by Anil Antony | 10/23/01 5:00am

Have you noticed this new species roaming the country? They look and act just like you or me, for the most part, with one exception -- they seem to have cellular phones surgically grafted to their heads. I thought that, perhaps, I attended college at the one place immune to invasion by these people, but it looks like I'm wrong. I knew this place was doomed, as well, when a phone rang in my econ class. But at least there hasn't been a full-out assault by the cell-phone toters. Recently, I was sitting on a MetroBus in DC, admiring one such implant and picking out bits of conversation.

"Oh, you know I can't wear brown; it makes my hips and legs look big. And you know I've got my mother's thighs," and "Oh yes, I agree the dunklet is more palatable than the crme de obesit. However, you must consider the ramifications of assimilating the zest of spanagula and essence of orangula in a kilbastisch concoction."

I should preface this next part by mentioning that I was transporting a TV to a friend's apartment for storage while I was out of town. As I sat down, I removed the remote from my pocket and instantly found myself being eyed by the cell-phone-toting creature across from me.

People in DC are great at this; old ladies, little kids and businessmen are all alike. It starts as an innocent exchange of glances, but suddenly you feel eyes fixed on you. Unsure of what to do next, you unfortunately decide to return the look, and boy, do you end up wishing you hadn't done that. It's bound to end in you looking for a seat to crawl under and hide from their penetrating glares. An old lady once stared at me for 15 straight minutes on the way to work, while I fidgeted and shifted weight uneasily. She was merciless, and by the time I reached my destination I was perspiring heavily and had wet my pants.

But back to this fellow on the bus

"I see you have a Microdigitaltes-ticularelephantitis 3000," he remarked, eyeing the remote. Or at least that's what I think he said.

"Is it serious, Doctor?" I asked, somewhat taken aback by this sudden diagnosis. "Shouldn't you examine me first?"

He gave me a look that could have soldered metal, obviously not appreciating my witty reparte. "No, your phone. I've been thinking about getting one, does it have wireless internet access?"

Pausing, I glanced at the remote in my hand, then stared at him and breathed deeply. "Actually, it's a remote," I said simply.

"So does it do anything else?"

"Well, I use it to change channels, adjust the volume, set the time and occasionally it'll surprise me and allow me to program my VCR correctly and tape my favorite show on the Animal Planet." (What a great channel ) Perhaps this reflects a social change, or maybe it points to my complete ignorance of modern technology. I don't know even know what "digital" means, and honestly, I don't care. Consequently, I often have entire conversations in which I'm totally lost. The only thing that keeps me for being exposed as the fraud I am is that I occasionally blurt out some technological tidbit (like, "yeah, I've never trusted those pixels before") that's enough of a contribution to divert attention away from me and my general ignorance.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in such a situation. I had accidentally broken my Golden Rule No. 2: Don't start a conversation about technology (Rule No. 1 being "Always apologize for what you may or may not have done the night before." It's a long story.) and mentioned that I was planning to purchase a new computer. Immediately, my friend, Joe, pounced on me like I was a freshman girl in a frat basement. "So, Anil, tell me about this new computer."

I could already tell that I wasn't going to like this conversation. "Well, it's big. And it's got a real big screen and one of those typing things."

"A keyboard?"

"Yeah, yeah, one of those. And I think it has a modem, and it's lime green." Being an intelligent Dartmouth student, color is so important to me in making important decisions.

"So, what type of computer is it? I believe the Dell Excrement III is the best on the market, currently. How many megafalafels does it have?"

"Well, I think it's an Apple Defecta 2001 model and it's fast." I was really struggling here. I needed something to jumpstart the conversation. "Oh yeah, it's got a CD player, too!"

"CD-RW's come standard on most laptop and desktop model computers nowadays, Anil. Does it have a DVD player as well? And how much RAM does it have? Free MSN service?"

And in a deluge of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), I was lost. I don't really feel like relaying the rest of what transpired. Let's just say that the conversation deteriorated thenceforth, and it was a thoroughly embarrassing experience.

I concede defeat. Technology has won. It's time for me to move to a cabin in the woods of Montana, although I think they charge roaming rates there.