The Truth, Mainly - 11/20/2006

Cell phones threaten marital bliss?
by Leon Satterfield

"Nosiree," I tell my wife as I cross my legs. "I don't believe I will."

She's talking to her mother on the regular phone—you know, the kind of phone that God and Alexander Graham Bell intended we talk on. That is, it's got a cord that goes into the wall, a kind of tether that keeps the phone from wandering about.

And I just told my wife that I need the phone so I can make a very important call.

That's when she tells me to use the cell phone. You know, the phone that isn't visibly connected to anything.

And that's when I cross my legs and tell her "Nosiree. I don't believe I will."

She frowns and a question mark appears over her head.

"I've got to hang up the phone now." she tells her mother. "He's your son-in-law and he's afraid of talking into a cell phone. He won't even get close enough to a cell phone to hear the person on the other end of the call. Yes, he's a little loony, but we have to remember that he's male."

Then she and her mother have a little discussion about how males get senile at an earlier age than females.

"There, there," my wife tells me when she finally hangs up. "I won't let the big bad cell phone get my poor old senile husband."

"Sure," I say, "make fun of your lord and master. Scoff at the mate who for the last half century has protected you from newly invented threats to human sanity."

"And," she says, "you know all about such threats because they've been eating away at your sanity ever since we got our first television set."

"Heh heh," I say, pulling a crumpled piece of paper out of my hip pocket. It's a print-out of a piece of e-mail with this title: "Cell phones vs. sperm."

And I read aloud the opening sentence: "Researchers say that men who use cell phones frequently have significantly lower sperm counts than those who don't use cell phones at all."

My wife sighs and looks out the window.

"I should have known," she says. "It's your sexual insecurity again, isn't it? Getting in your way of using the cell phone."

"Not insecurity," I say. "Science."

And I read aloud again:

"Of men in the group with a normal sperm count, non-users of cell phones had sperm counts averaging 86 million per milliliter vs. 50 million for those using a cell phone four-plus hours a day. The spontaneous movements and the form of the sperm also seemed to be negatively affected by cell phone use, the research showed."

"So," I say, "how do you like them apples?"

"And just what," she asks, "were you planning on doing with the extra 36 million sperm you'd save by not using a cell phone? Fifty million sperm not enough for you?"

"Heh, heh," I say. "You can sit there and make cruel jokes about me losing 36 million sperm. Is nothing sacred?"

"Pish tosh," she says. "How many babies have you given birth to?"

"I'm a boy," I say. "Boys don't give birth."

"You think I haven't noticed?" she says. "Boys don't change dirty diapers either. They just come home from work, chuck the baby under the chin, and say 'Hey, there. Daddy's home.' Then they hand the baby back to Mommy and sit down to read the sports page while Mommy is getting supper ready."

"Maybe that's the way it used to be," I say, "But now we have cell phones. And the researchers here say that 'electronic radiation of cell phones and the heat they generate' are 'possible reasons for sperm differences among those using cell phones and those not using them.'"

"You know what your problem is?" she says. "You've watched 'Dr. Strangelove' too many times."

"Hah?" I say.

"And you've apparently confused yourself with the part played by Sterling Hayden," she says. "You remember. His name was General Jack D. Ripper, and he thought he was suffering from 'lack of essence,' because the commies had some method for drying up what he called his 'precious bodily fluids.'"

"Yeah," I say. "I remember. It made me a pacifist. But don't you see? Cell phones are doing the same thing the commies in the movie were doing. And if they're not stopped, it'll eventually be the end of the human race. Or at least that portion of the human race that use cell phones."

"You are a booby," she says, quoting one of my favorite lines from James Thurber, "and I'm going to have you put in the booby-hatch."

She's just joking.

I think.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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