Philadelphia Man Uses Cell Phone Jammer to Shush Bus PassengersHow do you feel when you accidentally leave your cell phone at home when you go out? Pretty lost, I’ll bet.

Or nervous.

Or terrified.

Ever since I read about the Philly Cellphone Jammer, I’ve been thinking about how important my cell phone is in climbing out of the hole that is panic disorder with agoraphobia. I never leave it at home. And I get very, very anxious when I find myself in an area with no reception.

If you haven’t heard about this guy yet, here’s the deal: the Philly Cellphone Jammer is a bus-riding man from Philadelphia who couldn’t handle overhearing his fellow passengers chatting on their cell phones. So, he bought a cell phone jammer on the internet. (If you’re not familiar with “jamming,” it’s the practice of using a special electronic device to block radio signals. They can be used to block radio frequencies for everything from FM broadcasts to shortwave radio to cell phones.)

So, Mr. Self-Important (aka “Eric”) started taking his jammer on the bus with him to spare him of the great inconvenience of listening to other riders chat. According to NBC10, the jammer seems to have inflated Eric’s sense of pride:

“I guess I’m taking the law into my own hands…and quite frankly, I’m proud of it…[using a cellphone on the bus is] still pretty irritating and, quite frankly, it’s pretty rude.”

Watch as NBC10 talks with Eric and confirms that the device indeed works:

As a panicker who is afraid of public transit, I’m really annoyed by this guy. Riding on a bus or a train is one of the most frightening panic triggers for me. Buses and trains don’t have restrooms, they can’t stop on a dime if you’re feeling ill and you want to get off, and you can’t simply ask the driver (or conductor) to turn around if you’re scared and you want to return home.

Put simply, you have no control. And not having a sense of control is a huge underlying component for many of my (and perhaps your!) panic attacks.

But my phone gives me a sense of control.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Ideally, when you’ve got panic disorder, you want to absorb your locus of control from the outside in. Instead of relying on an external medication, food, or object to “save” you from panic, you want to be able to crack open the cognitive-behavioral toolbox that’s nestled within your own brain. Instead of superstitiously popping Tums at the first sign of a nervous stomach, the long-term goal is to be able to “pop” some diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Or some progressive muscle relaxation.

You want to be using a solution that is INSIDE of you. That way, you’ll always have it at the ready.

But I’m clearly not there yet, and perhaps you’re not either. And just cradling my cell phone in my hands invites a sense of control into my mind. If I start to get nervous, my fiance is just a phone call away. My good friend Margaret, who understands anxiety very well, is always willing to help me out via text.

Knowing that I could communicate, if needed, with the people I love keeps my anxiety level in check. Especially when I’m in a triggering situation, like on a bus or in the midst of Target.

But to see those little reception-indicator bars on my cell phone screen step down to zero?

To feel the first twinges of a full-blown panic attack and not be able to call Jason, my husband-to-be?

To feel my heart race in pure agoraphobic terror and not be able to get a message out to Margaret?

It would terrify me. It wouldn’t just inconvenience me, as it likely would for other bus riders — it would absolutely terrify me.

So, Eric: stop being so selfish. If you’re tired of listening to fellow passengers gab, buy a pair of headphones. You never know who is relying on their cell phone to slowly hack away at the world-shrinking shell that is agoraphobia.

(And, if you glazed over this article thinking that cellphone jamming is confined to Philadelphia, think again. To read more about how this story created an onslaught of Google searches for “cellphone jammer” [and possible sales], check out CNN’s coverage.)

Creative Commons License photo credit: pantagrapher