Friday, June 6, 2008

On the Little Silver Boxes from Hell

My husband and I had an argument the other day. This is nothing new…we argue quite a lot these days. We are both so tired, so overwhelmed and so frustrated. Who better to take out negative emotion on than your life partner? J

The argument du jour was about my cel phone.

Once upon a time, I needed a cel phone. I had a small business that took me hither and yon to events all over northwest Oregon. The phone was an essential tool for keeping in touch with the husband and my sisters (who constituted my work force.) I was forever having to make arrangements to meet so-and-so at such-and-such an event, and then track them down once we arrived. And then I needed to make calls for lodging reservations, or repair issues, or any number of things which demanded that I have a phone at my immediate disposal.

I carried my phone on my person at all times. It hung from my belt as I slung quarter-ton pieces of restaurant equipment in and out of the trailer. It lived in my purse, which got stashed and squashed wherever I could hide it while we were doing an event. It sat in the ash tray of the truck as I made my way over the highways and byways. Eventually, it literally fell apart from being smashed, stashed, hung, bashed, dropped and trashed. By the time I traded it in after its two years of faithful service, it was held together with rubber bands and electrical tape.

I got a new phone in 2006, just as my life underwent a major metamorphosis. I’m no longer an itinerant food vendor; I command a real restaurant with an actual permanent location. Gone are the days when nobody knew exactly where I was at any given time, and the cel phone was the go-to communication tool. And it’s a good thing…because the new phone has proven to be an absolute piece of crap. It gets terrible reception, it drops calls, sometimes it doesn’t bother to ring at all. And it has lately developed this malady where it suddenly loses contact with its battery and goes dead. I’ve taken to calling it the "pocket rock," because it is exactly as useful as a rock, most of the time.

Our particular phone plan allows for new hardware every two years. So I am eligible, now, to get a nice discount on yet another phone. Husband insists that I run right out and get that phone. And I could not care less. I HATE cel phones. At this point, I’m seriously considering declaring "Conscientious Objector" status when it comes to owning one.

What the hell good are they, anyway? First of all, though cel phones have been in use for—what…twenty years?—the technology has never been perfected. Why should it be? We, the consuming public, don’t demand that the things perform as promised. We just lap up the next mutation as soon as it’s available. The folks who make these things know they don’t actually have to work to sell. They just have to be the sexiest, newest toy on the market. So I’ll pay one hundred, two hundred, no…three, maybe even five hundred bucks for this wonderful little device that will take photos, play music, display video games, show movies, compute gratuities, do everything but cook breakfast for me. But I’m still hanging out of open windows or ducking out onto the sidewalk in the rain hollering into it, "Can you hear me NOW ?"

Why can’t it just BE a telephone? Or at least a passable imitation of one?

The technical foibles alone should be enough to have us doing what one normally does with crap (***floooosh***…bye-bye!) But then there are the ring tones. Who knew there were quite so many supremely annoying pieces of music to be had? Of course, even the "Hallelujah Chorus" sounds like hell digitized and blaring at top volume from somewhere in the vicinity of the ass of the guy in front of you at the Wal-Mart check-out. The other day, I heard a ring tone that was a loud, obnoxious laugh… like something from a sleazy joke store at the mall. I could not believe someone chose as his signature sound something that stupid and irritating.

Cel phones have turned us into a society of ill-mannered, self-absorbed, careless, thoughtless communication junkies. We cannot be alone with our own thoughts; nor can we be with the people we are with. Sales clerks, waitresses, service people of any kind are made acutely aware that they are not worthy of our full attention. Friends, spouses, parents and kids all suffer the indignity of hanging on the periphery while the obviously more important conversation takes place with whoever is on the phone.People talk—or, heaven forbid, text—while driving. It’s like, you lay hands on that little silver box and it just sucks the brains right out of you.

Well, I’m sorry… I don’t want to play. These days, I am almost always either at the restaurant or at home trying to rest up for my next stint at the restaurant. Both the cafe and my home have phones. If I’m not at home or at work, I’m generally with my husband or one of my sisters…and they all have cel phones. If by some off-chance I am somewhere where I can not be reached, I am most likely out of touch by choice. There are times when one just needs to be alone; cel phones have turned us into a nation of co-dependents. It’s unhealthy to always be just a few beep-bip-boops away from someone else. It’s weak, it’s scary, and it’s…sick. I can’t buy into that any more.

So, I told the husband, here’s the thing: I’m going to approach the cel phone issue the same way I deal with religion. You believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe. You don’t tell me I need to have a cel phone, and I won’t tell you they are Satan in a little silver box, and need to be exorcised from our society with all due haste. 

I don’t know if I made my point…but I’m still not getting a new phone.


ckays1967 said...

my darling husband had a ring tone that would say:

Hey, your phone is ringing.

It would start softly and keep getting louder and louder until it was answered.

He's lucky that the phone died and the ring tone with it, I was planning its death.

mutualaide said...

Lisa, let me add that I believe we are all too 'connected' too much of the time.  Oh, wait ... you pretty much know my drill.

Throw the darn thing in a trash can and walk away.  
Just say, "NO".

I too am entitled to a new free piece of crap every two years or a largely discounted fancier piece of crap, is I choose.

I choose not.

But don't tell my husband or family just yet.  Okay?

thesheatons said...

Why can't it just be a good PHONE? Because it's trying to do twenty other jobs that I have other appliances to do. Now you can even watch movies on your phone. Yeah, right. Little tiny stick people that look like sattelite photos. Just give me a good phone. And yes we are too connected. I think it's an ego thing. "Look at ME. I'm so important I can't even go to the beach without someone trying to reach me!"

So not,


sunflowerkat321 said...

I just got a new cell phone.  Like you...all I really want is something that is reliable as a phone...period.  The menu system on this thing is mind boggling.  And yes, it still drops calls, echos, and beeps at me for unknown reasons.

As a mom, I'm a big fan of the cell phone for staying in touch with my children.  But as an individual, I hate the thing.  It gets me in trouble when I decide not to keep it with me.  Inevitably, my husband will try to reach me and get PISSED when he's unsuccessful.  No one is entitled to stop me in my tracks to be at their beck and call.  But cell phones somehow give people exactly that impression.

emmapeeldallas said...

I understand and yet...because I commute over a hundred miles every single day, in a car with 148,000 miles on it, I'm glad to have my cellphone with me.  At the same time, I do think people are obnoxious with them.  But don't get me started on the things that more and more, I think we'd be better off without...including (and perhaps especially) cable tv...