Saturday, November 03, 2007

Joining the 21st Century, Reluctantly

by Mike Crawmer

It took a six year old to embarrass me into joining the 21st century.

Last month, the electrician rewiring my second floor locked me out of my house. Luckily, my neighbor, Lee, got home from work as I fiddled fruitlessly with the unyielding front door lock. Bless him, I thought: Lee has two things I need right now: the electrician’s phone number and a cell phone.

Ah, yes, a cell phone—that ubiquitous appendage that I never needed or wanted for any number of good reasons:

First, my mom doesn’t check on me day and night to see if I’m eating my vegetables, keeping my pants up on my hips, using a seatbelt, and limiting my intake of adult beverages.

Second, I’m not on call 24-7 at work. My job can be interesting, but no one’s life depends on whether I chose a flash graphic or a static graphic for a web page I’m creating. I’m not a “senior vice president and most-high pooh-bah of this and that,” so no one needs a piece of me every minute of every day. And I’m several layers removed from whiny, needy, oh-so-annoying clients.

Third, I’ve never felt the need to chatter on about digestive problems or creaky knees, gossip about the neighbors’ grandson who got his teenage girlfriend pregnant, or commiserate on treasury bond yields, contractor scandals in Iraq or what Ellen was thinking when she gave that damn dog to her hairdresser. Also, I’m not cheating on my spouse—which I assume many of my coworkers are doing as they hurry out of work, their cell phones plastered to their ears in urgent, secret conversations.

Fourth, cell phone owners seem to feel they have to use their little toys to send text messages, take photos, keep lists and calendars and God knows what else. For one thing, I don’t communicate in code. If someone sent me a text message that said, “AYT,” I’d (1) ignore it or (2) call them back and ask them what's their problem with the English language.

But all that was BH--"before Hunter.” On that fateful October day, Lee lent me his cell phone, then he walked across the street to retrieve his son from school. When they returned I thanked Lee profusely for saving my butt. In his son Hunter’s world, my predicament made no sense.

“Why doesn’t he use his own phone?” six-year-old Hunter asked.

“Because he doesn’t have a cell phone,” Lee said.

“Then how does he call people?” Hunter asked, looking at me with an expression that said, “What planet’s this guy from anyway?”

“He has a phone in the house,” Lee patiently explained. He could’ve said “Locked in the house,” but he’s younger and nicer than me.

Two days later I got my cell phone. Don’t try calling me unless you’re an agent who wants to represent me or a publisher who has a contract she wants me to sign for my mystery series. Otherwise, the phone sits unused on the kitchen counter. I’m only going to use it for emergencies, or maybe when I’m driving to D.C. to visit the family, just to tell my sister I’m on my way and maybe check on the weather down there and find out what’s for dinner or are we eating out and did she hear from brother Steve yet and how ‘bout dem Stillers.....


Anonymous said...

Hallelujah!!! Thank you Hunter for dragging Mr Mike into the 19th century. Now does anyone have a three year old who can shame him into using the Linux operating system as oppose to using Microsoft? Then and only then will my life be complete.

Jim H.

Annette said...

Sorry, Jim. I'm still stuck with Microsoft, too.

My hubby was finally convinced to get a cell phone the night he was driving home from working 3 to 11 and the engine in his truck started making an ominous sound. He kept driving until he found a pay phone. By then the motor was fried and had to be replaced. An expensive lesson to say the least. I think anyone who drives any distance should have a cell phone and an AAA card.

Or OnStar.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Annette. I've had AAA for years...always relying on the kindness of strangers if I ever needed a phone. Actually, the one time I really needed a cellphone was last year when I "bonked" (cycling term for running out of gas, physically) on the bike trail somewhere between Meyersdale and Confluence. I can laugh about it now but it wasn't funny then!

Anonymous said...

I hate cellphones, in part because you're always "on call," in part because there's a delay in talking on them that throws a monkey wrench in my conversations.

My cellphone sits in my car's glove compartment, for motor emergencies. No one has my number.

And, you know what? I like it that way!

I'm afraid I'm stuck with Microsoft, too.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I have an extra house key at my neighbor's and one down the street.

By the way, Mike, is there cellphone reception on the bike trail? My friend who was trying to call regarding her car being fixed couldn't find any!

Anonymous said...

Tory--Good question. I don't know, tho I suspect that reception varies from spot to spot along the trail...I assume reception isn't a problem around population centers...tho some of those "centers" are mighty damn small! In the "town" I got stuck in, about half the 10 or so houses were boarded up. It did have a one-room post office, 15 feet from the railroad tracks. I bet cell phones don't work there.

Anonymous said...

And of course, Mike, the next time you are locked out of your house may be the time you also forget to take your cell phone with you. Consider the possibilities.

As someone who never had a cell phone and got one last year, I use it a lot more than I thought. It might come in handy.

Anonymous said...

Mike, in order to send a text message to my college-aged kids I have to have my critique partner do it. And then they write back and say hi, Robin, (my name's Donnell). The only thing worse than getting locked out of your house, is getting locked out of your house when you have a full bladder and no one's home. (It wasn't pretty,) and I so relate to your post. But those darn cell phones do come in handy during an emergency, I just don't want to listen to a woman in the stall next to me talking on one :)))I guess if you can do it, I should try ;)

Anonymous said...

Donnell--Actually, I left the full bladder issue out of the post! There was that too. Oh, and one advantage to my new has Bluetooth, so I can talk hands free, if I bother to answer the incoming call.

Anonymous said...


It took me years to convince my parents to get a cell phone. I was always worried they would get stranded somewhere and have no means of communication. They finally relented and I have a lot less stress.

I don't leave the house without my cell phone, but it's the no-frills kind. I just like the convenience of being able to communicate. All the frills (camera, texting, etc.) are annoying to me, especially when people mess around with their phones when they are supposed to be driving or standing in line at the grocery store or doctor's office. (Don't even get me started on that rant!)

P.S. I'm still a Microsoft user, too.

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants a free Linux demo ... let me know. My startups, shutdowns, updates, and speed are fast. Linux does not get in the way of my internet experience. :)

Jim H.

Anonymous said...

Jim - You have to remember that, for most of us, the internet is just a side perk of the computer, which we mainly use to write. [Right?]

I keep my cell phone turned off unless I need to make a call and I cringe whenever I notice the driver heading toward me is talking. No matter what anybody says, they are distracting. I watched a man walk into the Ladies Room in Milwaukee airport, talking on his cell phone. He came out a few seconds later, still talking. I heard him say, ". . . and I just walked into the women's rest room . . ." as he went by. And cell phones make life confusing. Now whenever you see someone walking alone while in the midst of a screaming argument, you can't tell whether or not they're dangerously crazy until you check their ear -- and that means getting way too close!