Watching four '09s simultaneously whip out their cell phones and exchange phone numbers, my friends and I chuckled as we ate dinner at Food Court the other week. However, the joke is on us. No longer simply the hallmark of un-assimilated freshmen, cell phones have become the fall's hottest new accessory across campus. Rather than receiving a culture shock, the '09s are shocking the culture. With upgraded cell service in the Upper Valley, cell phones have gone from socially taboo to seemingly ubiquitous, found from the Green to Food Court to fourth-floor Berry and beyond.
Shorter lines at Blitz terminals and the ability to track down tardy lunch dates or lost friends on Webster Avenue are some of the attractive benefits of carrying cell phones. Even so, in order to preserve and appreciate certain aspects of Dartmouth culture, cell phone use should be limited on campus.
Certain quirks, especially the way students communicate with each other, make Dartmouth culture distinct. How many times have you sent a blitz in Collis, then immediately walked over to Thayer to check blitz again? Blitz (a noun and a verb) is much more efficient than cell phones in quickly contacting a group of friends to make dinner plans. It is a sub-culture all in itself. Excessive cell phone use erodes such identifying cultural idiosyncrasies.
Society's obsession with cell phones illustrates our overcommitted, fast-paced and fast food American lifestyle. With "not enough hours in the day," cell phones are a convenience that allows us to save time in our hectic everyday lives. The present does not matter. What will be happening next is more important. In this respect, cell phones are antithetical to Dartmouth culture.
Life moves at a slower pace in Hanover. On weekends, as Harvard students scatter into a thousand different directions doing a thousand different things (after they, of course, "pahk the cah at Hahvahd Yahd") and while Yale students gaze into the outdoors through barred windows, Dartmouth students dance to a different beat. Unlike East Wheelock residents, Penn students can rest assured that no moose will disrupt their beautiful Saturday mornings. The tolling of the Baker tower bell serves as our metronome. Students are content with simply reading on the Green or canoeing down the Connecticut River. At Dartmouth, Ivy League students cross the streets of Hanover in a fashion similar to dairy cows. The on-the-go nature of cell phones seemingly disturbs and contrasts with the slow flow of time in this quaint town.
How many times were you "too busy" to stop and talk with a passing friend on the Green because you were on the cell phone? A cell phone conversation about how much you drank last night can wait. Do not zone out the world. Take in our everyday surroundings, which, in reality, are not everyday.
Just look to the Hanover news cycle to understand our pace of life. One of the more recent compelling front-page capturing news sagas involved Panda House's credit card scamming (personally and affectionately christened "Pandagate").
The relaxed lifestyle and unique campus culture creates the "Camp Dartmouth" mystique. Not merely during first-year orientation and sophomore summer, "camp" feels in session throughout the entire year. Whereas other colleges bring their students to northern New England for weekend retreats to escape their daily reality, northern New England is our daily reality.
Though sometimes convenient, cell phones are also just another distraction in our lives. Include them in the list of sources of procrastination, along with Blitz, Facebook, Novack cookies and "Laguna Beach." If you turn your cell phone off to avoid being distracted, or to avoid becoming a distraction to others, what is the point of carrying the phone if you cannot be reached?
Beyond contributing to noise pollution, cell phones broadcast your private conversations to the rest of the community. Few Dartmouth students want to hear about your test results (and I do not mean on your last history exam) while walking down Tuck Drive.
For better or for worse, most of us will be married to our cell phones for the rest of our lives in suburbia and in urban America. The "Hanover bubble" allows for an escape from the hyper-drive society. The next time you have your hand to your ear, remember we can slow down our lives and enjoy four years of pensive tranquility here at Dartmouth.