It was a long walk, and after I had concluded all the thoughts outlined in the previous post, I got to thinking about cell phones. Cell phones! Why cell phones? Well, yesterday was my granddaughter Athena’s tenth birthday, and my son Tobias, who has been staying at his house in Palm Springs, was due to fly up to San Francisco for the birthday party. I was hoping I could reach him there on his cell phone and maybe talk to him, to his older brother Patrick, and to Athena, all together.
Then an odd thought occurred to me. How would my cell phone know that Tobias was in San Francisco, and not in Palm Springs? If we were still in landline days, I would call Palm Springs and get the answering machine if he had already left. Then I would hang up and call Patrick’s landline to see whether everyone had gathered yet for the party. But if I call Tobias’ cell phone, he will answer it whichever place he is at. Indeed, I might get him in his car on the way to the airport, or in the cab going from SFO to Patrick’s home. If at the last minute he had been called back to Philadelphia, I would reach him there.
Now I have a vague untechnical grasp of cell towers and all of that. I understand that when I call Tobias, the signal is passed from cell tower to cell tower, from North Carolina to Palm Springs – or to San Francisco, or to wherever else Tobias happens to be. But since, when I call him, even I may not know where he is, the signal must go to every single cell tower in the United States. I mean, he might even have come to North Carolina to surprise me with a visit, and he might actually be standing outside my apartment door ready to knock when I call him.
And since there is nothing technically special about my cell phone or his, it must be the case that every single call made by anyone anywhere in America goes to every single cell tower in America, and hence is available to me [or to anyone else] no matter where in America I am.
It gives one pause.