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."
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.