begin to question the negative effects of the cell phone until I was in Europe last summer. While I was there, I decided to visit a friend of mine who spends the summer with his family in a small town in Portugal. It's a very small town on the coast called Luz; the nearest airport is two hours away in the city of Farro.

When I arrived at the Farro airport, I looked around for my friend, but I couldn't find him. My flight was two hours late so I thought my friend might have gone and expected me to take a cab. I found the nearest telephone, exchanged my foreign currency and then called my friend's number.

When I was connected, I realized that I was talking to my friend's grandfather who was at the airport waiting for me. He told me exactly where he was standing, and I immediately saw him talking to me on his cell phone.

On the drive to my friend's home, I asked and how long he had been waiting for me. He responded that he didn't own a watch. I couldn't believe it -- how could he not own a watch?

He proceeded to tell me how he considers the watch an infringement on his freedom. He stated proudly, "Why should I buy a watch to tell me what to do? If I'm tired, I sleep; if I'm hungry, I eat. Who cares what time it is?" He proceeded to call the widespread dependence on time a "conspiracy invented by the Swiss to sell watches." Although I wouldn't quite call it a conspiracy, he does make an interesting point.

I find it very interesting that my friend's grandfather refuses to buy a watch, but cannot leave home without his cell phone. Couldn't the cell phone be seen as the same infringement as the watch?

My friend's grandfather doesn't like a watch telling him what to do; however, he doesn't mind having the cell phone tell him what to do. The watch and the cell phone both have a strong influence on the will of the owner. The difference is that in one case, the watch produces a dependence on a thing; while in the other case, the cell phone produces a dependence on people. In either case, if you become dependent, you will be incapable of making your own decisions.

Nevertheless, if it weren't for the cell phone, I would have taken a very long cab ride, and who knows how long Andr‚'s grandfather would have waited for me.

Clearly, the cell phone can be a wonderful device, but it can also be considered a form of subjugation. By agreeing to carry a cell phone, you submit yourself to the constant surveillance and scrutiny. In effect, you can never truly escape the people around you; they are always just a phone call away, which is why the cell phone is a lot like a leash. Today parents give their children cell phones so that they can check up on them, and most companies do the same thing so that they can keep track of their employees at all times.

Although the hefty monthly fees don't help your cash flow, the cell phone does help one thing -- your ego. It's a powerful feeling when people call you in a library, on the street, or at a restaurant. It makes you feel important. When the phone rings--in one of countless different sounds--it says, "Look everybody; I'm important; people need to talk to me!"

By the time you've bought a phone, given out your number to everybody and are trying to get escape, it hits to you -- the contract. You just remember that you signed the one-year contract. By the time the contract is over, you've become dependent on your new leash.

I used to think that technology, such as wireless communications and the Internet, was an unalloyed good, incapable of harm; now I'm not so sure.

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