From Dan Bricklin's Log:
That moment with the cell phone brought up another image I saw earlier in the day: A woman getting out of the driver's seat in her car and opening up the back door to take her small child out of a car seat while still clutching an object in her hand that she obviously felt was important -- her cell phone. I remember thinking: More and more I see people clutching their cell phones as a major source of comfort or something. It's like they are holding onto a railing when they walk down stairs: The cell phone gives them some sense of security. I feel that it represents a lifeline to the rest of our circle of important people, and we treat it as such. It's a space warp that connects us to others we need as we go through life.
I think you're reading too much into a casual gesture, Dan. In my experience, one of the weakest, feeblest gadgets we use daily is the belt clip that is supposed to keep a cell phone safe. If you want to keep it intact and, er, handy, better keep it in your hand.
On the other hand, some people do use their cell phones in a manner that I would consider excessive: Just because you can phone while driving, or making a purchase at the convenience store, doesn't mean it's a good idea.