What’s the hang-up?
It doesn’t take more than one or two gondola rides before that familiar sound of a cell phone ringing fills the cabin.
“Hello?” the person says, “I’m on the gondola. … What? No, on the gondola. What? About halfway up. Yeah, hang on, I can’t hear you. What?”
And so it goes.
“It’s idiotic,” said part-time Aspen resident Juliet Mcvicker while she was riding the gondola on Saturday. “It’s unconscious and rude.”
During informal polling Saturday, it became relatively clear that though gondola riders don’t necessarily agree, nearly everyone feels strongly about cell phones.
A quick call to meet someone is generally OK, but any conversation more serious than that is not.
“Usually I’m against it,” said Pari Harrison, of New Jersey, “unless I’m on the phone.”
That seems to be something of a common refrain, though people won’t necessarily acknowledge it until that familiar jingle emanates from a jacket pocket.
“I gotta get this,” said Roscoe Rogers, of Chicago, just after a conversation about cell phone usage.
“Willis!” he said, upon answering the call.
“It’s our other member,” said Sean Goretskie, part of the group Rogers had come with from Chicago. Rogers and Goretskie basically agreed that if it’s just buddies on the gondola, no one really cares. They’re just trying to meet up.
“We’ll be at the top,” Rogers said. “Well, we might not be exactly at the top, but we’ll be somewhere near the top.” He paused. “We’re in the gondola.” He paused again. “Call me when you get to the top.”
Some, like Mcvicker, weren’t even very happy about the phone call to meet up.
“They don’t have a plan,” she said. “And they don’t have a plan by the end of the phone call, either.”
Others noted the convenience of finding a friend or relative.
“It can be convenient if you’re trying to track down a kid,” said Denver resident Pauline Wilbert.
But she wasn’t so understanding of the average call.
“Most people talk on their cell phones to get attention,” she said. “If you’re here, why would you want to be anywhere else?”
Indeed, many agreed that a cell phone takes the user out of the present, so they can’t communicate with other people in the gondola. If the yapping is loud enough, other people can’t talk very well either.
“My husband is cheating on me with his Blackberry,” said Pari Harrison. “He’s there, talking to us, but he’s not really there,” and she motioned with her hands, typing on a Blackberry.
Kris Kaplinski said he doesn’t own a cell phone for those reasons. “I got rid of it,” he said. “I would talk on the gondola. Instead of making a plan to meet at 11, I’d just talk on the cell phone.”
He pointed to the little opening that allows fresh air into the cabin. “This hole here,” he said, “is for cell phones.”
Something else that numerous people mentioned is the disagreeable nature of listening to someone chat about a personal matter.
“The loud talker,” Jim Kravitz said, “is probably going to be a family dispute: ‘Oh, he just got out of rehab?’ I don’t need to hear that.”
Kravitz said he didn’t mind the quick find-a-meeting-place phone call. It isn’t really all right, however, to brag about the ski run, like one phone call he overheard that went something like: “Nature hasn’t come up with anything good enough for me. I pretty much ripped the whole mountain.”
Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org