Once again, it's confirmed that trends start on the coasts and move slowly inland, only arriving in my part of the land when they're pretty well obsolete where they started. I remember being in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, on day-job business, and seeing people running around with little wireless ear units in their ears (often with weird, Borg-ish blinking LEDs). It turned out that these were partial cellular telephones, with the rest of the phone being carried in the pocket or otherwise out of sight, linked to the earpiece through the magic of Bluetooth. I heard that these units were costly at the time, and maybe they still are, although they've doubtless become cheaper. It was funny, though, to see maybe one person in ten running around with a blinking ear.
So, last evening I had my regular Thursday "extra" office hour for my students. Now, around the university, I of course see many cell phones. Most students seem to have an autonomic reflex that causes them to put phone to ear immediately on leaving any class. But last night, as I descended the stairway to leave Kettler Hall, a young woman was ascending the same stairs, chatting away loudly with nothing in her hand. She and I were the only people within sight. It occurred to me only after I had passed her that she undoubtedly had one of those earpieces in place -- hidden by her hair -- and was on the phone. It was a mildly jarring experience for me. I got to thinking ... I suppose the social conventions by which we more or less automatically evaluate others' behavior will need to adapt. Ordinarily, we think of someone who walks along talking to no one as a lunatic. Now, we'll need some other way of sorting out the hallucinating mad-persons from those who just have more advanced cell phones than we have.