The case of the ringing cell phone


By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]



When Rocky Coss admitted that he had personally, if inadvertently, violated his strict rule against cell phones going off while his Highland County Common Pleas Court is in session, I laughed out loud, just like the attorneys who were sitting in front of him felt like doing.

The judge’s rule against ringing cell phones is well known, and all who enter the hallowed halls of the second floor courtroom are well aware of the prohibition.

More than once when I have visited the court while in session and taken a seat beside our common pleas court reporter, Angela Shepherd, she has immediately whispered to me, “Is your cell phone off?” Usually it wasn’t, a situation I quickly remedied each time.

Rocky is determined not to have a repeat self-violation, suggesting he might go so far as have bailiff Dan Music search him prior to each entrance into the courtroom.

Adding insult to injury is that the judge’s cell phone ringtone is apparently unique. One attorney who was present could only describe it as “some Scotland crap.” I won’t reveal the attorney’s identity, other than to say it was Anneka Collins.

I recently upgraded to an iPhone 6, and eventually added a favorite song of my own as its ringtone. Everyone guesses that it’s probably an Elvis song, understandably, but it’s not. It’s “House of the Rising Sun,” and I love the opening strains so much that when someone calls I hate to answer it. I’d rather listen to the song. So if you call my cell and I don’t answer until the last possible moment, it’s because I’m enjoying the music.

At any rate, Rocky’s snafu with his own phone – an incident he handled graciously and appropriately by holding himself in contempt and paying a $25 fine – is another reminder of how annoying cell phones can be. While they offer convenience, especially the “smart phones” which practically replace the need for computers in regard to email and Internet access, they remain, overall, more nuisance than asset.

They also reveal the oblivion in which so many people exist. I cannot count how many planes I’ve been on where, immediately upon landing, someone inevitably gets on his cell phone – it’s always a man, women have more class – and starts talking to someone as though there’s no one else around, forcing fellow passengers to endure every imbecilic word.

“Bob? Hey it’s George! Yeah, just landed! Hahahahahahaha! So where we goin’ tonight? Nah, let’s do steak! Really! I’m in the mood for a thick steak! You pickin’ me up or we meetin’ there? That’s fine! I don’t know, let me check! Oh, I’m at the Hilton! So did you talk to Bill? Is he joining us? No kidding!?! I’ll call him! Where’s he staying?” And on and on and on and on.

They don’t even try to talk quietly. They are unmindful or simply uncaring that 100 other people are being subjected to their loud, personal conversation. I have tried my best dirty looks to discourage such behavior, but I obviously need to put more work into my dirty looks.

What I really feel like doing is taking my cell phone out of my pocket, holding it up to my ear as though I’m talking to someone, and walking up beside George and shouting at the top of my lungs.

“STEVE? HEY IT’S GARY!!! YEAH, JUST LANDED!!! WHAT?? I CAN HARDLY HEAR YOU BECAUSE THERE’S SOME IDIOT BESIDE ME TALKING REAL LOUD ON HIS CELL PHONE ON THIS CROWDED AIRPLANE WHERE WE’RE ALL FORCED TO LISTEN TO HIM UNTIL THEY LET US OUT OF HERE!!!” But that would make me annoying, too, even more than I am naturally.

Speaking of loud phone talkers, my wife is one. When she’s on the phone, the voice volume she employs convinces me that she forgets that the phone is actually designed to transmit a normal voice to the other end of her call. But somehow, her phone exuberance comes off as excited and friendly, rather than loud and obnoxious, and now that I’ve qualified that point I can probably sleep peacefully tonight.

My favorite thing is a cell phone going off in church sometime during the exactly one hour that church lasts. I particularly love it when the owner of the phone clearly cannot locate it in time to turn it off quickly, and it just rings and rings until it runs its course, while the preacher just keeps on preaching, trying to ignore the interruption. Priceless.

Back to Rocky Coss. My own idea is to plant a cell phone somewhere under his bench, and then call at a strategic moment – perhaps right before a verdict is read. I would make sure it had a ringtone that was better than “some Scotland crap.” Maybe a song like, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” or something else that would immediately make Anneka and Molly Bolek the prime suspects.

Because it obviously wouldn’t be me who did it, now that I’ve written about doing it. How stupid would it be for me to do that now that I have suggested I would do it? That would make no sense at all. So if it happens, Rocky, you and I both know that it would not be me who did it. That would not make any sense.

Trust me, if it happens, it would be someone from the prosecutor’s office, but not Jim Roeder. No, it would be Anneka who did it. Honest. Or maybe Molly. ‘Cause when the workin’ day is done, girls just want to have fun. And there would be nothing more fun than being in the courtroom when a cell phone rings from the bench. Again.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

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By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]

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