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The Garbage Pail Kids Phenomenon

When I was going to elementary school in the 1980s, I remember that many kids were buying Garbage Pail Kids collectible trading cards. Children in my elementary school spent a lot of time holding the Garbage Pail Kids cards in their little hands and staring at the silly images printed on the cards. The students with the Garbage Pail Kids cards were fascinated by them, but I just didn’t get it.

Now there is a similar phenomenon going on, but instead of schoolchildren holding and staring at silly cards, grown men and women are clinging to their cell phones and other hand-held electronic devices. As they happily push the buttons on their devices and gaze at their sleek compact gadgets, their facial expressions match those I saw years ago when children held their Garbage Pail Kids trading cards so tightly.

The childish addiction to Garbage Pail Kids cards is very much like the adult addiction to cell phones and BlackBerries. Obviously, cell phones and personal electronic devices offer more functionality than silly trading cards, but I’m definitely seeing some irrational behavior associated with them. I see adults in the middle of a conversation, but are playing with their devices instead of giving their full attention to the people in the room. I see adults swerving dangerously on the highway because they are sending text messages instead of giving the traffic and roadway the attention they deserve.

Here are eight tips for avoiding excessive hand-held gadget use:

  1. Check your answering machine at home instead of carrying around a cell phone that is turned on all the time.
  2. Never text and drive simultaneously.
  3. When talking to someone, do not play with your gadget(s).
  4. Limit cell phone calls to important matters only.
  5. Check your email from your office or just once a day at home
  6. If you need to remember something, write it down on a piece of paper.
  7. Listen to traffic, weather, news, and sports on the radio.
  8. Use a real map and learn your way around rather than carrying a GPS device around.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions to this list in the comments.


  1. ix wrote:

    garbage pail kids were more social. people rarely ‘pass around’ their phones like a joint. or try to complete a set

    plus, you could peel off the card and stick it on something if you wanted to annoy your teacher or whoever

    Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 12:40 am | Permalink
  2. ix wrote:

    i should point out that GSM jamming devices are about as cheap as a pack of garbage pail kids. though perhaps less legal

    Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 12:42 am | Permalink
  3. S. P. Gass wrote:

    ix, I see your point that the analogy is far from perfect. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Thanks also for mentioning the GSM jamming devices; I wasn’t familiar with them before your comment.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  4. Sprung wrote:

    I agree with the author on inappropriate usage of handheld wireless devices and am mildly intrigued by these so called “GSM jamming devices”, however, I can’t say that using one (a jamming device) is right. I certainly wouldn’t want to cut off a conversation between a mother saying goodby to a son headed for war, a wife calling her husband to announce that her water just broke.

    Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 1:02 am | Permalink
  5. admin wrote:

    Good point, Sprung. I do not own a jamming device and have no plans to own one at this time.

    However, I am concerned with possible hi-tech jamming of my terrestrial radio by satellite radio users. I believe, but have yet to prove, that when driving past someone using satellite radio, I sometimes temporarily lose my FM radio station.

    Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 12:48 am | Permalink

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