I see a lot of things littering the side of the road--fast-food bags, beverage containers, hubcaps, busted cassette tapes and CDs, the occasional old shoe, and lots and lots of dead animals. But lately, I've been seeing a lot of something else lying there at the side of the road, usually in several busted-up pieces: cell phones. The way I imagine a cell phone winds up smashed into several pieces at the side of the road is this: Someone gets mad, really mad, and throws it out the window. It's easy for me to imagine this because I've done it several times myself.

The first time was during a phone conversation I was having with my wife. She called me on my cell phone from her cell phone to ask if there was anything special I wanted her to get at the grocery store. I told her I wanted some asparagus. But just as I said the word `asparagus,' one of us hit a dropout spot and the word suddenly got garbled. I kept repeating the word `asparagus' over and over, but she couldn't make out what I was saying.

There was no way I was ever going to get my asparagus, and so I began to think that I needed asparagus in much the same way someone with malfunctioning kidneys needs a kidney. And because my wife couldn't hear me communicate the one word that would have with all certainty saved my life, `asparagus,' I'd lost my temper and threw my cell phone as hard as I could into the corner of the dashboard. The reason why I didn't just throw it out the window is because I don't like to litter. It broke into several pieces.

I took the broken pieces of my cell phone into the cell phone store where I bought it and I planned on lying to the cell phone salesman about how it got broken. I didn't have a lie worked out, though, and when they finally called my number I just blurted out to the guy, `I got mad and I threw it kind of hard and it broke.' The guy looked at me for a second and then turned to another salesman at the back counter and yelled, `Hey, Steve, we got another chucker.' Apparently I wasn't the first person ever to get mad and chuck their cell phone. They even gave me a new cell phone for free. A couple of months later I chucked that one, too. I chucked the one after that as well. So far, I've chucked three.

There can't be one single thing that's in any way healthy about cellular phones. But still, I talk on my cell phone with its little hands-off headset while I drive my car as much as anyone I know. And turning it off and putting it into the glove compartment and only using it in case of an emergency doesn't seem to me like a workable option, because, like everybody else, I've grown dependent on them. They rule our lives. We are shackled to them. And most of us can't quite remember 10 years ago when almost nobody had one.

And for all those broken cell phones I see at the side of the road, I don't think of them as merely the result of some rage-aholic completely flipping his or her lid in a fit of temper over something as simple as a garbled request for some asparagus. I think of them as a chuck, a chuck for freedom.

Rick Cleveland
All Things Considered