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My Most Personal Fear

On Cell Phones

I was quite pleased with Robert J. Samuelson's column in this week's Newsweek. Samuelson is one of the financial/economics columnists. But this week his column is entitled "A Cell Phone? Never for Me."

Amen brother.

He writes that we are nearing the place where it will be odd to not have one, "Anyone without one will soon be classified as a crank or member of the (deep) underclass."

He writes about his reasons not to have one, like the 2,600 auto deaths attributed to cell phones every year.

But I most liked this paragraph:

Cell phones -- and, indeed, all wireless devices -- constitute another chapter in the ongoing breakdown between work and everything else. They pretend to increase your freedom while actually stealing it. People are supposed to be always capable of participating in the next meeting, responding to their e-mails, or retrieving factoids from the Internet. People so devoted to staying interconnected are kept in a perpetual state of anxiety, because they may have missed some significant memo, rendezvous, bit of news or gossip. They may be more plugged in and less thoughtful.

I hate when I'm sitting at dinner or drinks with someone and we are talking and they say "excuse me," reach into their pockets, pull out their phone, and wonder away from the table. I loathe the idea of being interrupted when I'm peacefully driving. I don't want people to reach me for work matters unless I'm actually at work (that's what voice mail is for). But most importantly, I don't NEED it.

Sure, sometimes it is convenient and handy. And I do borrow other folks now and then. But I'd just as easily use a pay phone or something else if it wasn't handy in those moments. But it is really the same argument I've had with folk from the phone company about caller id. They never seemed to understand that when they said, "would you like caller id," and I would say, "I might like it, but I don't need it." That just confused them. I don't have caller id. It is a luxury, not a necessity. And like all luxuries, must be weighed.

To me a cell phone is that. I'm perfectly reachable in reasonable time via phones at home and work, e-mail at home and work, IM, a blog, and good old letters (which I still write and receive on occasion, thanks Hallie!).

And, yes, I do have other luxuries. I buy cds, I own original art, I just paid a butt-load for a new back door. It isn't wrong to have a few luxuries to add to the necessities of life. And I've generally been pretty picky and frugal as to what those luxuries are. The music on the cds uplift me and add meaning to my life. The art inspires me by adding beauty to my home. Even the new back door adds value both monetarily and aestheticly. A cell phone? Sure, convenient now and then. But I would venture to say, having observed its use by almost everyone around me now for a while, more a nuisance and a bother. Why do I want to detract from my well-being and that of my neighbors?

Go ahead, call me a crank.


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More power to ya, Scotty!


I had a cell phone while we lived in Chicago. It made me feel safe to have it, but really, all it got me was a ridiculous amount of debt and a now useless piece of electronic equipment. When we canceled our contract, it cost something like $487. But now Luke and I are having to borrow a cell phone from his Mom so Luke can take it to class with him in case I go into labor while he is at OBU. I found earlier this year when we had a minor emergency that it is almost impossible to actually get a hold of him on campus. So I am glad his mom has a phone to lend us. But overall, I am with you on people just not NEEDING to get a hold of me ALL the time. God, my boss already calls me 3 or 4 times an evening. I can't imagine if she could call when I was out of town, or just out to dinner.


lol, you're a crank.

over vacation, i went into the at&t wireless store thinking about a new, fancy phone...but you have to be on the fancy network to get one of those, not so for us poor analog/digital folk. but what we have works for us quite well and i know better than to mess with a good thing just to get a cool phone. i bought a case for it instead.

my rebellion to the ever-present cell phone? i will NOT use it while driving, and it goes on silent or (gasp) off if we are visiting folk or having dinner. otherwise, i am glad to have it...we hardly ever use it when we are at home, but it is a great help when we are traveling.

does that make me a partial-crank? ;-)

Scott Jones

See Sarah described a real need. And Robanne's restrictions sounds pretty reasonable. Yes, dear, you are a partial crank. But probably a complete crank because you live north of the Arctic Circle (or did, I can' t keep straight where you are exactly now, not knowing Alaskan geography).


Funny that I'm reading this post right now, because I am - at this very moment - hitting the redial button on my telephone in a vain attempt to call you.

So I suppose Call Notes falls into the same category as cell phones and Caller ID?


You've got me. I'm a red-handed (red-eared?) consumer at his worst. I have a cell phone and I never want to look back. I have all the power in the world--I'm at once available when I want to be and not availible when I choose not to be. It's glorious. I have access to call anyone I want at any given moment. It is the sign of our times. I revel in it. Besides, work pays for half the bill and I have a work-horse for a phone.

The Power Button/Silence button on the phone is in our hands. Use it wisely.


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