I want to talk briefly about bluetooth cellphone headsets, as California’s new cell phone ban is due to take effect in a few months, and I might need to buy one for myself. The decision I face reminds of the plight of Stanley, the iconoclast everyman of absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, played by Gene Wilder in the 1974 film adaptation. In the story, Stanley and his friends are shocked (not surprisingly) when people suddenly begin turning into rhinoceroses. Ionesco takes the allegory for conformity in society to the extreme as more and more people turn into rhinoceroses–what was shocking at first, soon becomes avant garde. Desire to resist tranforms into envy as more and more people change into the large, clumsy, powerful beasts.
Which brings me to bluetooth cellphone headsets. Walk through an airport, an office, a mall, and you’ll see them–bluetooth headset wearers. At first, you could guess who they were–“early adopters”, trying to pretend that walking around with a piece of electronic gadgety stuck in their ear is perfectly normal. Of course, it’s not just early adopters anymore–in addition to the smiling gadget geeks with silver doodads with blue lights on them, there are now soccer moms, and grandparents and teenagers walking around looking like Lt. Uhura.
For me, the decision is not so much which bluetooth headset to buy, but rather, do I join the pod people, and walk around, wearing this ear widget like it is a perfectly normal thing to do, or do I hold out, like Ionesco’s Stanley, refusing to succumb to the inexorable tide of all of humanity tranforming into bluetooth-wearing rhinoceroses before his eyes.
The problem for me is the whole ostentatiousness of it all. It seems to me that the bluetooth cellphone headset, when worn all the time, whether in use or not, is not an adaptation of a functional tool, it’s just the latest incarnation of cellphone snobbery. It’s a way to say, “Look at me, look how tech-savvy I am. I am so indispensable that not only do I need to remain in constant contact with everyone in the world, but I can’t even allow my nonstop communication trunk line to interfere with my hands at any given moment.” It’s all so… pretentious.
So what do I do? If I don’t give in, then in order to use my cell phone in the car, I have to use a clumsy corded headset, or risk getting a ticket from California Highway Patrol. Or do I give in, and join the bluetooth-headset-wearing nerds?
Given that I am already pretentious enough to begin a geekblog post with a literary reference to an obscure French/Romanian playwright , then I guess an electronic cellphone dongle in my ear will fit right in. Bluetooth, here I come. Snort.