I was called an asshole once. Well, actually I’ve been called that quite a few times before. But this time it felt good to wear the crown. Here’s what earned me the title.

I went out on a date downtown with a girl I met through a friend. We met up at Longboards Grill for dinner and all was going great until her cell phone started ringing every couple of minutes. The first couple of calls I didn’t seem to mind. But after the third call and the feeling of becoming an inanimate object, it became apparent that I had made a huge mistake.

I politely excused myself from the table, went to the cashier, paid for dinner and proceeded to leave my date on her own to sort out the cell phone drama and enjoy her meal.

Some 30 minutes later I was just walking in to my apartment when the phone rang. “Hello?” I said. “How dare you leave me the way you did? That was rude!” she yelled, prompting me to hold the phone away from my ear as to prevent any damage.

“So let me get this straight. You sat there on our date, talking on your cell phone while I just sat there like an idiot and I’m the one that’s rude?” was my response. “Don’t ever ask me out again. You’re an asshole!” she yelled. “Don’t worry, I’ve been called worse by better.” She was calling me from her cell phone, which I found to be ironically funny, as this was the cause of the evening’s debacle.

I haven’t seen her or heard from her since then and to be perfectly honest, I hope I never do. But if she does call, I know it will be on the cell phone because it is as if the damned thing is glued to her ear. Might as well get the piece of crap surgically implanted to your ear; that way you don’t have to worry about setting it down.

Maybe it is my foible to take the matter of a cell phone too seriously, but think again. Ever been on the freeway in the fast lane when all of the sudden ahead of you is a car, also in the fast lane, going way slow? I will bet dollars to doughnuts that the reason the idiot isn’t getting the “slower traffic keep right” message is due to a cell phone conversation while driving. And when they do make a lane change it is with no turn signal and erratic.

I have nothing against cell phones. In fact, I worked on some of the materials technology used for these devices. But as with anything that offers a useful value to society, once morons get their grubby little paws on it, social devaluation begins.

Ever been on the bike path on campus with a cell phone junkie in front of you, talking away, oblivious to the potential disaster that surrounds them if they make a wrong turn or erratic maneuver, which is often the case? Pretty scary. I have a name for these individuals: targets.

In conversation with many friends, a conclusion has been reached. Cell phones are the decline of Western civilization. It is almost as if a person with a cell phone undergoes a drastic personality change when a call comes in. Their focus becomes narrowed, their actions sketchy and patience becomes short. Social retardation seems to take effect in a matter of seconds.

Keep in mind that there are way too many individuals that cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. The scary fact is that many of these same individuals also own cell phones. Put two and two together and the recipe for disaster becomes a harsh reality.

The erosion of etiquette coupled with decreased motor skills are traits of the average cell phone user now that the technology is highly accessible. Expect the best, accept the worst.

To make matters worse, the technology keeps getting better. There are cell phones that serve as a camera, a word processor or a video game. But this does not mean the users get any smarter.

I really don’t have a problem with cell phones. It is the users and the lack of commonsense that is the cause for concern. So yeah, I got called an asshole. But in my opinion that’s better than being a rude bastard that can’t put a cell phone down long enough to enjoy dinner.

Henry Sarria is a longtime Isla Vista resident.