Snippets from the Italian Scene
Moving on to other things, when cell phones first appeared in Italy in the late 80s, those who had them made sure everyone else knew too, for example by putting them in the middle of the table at the restaurant. They were a tremendous status symbol, and once when Elisabetta was called to the scene of a bad accident (Italians put doctors on ambulances) she asked a squad member to have a guy with a prominently mounted car phone call for backup while she discussed the situation with the hospital on the radio. The guy said no -- he couldn't because his phone was a fake. Chances are that he'd be able to were the situation to repeat itself today, assuming someone else didn't beat him to it. Cell phones have become tremendously common in Italy, and it really wasn't much of a surprise to discover that they now exceed traditional phones in number. The news made the international wire services, and the New York Times apparently ran an article in which they made much of the diminutive Italians use to refer to phones -- telefonini, according to them indicative of endearment -- and said Italians are addicted to them. It is true that lots of people here would be lost without them, especially parents, boy/girlfriends, lovers, and dedicated professionals, but when I was on the East Coast of the US this June I saw just as many people using them there as I see here. The whole world is bit by the bug. And the Italian diminutive? It's primarily a way of distinguishing between the phone in the hall and the one you can carry about. People don't love cell phones any more, they simply take them for granted.