Immobilized Mobile Phones

For businesspeople who can't afford to be out of touch for five minutes, a mobile phone has become as much an appendage as a briefcase. But here's a puzzle: Why do so many of the phones get misplaced?

In London, riders on trains and buses leave 40 to 50 of the devices behind each day, according to the Financial Times. Transit officials try hard to get the phones back where they belong, but some 2,000 remained unclaimed last year.

And it's not just the English. The lost-and-found department of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority says it's running out of room for the forgotten phones, which are collected at a rate of four or five a day off trains and subways. Not quite London's pace, but still remarkable.

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What's going on? Could it be that some mobile-phone users have a secret desire not to stay in touch?

Mobile phones of the future, no doubt, will have sensors that sound warnings if they're about to be stranded from their owners. Hmmm. Maybe they could have some kind of volume muffler too, so that supposedly private conversations don't have to be shared with a carload of strangers. While we're at it, why not phones that sense when a conversation has gone on long enough and ought to end?

A phone that smart could prove really indispensable - or really insufferable. To gauge which, keep an eye on the lost-and-found shelves.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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