Nathalie Jordi

Is An Earpiece Really Going To Solve My Problem?

My mother’s really paranoid about what cell phones might be doing to my brain. Every time I see her, she slips an earpiece in my handbag. “Use it,” she says. “Please.”

I never do. The cord gets tangled, the earpiece laced with tobacco, lint and grit, and when the phone rings, I’m never quick enough to sort these problems out. The call? Invariably missed.

Recently my mom, forever trying to “improve” my character, forwarded me this video, in which cell phones, angled at each other, manage to pop corn after the radiophonic exchange of a few rings.

hoprob, “Cell Phone Pop Corn – Make Pop Corn Pop With Your Cell Phone” (2008)

The popcorn pops fast. And corn has, over several millennia of human cultivation, been bred to be a fairly resilient kernel. It does make you think.

My mom does this a lot. Her “improving” messages are meant to up my personal hygiene, regulate my pocketbook and increase my awareness on dark streets at night. Despite my innately measured skepticism, honed by decades of building defenses against her fears, paranoia’s a contagious thing.

For Maman, lessons are best learned literally, and urban legends, no matter how outlandish, are a highly effective, bottomless mine of scaremongering. You know what happens to teeth left overnight in a glass of Coca-Cola, she warns. Even nails will dissolve in Coke if left long enough. As if after a night out I’m going to soak my teeth in a glass of Coca-Cola. Still, that shit is creepy.

Except, as it turns out, when it’s fake, like the Coke story, as this fellow duly demonstrates in his home experiment.

Jareddavid65, “Coke Myths Experiment Part 3” (2008)

Well, the popcorn-cell phone video is fake, too. The effect was realized by dropping popped corn onto the table and digitally editing out the unpopped kernels. It was a guerilla marketing strategy by a company selling Bluetooth headsets.

CNN, “Internet Cell Phone Popcorn Hoax – Secret Revealed” (2008)

My mom learned about the hoax about a week ago. It hasn’t stopped her from sending emails about other carcinogenic dangers, like drinking out of dioxin-laced water bottles left in hot cars and microwaving foods covered in Clingfilm. And sending me off to New York City with an earphone tucked into my handbag.

You can’t protect yourself against everything. But I am happy to know that every time my phone rings, my neurons aren’t exploding into giant pieces of white fluff.

– Nathalie Jordi

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Nathalie Jordi—in tandem with ASH NYC—is the mastermind behind the Hotel Peter & Paul, which grew up in a former Catholic school, rectory, church and convent in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans. Previously, she has worked as a travel journalist, bicycle guide, and cheesemonger. She also cofounded an ice pop manufacturer and retailer in New York City called People's Pops (read all about it here). Look for her writing in the Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and elsewhere.