Hello, Operator….


My cell phone, at barely two years old, is starting to make “noises” of its impending demise. First, there have been the here-and-there turn-offs. Pick up the phone and there’s nothing but a black screen. Emergency measures include hitting the start/end button several times and, if not successful, an emergency battery-plasty. I think also the sound quality is going on it (or maybe I’m just getting old, too). I caught it downloading a “firmware update” that hijacked the phone for several hours until I cancelled it—so now my firmware is out-of-date, too. It’s only a matter of time, I guess.

I looked on my carrier’s Web site to shop a new phone. Only a few of the phones were what I, in my currently under-employed situation, would even remotely consider affordable. I think most of the people in my family have swqanky touch screens and get apps and their e-mail on their phones and all that so I’m already on an obsolete model. I went on Facebook once on my little dumb (non-smart) phone and about went blind just putting in my status: “I’m changing my status on my cool phone.” I never could see text messages on this stupid phone out in the sunlight, but I guess people are rarely out in actual sunlight so that’s hardly a consideration. It probably didn’t even come up in a focus group.

 In 1995, when my children were in elementary school, our microwave burned up one morning. My daughter had put her hotdog in there, hit the button, and all that was produced was an exceptionally impressive light show. It shut off, never again to cook. The kids were aghast. You WILL be bringing one home tonight when you get off work, right? They were completely flummoxed as to how we would manage to survive without it.

I pondered this state of affairs and summoned the audacity to arrive at home without a replacement model. Heck, I was a single mom at that point and didn’t have the bucks for an unscheduled microwave crap-out to begin with, but I thought I would use this situation to teach my children something about how to live without modern “conveniences.” We would live without the modern marvel microwave for 30 days.

Well, apparently I was the only one who considered it a convenience as opposed to a dire necessity. Self-sufficient breakfasters, they now had not the first idea how to make breakfast unless it was cold cereal (which they hated). This required a few handy lessons in using both the stovetop and the oven. Also avid snackers, they didn’t know how to warm up leftovers and forget about those boxes in the freezer that said, “Microwave Only.” My standpoint that it was food (sort of) and, once thawed, it could possibly be heated in some fashion with the technology on board as it had for millennia, was met with alternating pleas for the new microwave and deadened glares at my hopeless irresponsibility of making them do without. I was told unequivocally that we were not indeed living in the “olden days like you did.” By the time the 30 days were over, however, they could reluctantly heat stuff up and even make popcorn in a covered saucepan. Equally reluctantly, I followed through on my end of the deal and bought the new microwave.

So, now, as my cell phone lies dying, I wonder how many things I don’t know how to do because of it. I know I used to memorize vast listings of phone numbers, and the ones I didn’t know or needed to be community-accessible were on a very much annotated sheet of paper that hung inside the nearest cabinet door to the phone. I used to use the time in the car alone to ponder and muse and also maybe just empty my head. I used to have to sit still and possibly have a cup of tea if the phone reached (yes, this is going way back but no miles of snow trekked to school) to have a phone conversation with anyone. (And we won’t even discuss that I can remember the time of party lines!). I used to have to consult a human being or be resourceful enough to find a pay phone in a emergency. I used to walk over to a friend’s house; now she texts. In my newly formed research project, I have learned that people are now late more often and actually have fewer actual resources available to them because they rely on their cell phones. People even started talking faster when the first phones were introduced. Are we saying anything all that important really?

The saddest thing, though,  I’ve ever seen in my life was a family at Baker Park taking a walk around the lake. The mom was yakking away on her cell phone and so the rest of the family schlumped along silently alongside, looking more like servants or prisoners than husband and children. I once had a conversation with a young woman who averaged her texts each month in the tens of thousands, but who also was amazed that I was crocheting an afghan and asked how I could do that. Well, I guess I don’t spend all that time texting. And even though my current resume lists my cell number, I’m thinking about letting it go. A landline in the house came with the “bundle” for the internet. I hear Skype is pretty cool though I haven’t actually done it. And it would figure—the state where I live is hands-free (no hands-on cell phone use when driving) and I just got a Blue Tooth that broadcasts my calls on an empty FM band on my car stereo.

So, yes, I’m considering joining the dwindling ranks of those without a cell. This phone I have could last until 3:06 p.m. tomorrow or another six months, but I want to have a decision in place. I might just try and go “cold turkey” for a while to see what it would be like. Film at 11.

(I should probably also add that I don’t have a microwave now and don’t miss it.)



One thought on “Hello, Operator….

  1. Pingback: Disconnect | Flapping in the Breeze

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