For the first time since I set my heart on a Wham-O Air Blaster back in 1962, I know exactly what I want for Christmas: A cell phone jammer. It’s the hot gift item this year, The New York Times reports, with one British manufacturer logging more than 2,000 holiday orders. For a few hundred bucks, this little beauty—the size of a pack of cigarettes— can, with the furtive press of a finger, instantly knock out all cell phone communication in a 30-foot radius. Next time you’re in a restaurant or on a train, and a self-important jerk starts bellowing into his cell about his latest business deal ... Zap! Sweet silence. Just imagine his sputtering incredulity as he struggles with his Blackberry—it brings joy to your heart, does it not? You also would no longer be forced to listen to that airhead prattling on about what she said earlier in the day to her boss, her mother, and her boyfriend. It might take ol’ motormouth a couple of minutes before she realizes she was blabbering to ... no one. Glorious! There’s just one small hitch: Cell phone jammers are, strictly speaking, not legal.
But acts of civil disobedience always require some judicious law-breaking, and restoring some civility to our narcissistic culture is certainly a good cause. If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people, says James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University. The cell phone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him. What a joyous holiday season it shall be, as I venture out to correct this misperception, with a smile on my face, my hand in my pocket, and my finger on the gift that keeps on giving. -William Falk