Does ‘Did you say whole milk or 2%’ constitute an emergency?

Either the notion of “emergency” has lost much of its gravity in recent years, or many of our fellow citizens are leading far more perilous lives than the rest of us suspected. In any case, 40 percent of Americans say that in the last 30 days they have “been in an emergency situation where having [a] cell phone really helped,” according to a new Pew survey on Americans and their cell phones.

The survey doesn’t make it clear what people think of as an emergency, but some of the other responses raise possibilities. Just over half used the phones in the previous month “to get information [they] needed right away.” Was that for pizza delivery or the nearest emergency room? Forty-two percent used the phone “for entertainment or when [they] were bored.” On the bus or trapped in an elevator? And 13 percent said they pretended to use the phone “to avoid interacting with people.” Clearly an emergency whatever the circumstances.