Hi-tech sunglasses just don't fit his low-tech lifestyle

July 08, 2006|By ROB KASPER

I confess that when I first learned about the new $250 Oakley O ROKR sunglasses that also function as a cell phone and a music player, I thought they could be for me.

I could envision myself tooling over the Bay Bridge in a glistening convertible, listening to tunes on my sunglasses, when a guy named Manny rings my shades and says, "Let's talk movie deals over sauteed soft crabs."

Replying through my glasses, I would counter, "You got it babe, but I take my points off the gross, not the net."

That fantasy lasted about five minutes. Before you could say ciao, I was back to life in the slow lane of the Jones Falls, listening to sports-talk radio, laying plans for my weekend of battling the bloodthirsty backyard mosquitoes.

The more I looked into the possibilities of sharing my life with these Oakleys, known in some circles as a music-optimized mobile handset, the more I saw it was not a good fit. I drew up a list of reasons why we are not made for each other.

Reason No. 1: Too much to lose. I lose sunglasses more often than the Orioles lose baseball games against left-handed pitchers. To counter this problem, I used to buy cheap sunglasses or grab those bright orange numbers given away at some Orioles games and the neon-green ones given away by Budweiser on St. Patrick's Day. My kids were so embarrassed by my eyewear that a few years ago for Father's Day they bought me a pair of stylish $90 sunglasses. I lost them, too.

Since then, I have taken to wearing sunglasses that clip onto the frames of my prescription eyeglasses. About a year ago I lost the clip-ons. It almost killed me to pay $80 to buy a replacement pair. The next week, I found my old pair in the bottom of my toolbox, hiding under a power drill.

Given my record of sunglass abuse, bringing a pair that costs $250 into my home would mean nothing but trouble and worry.

Reason No. 2: Low-quality phone conversations. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that a telephone call that you take on your sunglasses should be exciting. Trysts should be plotted, deals made, gossip dished, through a $250 pair of shades. I don't have enough of that sizzling communication in my life to justify such a fancy phone. Instead I have a lot of "get groceries" or "where's the car?" When George, my mechanic, calls to tell me that the car needs brake pads, a plain old phone seems the appropriate vessel.

Reason No. 3: I don't do pairing. Reading the fine print about the O ROKR on the Oakley Web site (oakley.com) and scanning Associated Press and The New York Times articles about this device, I saw that some electronic tinkering was required to begin living the seamless sunglasses lifestyle. These sunglasses, for instance, hail from the Blue- tooth family of devices, while the iPod music player is from another clan. To get your iPod streaming music to your sunglasses, you have to pair it with a Bluetooth adapter. Similarly, to take calls on your Oakleys, you have to have a compatible Bluetooth-equipped phone sitting within 33 feet. Getting these devices together for a chat is not my idea of fun.

Reason No. 4: Different outlooks on life. The O ROKR is, its promoters say, designed for people who want to "stay connected on the go."

Michael Tatelman, a vice president for Motorola, the company which also worked on the Oakley sunglasses, told AP the product was aimed "at mobile music enthusiasts who want to carry just one device that keeps them connected and in tune with the fast pace of their lives."

Looking deep into my soul, I see that description does not fit me. My joy is to be disconnected, left alone. More often than not, immobility figures in my definition of a good time.

So this summer, while other folks may juggle music and phone calls on their new high-tech sunglasses, I look forward to plopping down in the shade with a book. I will read the book peering through my old clip-on sunglasses -- if I can find them.

rob.kapser@baltsun.com

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