Bluetooth Headsets and Rhinoceroses

BluetoothI 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.


  1. Since I don’t want to look like one of the ‘pod’ people, one of my requirements in a BT headset is that it be easy to slip on and off my ear (mostly the on part). Sounds a little ridiculous but think about it for a second.

    Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelmingly there that we can’t be holding these phones and driving. As it is, many people are terrible are doing 2 things, particularly 2 things that require so much focus (driving and conversing), so let’s face it – only requiring a headset is a compromise. I’ve long railed against this (and really so many activities while driving), and am happy to see this law coming into effect.

    Sorry Mr. Alex, gotta do it, but don’t worry we’ll all be ‘snorting’ right along with you.

  2. I know, I know. In the end I’ll probably get one for the car.

    I think with the application of whatever the cellphone version of Moore’s Law is, in few years the bluetooth headset will become the phone… just the headset, no handset.

    then what do we do?

  3. Actually I disagree. Phones are going to become people’s computers, and they still want to see stuff, touch and type. I know that’s what I want. If my Treo was just a little thinner, I’d be 100% perfectly happy with carrying it around all the time (I already do!)

    I think some models will shrink to that point, maybe if voice recog becomes amazing in noisy environments (which I think is close if not already here).

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