Thursday, February 12, 2009

"An Out-of-Touch Luddite, or Worse, Old"

The title of this post is a quote from a piece on National Public Radio (The End of Offline in Flight? Say it Ain't So, by Eric Weiner, Feb. 11, 2009). Mr. Weiner was saying that he worries about some airlines allowing the use of electronic devices during flights. Weiner used to love his time in flight and offline--it gave him time to think without being plugged in.

That sent me off on a thought flight of my own, but I was thinking about that now old-hat, old- school communication device--the cell phone. Like Weiner, I prize my moments of disconnectivity. You see, I have a confession to make: I don't own a cell phone. 

There. I said it. Please clear the aisles so all four of my loyal readers can stampede toward the exits. 

I've tried to want to have a cell phone. I've tried to want to be able to multitask and talk about private issues in public places. I know that I should have one for safety's sake, but then I think about the fact that, in my town, every place is only about fifteen minutes away from any other place and if worse came to worse, I could walk home if the car broke down. Besides, we are surrounded by kind, church-attending Good Samaritan-wannabes who would no doubt stop to help me if they saw me stranded. 

I actually owned a cell phone for a year. My son called me on my land line and asked about it. 

Son: So, Mom, what's your cell phone number?
Me: I'm afraid I don't know. 
Son: How can you not know?
Me: I never use it. 
Son: How can you never use it?
Me: I don't turn it on. I just have it for emergencies. 
Son: Then how can I call you??????

I was awfully glad to have that emergency cell phone with me when my car slid off an icy rural New Hampshire road and went over a stone wall. The only problem was that, once I had managed to stop shaking, open the car door in the deep snow, and open up the cell phone---I had absolutely no idea how to use it. The nice man who stopped to help me kindly called the police, AAA, and my husband for me. After that, I gave up my cell phone. 

I know they are convenient, but don't you sometimes find them a little intrusive? I don't need to know every little detail and every little move that my friends and family are making. I have a relative who, during the course of a journey to visit me from a nearby state, kept me apprised of his/her every move--"I'm leaving right now." Next call: "I'm at the intersection of 12th and Atlantic." Next call: "I'm coming up to the toll gates." Yikes! In between calls, I was trying to get the house ready for company, and I wasn't making much progress because of all of our "communication."

So here's my question to you. I'm sure I'm practically the only one left in America without a cell phone, but on the off chance that you are also in that rapidly shrinking group, please let me know in the comments. Or, if you "carry," do you love your cell phone? Could you or couldn't you live without it? I'd like to know. 

I'd like to think that I am a reasonable person, not an anti-technology one (the very definition of Luddite, as I've come to understand). I'm a librarian, for heaven's sake, and if there is any group of people in America who has been thrust into the new technology with more gusto than librarians, I'd like to hear about that, too. 


the7msn said...

I confess - I carry. I caved and got one when the big fire happened in Los Alamos. As I watched people evacuating, I could only imagine me doing the same and having to stand in line at a phone booth digging for quarters to call friends for help. I rarely use it, but the odds of getting in trouble out here are pretty good, so it's with me whenever I'm outside doing chores with power tools or riding my horses. On the rare occasion it rings, I can never remember how to answer it, and it's usually a wrong number if I don't hang up on the person first.

They are intrusive, and I can't stand to be around people talking on them in public.

clairz said...

Yep, a cell phone makes perfect sense for you. It would just be too silly to expect Smooch (or Wynonna!) to carry a note asking for help all the way to the nearest ranch house.

Rain said...

I have one and it's in my purse right now, probably needing to be recharged. They do no good this far out in the country although I could walk to a certain place on the farm and get coverage, not in the house. I think it's funny to see how you cannot go into a store anymore without seeing 1/4 at least of the people walking around talking to someone somewhere else. Although my husband likes me to turn it on when we go to a mall; so he can find me if we split up. Interestingly I often do forget to turn it on or find that battery is again gone.

When we are traveling, I like that we have them as you can notify the emergency people immediately if you see a problem or have one yourself. The world has definitely changed.

They are not invasive if you only turn them on when you want them. They do have a convenient voice mail feature which I don't have to use much given not many have my cell phone # and I couldn't recite it right now myself (the phone will tell me though if the... er uh battery is not worn down).

Margie's Musings said...

I have a cell phone and so does Bob. We seldom use them but our daughter put us on her plan so she could reach us if she needed us and we could reach her in case of emergency. But I carry mine all the time. And they aren't near as hard to learn as the computer. For the two of us, it costs an extra $20 per month on her plan and I pay her the $20.

Sylvia K said...

I do have one, but it's really for emergencies only. The last company I worked for insisted that I have one -- which they paid for, simply because there were times when my boss who was president of the company needed to be able to get in touch with me at any given time. My kids insist that I have one just in case I have an accident, whatever other emergency. Mine has all the bells and whistles from a camera to games etc. etc. None of which I use at all. It does come in handy, but I get so tired of seeing everyone, everywhere talking on a phone!! In grocery stores, on the sidewalks, on the buses! Makes me wonder if maybe they've had them permanently attached by some medical procedure!

Judy said...

I have one but don't know the number and cannot remember what it is. I carry a piece of paper with me with the number on it because everyone (doctors, dentists, etc) always want the number. My children got it for me to keep up with me. I forget it all the time and leave it at home and forget to charge it. To be perfectly honest, I hate the thing! Guess I would not feel that way if I broke down and needed it.

Quiet Paths said...

It's ok; honest it really is. We won't tell a soul... ssshhh. So I will confide in you that we don't have a land line.

You made me smile this evening. Thank you. And disconnect is A-OK with me.

michelle meaders said...

I'm a retired computer programmer in Albuquerque. I have an active life, but don't have a cell phone. Sometimes I use the phone at the senior center or the gym when I'm there.

I worry about people answering their phones while they're driving.

Anonymous said...

I have one that sits at the bottom of my purse most of the time. However, I like to have it when we do roadtrips or if I do a trip by myself. For me, it's just worth it to have it though I think mostly younger people use them more (than I).