Exile in a Cellular Land

When I travel, I inevitably get the request. 

“I need your cell number.”

Yeah.  I mean, no.  See, I don’t own a cell phone. 

I’m not morally, philosophically, environmentally, esoterically, aesthetically or fundamentally opposed to cell phones.

It started as a financial decision.  We really didn’t need a cell phone and not incurring that monthly charge was like having Weight Watcher bonus points in our financial diet.

It’s evolved into a game of How Long Can We Last? with a bonus round of Think of What We Can Do With That Money. The average monthly cell phone bill is $60/month.  Hmm.  That’s about 20 books (I buy them used); a good pair of sandals; an elegant dinner out. Or, if I bundle a year of not paying for a cell phone, it is two plane tickets to visit a sibling.

Not only does it save money, not having a cell phone saves time answering those “Wassup?” calls.  

I believe that cell phones make us (the collective us) less independent, less confident, less decisive.  And, while they are certainly more convenient, I believe they make us, dare I say it, less connected. 

I don’t want to be presumptuous. If travel were a constant in our lives, it would make sense   be wise to have the means to communicate.

I have a resident curmudgeon inside me: if I’m honest I’d admit it’s fun to be eccentric. I take joy pointing out that what seems impossible today was simply normal thirty years ago.  

One of the ironies of not packing a cell phone is that I lug around our laptop, allowing me to send and receive emails (and update my Facebook status) when I’m traveling.

We will pole vault over the digital divide when the cost and benefits of cell phones outweigh a land line.  I’m content without one for now.

After I wrote this, I read the quote below, which was just too rich to omit from this post.  It is from Matthew Algeo’s delightful book, Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure.

A cell phone isolates its user from those around him. That’s why people on cell phones are comfortable discussing, for example, the explicit details of a doctor’s appointment in a roomful of strangers. They feel like they are alone.

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10 thoughts on “Exile in a Cellular Land

  1. my husband wants to be you. he waited until the last possible moment, too…… but now he’s sold. we got our little ipod touch dealies and they make us want to jump the full iphone chasm.. it’s just so CONVENIENT!!!!!! to be able to check email wherever there’s wi-fi without lugging the laptops… and as a very frequent flyer, i can no longer imagine trying to pull off itinerant work without one.i love your life! and your budget explanation is the reason we haven’t done the ‘data plan’ for our phones. i have a pay-ahead tracfone. LOW tech.:)

  2. We waited until, in the job search, it became necessary to be able to be contacted via phone at all times.  But even then it is a “pay as you go” plan.  We use it so rarely we sometimes wonder why we even have it.  And people are always shocked that it doesn’t text, take pictures, or surf the internet.  And I love the point about it making us less connected.  I’ve even seen people texting each other when they’re already together!And we will, too, jump the divide once the cell phone is cheaper than the landline.  But for now, we can get high speed internet and an unlimited long-distance landline plan for less than the average cell phone plan.  Which, of course, translates into quite a lot of savings.

  3. I held out for a long time, but finaly got a Tracfone. The phone was free (and, hence, it is a phone, not an electronic Swiss Army Knife), and I just pay for the minutes. I want to avoid having the Internet available to me at all times — I already spend entirely too much time online — but I appreciate the convenience of having phone access when I’m on the move, especially when I’m out of state. And it’s come in handy a time or three for emergencies.

  4. @jackug – I love the Parry I Was Glad. I’m home from church, sick, and going through all the related sacred choral YouTube posts.  Thank you for sharing these with me.  Keep them coming.@wonderloveandpraise – You know, don’t you, that when I get one, I will write a blog post singing the praises of whatever cell phone I get.  .  Life is ironic that way.@Pianorose – Next time you are in town, I would love to hear more about your plan.  It sounds excellent.@kyriosity – So how do I say this? I’m delighted you commented. I miss your online presence, but it probably means reality is better.  About our past communications: I haven’t stopped praying.

  5. Lovely post, as usual.  I, too, have a cheap tracfone that I use for emergencies or travelling. Costs me $5 to $10 a month.  I don’t give my cell number out because I use it so rarely. =)

  6. My cell phone is used mostly for receiving substitute teaching assignments wherever I happen to be. My month-long assignment last fall came from a cell phone call received while I was running errands around town. If I hadn’t answered the call, the principal might have found another substitute before I returned his call. I also text with both of my kids, and my husband, quite a bit. We gave up our land line here at home for over two years but our cell coverage is so poor we finally surrendered and got a land line again. Now, considering the poor cell coverage and the frequent problems with our rural telephone lines, between the two we can usually receive or make a phone call. :)My line is drawn with smart phones. I refuse to get an iPhone or other smart phone for two reasons: 1) I do not want to pay an additional $30 monthly data charge. 2) I do not want to be tethered to the internet at all times. I spend ENOUGH time on my laptop each day and know myself too well. If I had a smartphone I might never partake in a face-to-face conversation again.  Cassie lamented to me last week that there are times when professors tell students to bring an “internet enabled device” to class so they have access to a particular website during class. She claims to be the only one who has to lug a laptop to class as all the other students have smart phones.  So I am doubly impressed with your holdout on cell phones. Like you, though, when I do break down and get an iPhone or other smartphone, expect a post from me singing the praises of it and wondering how I ever lived without it.

  7. Ohhhh, I soooo hear you, Carol!  I’m fighting this whole cell phone thing.  Now, I must say that I do have a cell phone which sits in my purse and typically has a dead battery when I actually do need to find it in said purse to actually make a call with it.  There is no doubt I will be pushed into moving into a more active cell phone role in the future, but I’m standing firm as long as I can…..Such is the life of one who prefers face-to-face conversations that are not interrupted….Blessings,Tammy ~@~

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