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.