Itís funny how things work out sometimes. "Funny ha-ha" or even "funny strange" or both.

A couple weeks ago I had a hissy fit because the screen on my Dell laptop suddenly went kaput. Itís done this to me before, and the folks at technical support were able to get it going again, though I did need a lesson or two in Pakistani to understand what keys to press.

This time, however, it was just poof! No display. A $1,500 laptop, two years old, and no display, and of course, the warranty was out a year ago. I fiddled with it, exercised my Pakistani and did some keystrokes, banged it a couple times with my palm (an old radio station trick that nearly always restores malfunctioning equipment to working order) and yelled at it a lot. I thought about calling Dell again, but decided I was too old to learn yet another language. Technical support people, pardon me for not being politically correct, should speak the language of the people who bought the product.

So I dragged out my old 15-inch monitor, the one I used to use on my desktop. Works great, but itís the size of a 1970s vintage microwave oven and heavy as the dickens. I had to stick it on a stool in front of my chair, because I keep my laptop next to where I sit in the living room. If you walk too hard across the living room floor it wobbles and threatens to topple on the cat.

It didnít take too many Internet searches to find that this is a common problem with the series Dell I have, and since itís out of warranty, theyíll fix it for about six C-notes, six hundred bucks. I donít have that lying around these days, so I figured I was out of luck and would have to work on a way to permanently affix the Titanic of desktop monitors to my living room wall.

More research revealed, however, that the parts for fixing my Dell are less than a hundred bucks, and so I ordered them and am hoping, for once, I can perform this kind of operation and come out of it with less than three extra parts.

Feeling better about the world after learning this, I was walking through the shop and dropped my cell phone on the concrete floor. I flipped it open and guess what?

The screen didnít work anymore.

You might call it coincidence. Maybe random chance. I call it scary. I refused to touch the television set for days.

Since my mom was having some touchy medical problems and I needed to stay accessible, I was kinda in a fix again. I usually leave my cell phone in the truck, hanging off the visor. See, unlike the popular, modern, Wall Street Journal way of the world, I look at my cell phone as being here for my convenience, not yours. I know, I know, I am an old fuddy, but thatís the way it is. My cell phone is for when I want to use it. If I break down on the side of the road, or if I want to call and see if youíre home before I drop in, or if I want to check on my pizza. Unless Iím on-call at the office, which is only every three weeks, or experiencing mommy difficulties, my phone is in the truck and youíll have about as much luck getting in touch with me that way as by tying a string between two tin cans.

So it was off to the Cingular booth at Wally World for a replacement, seventy-five smackers down the tube. When I went to swipe my credit card in the little reader thing to pay, I seriously expected the screen to go dead and theyíd charge me for that too.

The way I feel about phonesÖI seriously believe that if lead pipes truly ended Roman civilization by making them go sick and crazy from lead poisoning, the cell phone will be the downfall of American culture. Itís a good thing the Russians arenít out to get us anymore. Weíd have never heard them coming because weíd be too busy blabbing with our auntie about what a clown Junior is and how he needs a good smack on the backside.

We talk on our cell phones in the supermarket, in our cars, in the park, for Cripes sake some people talk on them in church, movie theaters and Ė horror of horrors! Ė a quiet canal in the back of the lake where the only sound ought to be fish slurping up a No. 8 foam cricket fly at the end of my tippet.

Cell phones will be the death of us all because weíre pouring not only electromagnetic radiation into our brains straight through our ear canals, but also breaking up friendships and family units. Itís not good for people to be that in touch. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and familiarity breeds contempt, you know. Kids running around with cell phones for the love of Pete. Whatís the fun of being a kid if you have to carry a cell phone all over? You canít go do a dadgum thing youíre not supposed to because your mama might call at any moment to inquire as to your whereabouts and up-tos, as in, "What are you up to?"

And take those Star Trek-looking contraptions out of your ears, people. The President of the United States doesnít even wear one of those silly-looking gizmos, and heís up to his neck in a couple of wars, fouling up the country and occasionally making a fool of himself on television. If that man donít need an electronic gizmo hanging off his ear, why do you? What are you going to do if the battery explodes one day? What if the Ruskies get hold of all the frequencies of all those little ear-gadgets and send you post-hypnotic suggestions to go leap off the edge of a cliff?

Itís like weíre terrified weíre going to miss something, when for roughly four million years of general human evolution and at least several thousand years of civilization we got along perfectly well missing things now and then. Itís not like anybody would have called your earpiece to warn you that the Hindenberg was going to blow up or Mount St. Helens was going to explode.

Youíre not going to miss anything, and youíll probably be happier for it. I know I am. I love being disconnected, gallivanting along in blissful ignorance, and when someone says, "Did you hear about so-and-so on the news today?" if it interests me Iíll go look it up, if it doesnít, well, Iím not being forced to carry around any extra information to further clutter the olí noggin that is getting severely scarce of space already.

Sorry about the rant. Still, one of my greatest joys in life is to find myself somewhere far, far into a green place where the only thing buzzing is a bee, the only sound is water chortling and giggling over the next ridge, and the only thing my cell phone will say to me on its little screen Ė if it works at all! Ė is "No signal."