StarTac: The Next Irritation If you hold a clamshell to your ear, you can hear a sound like the ocean. If only you could hear the person you called.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – 7:58 Very very busy little man driving to the train. Gotta check voice mail. Make sure no nasty surprise when I get in. Car phone is broken like always. Screw the thing! Never works. Good li'l clamshell. Can you dial this pretty baby with one hand? The trick is to use your thumb for just about everything. The thumb is what separates us from the other mammals, so it must be good for something. Pull out the antenna with my teeth. The end is soft and a little mushy. Inedible gumdrop. Yum!

8:02 See what I mean? It's good to have this thing. Brush called, left voice mail. Big dude. Wants call back asap. Show him I'm on top of things. Early bird, get worm. Got to remember: Keep 8% of eye on the road while punching in 11-digit number with thumb in case a gardener's truck or small child decides to cross my path. Fatal accident would make me late for work.

8:02:30 Fast busy. Goddamn it! No cell in this area. Got to find new route to train. Punch redial. And again. And...

8:04 Get Brush. Finally. Actually Martha, secretary. Meaningless to impress secretary with punctuality of return phone call. Must speak with boss. Not in. Getting coffee. Any idea what he wants? No. Call back? Don't think so. Return call to cell phone requires it be left on, draining emotional reserves. Battery! I mean battery reserves!

8:06 Train station two minutes away. Swerve to avoid gardener with small child. It's ringing! I'm in! Brush wants to know if I have a copy of yesterday's Financial Times. I tell him I don't. We both agree that the weather has been very hot for too long, and that this is bad, particularly if it doesn't rain. Achieve closure without cellular cutoff. Quality interface with senior management complete. Good little StarTac. Bravo!

8:08 On train. Call voice mail. Look at this. Rex called.... What could Rex want? He sounded curt. Better call back now!

8:08:42 Fast busy. @#$@!

8:09 Get Rex. I hear him. He does not hear me. No credit for callback. Must not try again too soon, however, lest Rex learn it was me who interrupted him with aggravating cellular bushwa at this hour of the morning. But what if it was important?

8:17 More static! Mother bumping ferschlugginer @^%*&!

8:32 Get Rex at last. He wants to ask me what I wanted when I called him yesterday and he called me back from the street and we couldn't understand each other. I forget. We both agree it is hot for this hour in the morning, and then I go into a tunnel. Good ultra-senior facetime, and cut off at the right moment, judging by the expressions of hatred on my fellow travelers.

10:38 On street now. Going to buy cigar. Not waste time. Time is money. Who to call? Call Scapelli, Bordoni, Lazenby, Forbst, and Hecht, all of whom called me on my real phone this morning, but I didn't feel like talking to them. All of them out now. Leave voice mail. Tear up their message slips! Mission accomplished!

10:51 Don't want to go back to office. Find dry cleaning slip in pocket. Call to see if suits are in. They are! Very good connection. Must be excellent spot for cellular. Stand there and think about whether to call more people.

12:42 On way to lunch now. In danger of having an unstructured thought. Grab phone. Nobody to call. How is that possible? Stand on sidewalk. Feel the universe all around me. That's it! Must phone home! Get answering machine. On second thought, don't want to leave message for wife to get dry cleaning. Might be misinterpreted. Wife is not assistant. Hang up.

1:03 Lunch companion not here yet. Feel vacuous. Read sugar packet for a while. Look around me. Every table, somebody talking on teeny-weeny clamshell. Call my voice mail and discover that Rex has called me again. "Bing," says the message. "This is Rex. I've got to grpjsirj pshe rlsnhkr ns."

1:12 Call Rex from hard-wired phone. Not in. I call his cellular. "The Cellular One customer you have tried to reach has moved beyond the calling distance," says the phone. When I get back to my table, my appointment is there, on his StarTac.

2:23 Going to a meeting out of the building. Very hot out. Humid too. Dial phone while walking. Been out of office for six minutes. Already have message! Busy busy me! Hackenbush, whom I've been avoiding for weeks. Odious fellow. Big zit on forehead. However, have no one else to call, so call back Hackenbush. Terrible connection. Forced to make lunch date. No idea why. Walking toward meeting, look up to see entire herd of business-attired pedestrians marching directly at me, cell phones on ears. Possibly something wrong with this?

3:51 Go to get soda. Upon return, find message light flashing. Of course, it's Rex, on cell phone. Missed it again! "Bing," he says. "Call ya at 6:30 or so about borkzatz. If you're not in, leave your damn cell phone on and snfzwowk!" He sounds mad.

6:38 Must go home now. Leave office. Turn on phone as instructed. Slip in breast pocket. Start walk to train. Phone rings. Call from nabob while walking! What a hitter I am! Look around to see if people notice. Nobody does. Reach in pocket. Open clamshell. Notice something: one little power bar. That's all. Oh no! Battery low! Can't change it now! On phone! "Finally," says Rex. "Listen."

Beep beep, says the StarTac.

"There are several things wrong with the Gstaad document as emended. Are you getting this?"

"Yes!" I yell into the phone.

Beep beep beep, says the StarTac. Please, I pray. Don't go out now. "First of all, in clause one, there are references to..." says Rex.

Beep, says the StarTac, with a tinge of finality and...sadness?

"Hello?" I say. "Hello? Hello?"

My StarTac, he is dead. But I can power up again and be on the horn in seconds! @$!#$ No extra battery! Why not!?

Oh. Right. One in charger at home. One in charger at office. I am stupid.

7:12 Call Rex back from the phone on the train. He's gone. Leave voice mail. Call him at home? God, no. Bad protocol. He wants me at night, he calls me.

3:12 a.m. I wonder if Rex is pissed at me. I wonder if the mistakes in the Gstaad document are fixable. I wonder if there's any more ice cream in the freezer. I wonder if I'm too hard to reach.

I should really get a beeper.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.