Jammer Man to the Rescue

An anonymous superhero steps in to clear the air of blah-blah-blah

"Sometimes, I want to grab the phones out of their hands and shove it up their asses," a manager said of the unrelenting flow of customers who offer little respect for public airspace. The manager, who asked that his name and the name of the restaurant not be used so as not to offend customers, says he has to deal with them as nicely as possible, despite what he sees as their rude behavior.

"I understand people need to use their phones," he said, "but when I get a call, I step outside. It's just the right thing to do."

Of course, when some of his customers that day weren't doing "the right thing," Jammer Man had to step in. For almost an hour, as he munched on a burrito, he took down one pestiferous talker after another.

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"I'm not sure what the problem is," a man shouted into his phone on his third attempt. "We keep getting disconnec— Hello? Hello?"

If Jammer Man is the hero of this story and these blabbermouths are the bad guys, what does that make the FCC? In Jammer Man's melodramatic interior narrative, federal regulators, who offer comfort and protection to the world's blabbers, are the Men in Black, the sinister operators of black helicopters who swoop in in the name of some meaningless law.

But New Times, going to the FCC source, found more befuddlement than robotic evil. The man answering the call to the number listed on the FCC website, 888-CALL-FCC, said his name was Pedro. Questions about jammers should be addressed to the FCC's media bureau, he said. He transferred us to a woman who said, "We oversee and answer questions about television and radio. You need the wireless communications bureau."

That bureau passed New Times along to the consumer and government affairs bureau. A man calling himself Bob answered there and asked for the caller's name and phone number. He said he couldn't provide his full name, offering a code instead. When New Times asked about the use of the jammer, he said he would email a "fact sheet, f-a-c-t, on jamming wireless devices." Then he transferred New Times to the director of media relations, whose voice-mail said she would be out of the office for a few weeks.

It had occurred to Jammer Man that, during his righteous phone-jamming campaign, innocent people may have been cut off too. Jammer Man's aim is true, but his path of destruction is wide. In the trenches where telecommunications renegades play, there comes a certain degree of collateral damage. Yes, innocent bystanders who were using discretion in their conversations can get cut off. Legitimate business deals may be quashed. The kid dialing feverishly to become the tenth caller to his favorite radio show might not get the passes to Beowulf in IMAX he'd so hoped for. Is this the price our society must pay?

The fight, Jammer Man insists, is more than childish prankery (even if it's not much more). Jammer Man works to bring people together — by tearing some phone conversations apart. Loud cell-phone users disconnect themselves from the people in their immediate physical surroundings, the superhero says. They, in effect, put up an invisible bubble that tells the rest of us they would rather communicate with someone in a different geographic locale.

Jammer Man simply disconnects that disconnection.

In a crowded elevator, where cell phones rarely used to work, a person can hold his or her peers hostage with a single call. The rest of the passengers stand still, watching the floors tick by, waiting anxiously for the doors to open so they might taste sweet freedom.

This was the case in an elevator in a Fort Lauderdale office building recently. The salesman on the phone went on about not making a dime before commission. "You can trust me," he yelled into his phone, ignoring eye-rolls. "I'm not going to dick you around."

But before he got an answer, the crowded elevator passengers got relief. Jammer Man slipped his hand into his pocket and tapped the tiny peacemaker. No one else could have guessed what had happened, but the rest of the group rode down in silence, a few with satisfied grins.

Another win for the good guys. Another victory for Jammer Man.

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