The Public Interest

The paradise spell

Michael Barone

Summer 2004

YOU can tell that David Brooks gets around America. Here he is observing workaholics (himself?) coming down the aisle boarding a plane:


They’ve got hand-free wires clipped to their shirt; they’re trying to shimmy out of their suit coat and get their carry-on bag into the overhead rack without interrupting their cellphone conversation. And they’re talking faster and faster, because they know that in just a few minutes, the door of that plane is going to close, and they’ll be ordered to turn off their phones and it’ll be like someone ripped out their trachea. Cut off! Severed from the information superhighway! Restricted to the tiny capsule of their own immediate experience !...


A few hours later, you can watch the infoholics as the plane begins its final descent. They slide their cell phones surreptitiously out of their pockets. They finger the buttons. You can see them wrestling with a moral quandary. At five hundred feet, they are tempted to turn on the phones, because they are pretty sure they can get coverage at that altitude.  On the other hand, the pilots say cell-phone use disrupts the plane’s navigational system.



Download a PDF of the full article.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.