Them Newfangled Cellphone Things

I have to admit to being a bit of a Luddite when it comes to cell phones. In spite of being in the generally gadget-friendly demographic of software engineers, and someone who bought the very first Palm Pilot model within days of its launch, I’ve not yet owned a cell phone. But that may actually change soon.

OK, to be completely honest I have a phone from T-Mobile in my name, but for all practical purposes, it’s my wife’s phone. We got it a couple of years ago when we were about to drive from Utah to Tennessee, and it seemed like a good emergency precaution. We managed to somehow get a plan that only cost $20 a month (which is no longer offered). It doesn’t have many minutes, but c’mon — twenty bucks! That was item #1 that put me off of cell phones.

1. All cell phone plans cost a minimum of $40 per month.

Somehow T-Mobile let their guard down long enough for us to snatch up that $20 plan, but as a general rule, everything is at least forty bucks. Do I really want to pay $40 more for phone service when I’ve already got a phone at home, and one a work, the two places that I spend most of my time? No I really don’t.

2. Hang up and drive.

When I watch traffic for a little while, I’m always astounded at how many people are driving with a phone to their ear. Someone’s going ten miles an hour under the speed limit? Hey, what do you know, they’re on the phone. Twenty miles an hour over? Yup, phone too. That person that turned wide onto the road, crossed over into my lane and almost picked me off? Well, you know its hard to crank that steering wheel around with just one hand. And of course, you’re exempt from using turn signals if you’re on the phone.

3. Hang up and live.

Of course I would never do this if I were to become a cell phone owner, since as of this coming Friday I will be a certified old person (40), but it really ticks me off when you’re ordering lunch somewhere and the person taking your order is surreptitiously texting. I’m sure most businesses have policies against that, but somehow people are so addicted to texting that they’ll risk their job to do it anyway.

A friend was commenting that his teenaged son was complaining about being tired — people kept texting him late into the night. “Why didn’t you just turn your phone off?” asked my friend. “Because I might miss something going on,” his son answered. Whatever. Isn’t there any sense that you might be involved in something more worthwhile or demanding of your attention than “OMG d00d! LOL!”?

Being a cell phone adoption straggler hasn’t been too bad. Consider this made-for-cell-phone situation: I ran out of gas on my motorcycle one day a couple of miles from home. As I was pushing my bike off the road, a guy stopped and asked if I needed help.

“Do you have a phone I could borrow?”

“Sure, here you go.”

“Thanks.”

My wife came to rescue me with some fuel a few minutes later.

Come to think of it, though, I did get in trouble with my wife when I was on a business trip in California for lack of a phone. She was expecting a call from me around the kids’ bedtime, but I hadn’t made it back to my hotel room yet (and she wouldn’t loan me her cell phone before I left). Actually, I was out buying her a present while she was debating whether to call in a missing person report. But aside from her being worried for an hour or two, it worked out OK.

I guess it comes down to a couple of things pushing me toward phone ownership:

  1. I like PDAs, but the market for stand-alone PDAs seems to be drying up. If you want the new technology, a phone is pretty much a given.
  2. My geek cred is somewhat diminished by not even knowing how to work a cell phone, let alone understanding what the heck 3G, HSDPA, GPRS and EDGE mean.

And to be honest, it might actually be convenient to make a phone call every now and then. I still swear, though, that it would take a while to reach the elevated level of consciousness of my cell-aware colleagues such that I would think to call a coworker from the break room to invite him for a game of Foosball.

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