Cell phones have obviously become the "killer app" of the past 7 years, the time since just after the internet reached ubiquity. But I can't think of anything that was changed because of them on the same scale that graduation from Penn was tonight.
1700 senior undergraduates in Penn's arts and sciences school filed onto Franklin Field at 7:05pm today, as teary-eyed blood-related onlookers watched, squinting from the sunset. And of course, the students wanted to know which teary-eyed squinter was theirs, so they called their parents. But that wasn't quite good enough for identification purposes. So about half of the crowd of students was facing east, toward the stands and away from the stage, looking for people and doing some sort of identification dance.
"I'm the one jumping up and down, holding my hat in my left hand, right next to someone with a masking-tape peace sign on the top of his hat!"
As amusing as this was, I decided to refrain. Knowing where my parents were exactly wasn't such a crucial ability for me. So my fifty-five-cents-a-minute phone sat deactivated in my pocket.
At 8:19, the speeches were over and the procession started. The first alphabetical department, African Studies, was lined up next to the stage, and the names of each AFRS major were read.
At 8:40, they weren't done Biology yet. Math was all the way at the back of the third of four sections. I calculated that the ceremony wouldn't be over until around 9:55. Math skills put to good use.
At 8:50, I relented. Pulled my phone out and called Eli, a Biological Basis of Behavior major.
"Yeah, me too."
"I guess I'll call you when you graduate in a few minutes."
And I checked, and I had two messages. Sure they were from my mom, I didn't listen. I called her, but her phone was off. So I called jox, who was in the stands because her brother was also graduating.
"Hey, I'm bored."
"Okay, talk to you later."
By the time I got to walk at 9:25, half the crowd and about a quarter of the students were gone, despite the admonishment in the program to Please Remain Until The End Of The Ceremony Out Of Respect To The Graduates. Many of the remainders had phones glued to their ears. For the first time ever, not only did that not disgust me, but I could totally relate.
9:33, I was too bored to stand it. And just then my mom called. We set up a meeting place and got the hell out of there.