SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 2 â€” One afternoon in early September, an architect boarded his commuter train and became a cellphone vigilante. He sat down next to a 20-something woman who he said was â€œblabbing awayâ€ into her phone.
â€œShe was using the word â€˜likeâ€™ all the time. She sounded like a Valley Girl,â€ said the architect, Andrew, who declined to give his last name because what he did next was illegal.
Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chattererâ€™s cellphone transmission â€” and any others in a 30-foot radius.
â€œShe kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,â€ he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? â€œOh, holy moly! Deliverance.â€
As cellphone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cellphone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent.