“What are you doing!? Turn that thing off!!” An old man (most likely in his seventies) suddenly yelled at me in the train, pointing violently toward my cellphone. I was on the phone with a friend as I walked in through the train doors, located next to the courtesy seating area. Offended, and somewhat confused, I reluctantly closed my phone. What the hell was his problem? I could see a hint of fear behind his angry eyes, but I didn’t understand how it related to the “Cellphones Off” signs posted all over the windows and handles surrounding the priority seats. Of course I had seen the signs but, seeing no logical reason for turning my cellphone off, I ignored them.
The man’s reaction still confused me. At the time, I was still in middle school and had never noticed the courtesy signs. My experience in the train alerted me to cellphone usage wherever I went, for fear that another old man would yell at me for being loud again. I came to notice people talking loudly on their cellphones on buses, my friends rudely texting mid-conversation, and cellphones ringing during class because they weren’t on vibrate mode. I even began to recognize the same habits in myself. Society seemed to have forgotten simple manners and consideration for others.
However, when I related the experience to my mother, she disagreed on the cause behind the man’s outburst. Was it possible that he had a heart condition and therefore depended on a pacemaker? She explained that pacemakers were little machines implanted by your heart that send small electric pulses to help it contract. In addition, the electric signals from a cellphone alone could interfere with and even break it if exposed to long enough. No wonder the man had panicked; my phone had posed a serious risk to his life. It was the first time I had realized that something so commonplace in this modern age could affect the people around me so significantly.
Various pulse generating devices now exist that are less affected by external electric signals. The cellphones used today are also usually less than three watts and therefore do not cause as much interference with the signals. However, there have been instances where a pacemaker malfunctioned when exposed to external electric signals, resulting in injury to the health of its user. In recent years, health reports have revealed a case where the signals from the anti-theft machine of a jewelery store caused an error in a pacemaker, demonstrating the high risk pacemaker users face simply by walking into public. In order to protect their pacemaker...