Columns 2003

I don’t have a cell phone.  I don’t want a cell phone.

I may be the last person alive who neither owns a cell phone nor knows how to use one.  Whenever I am with my friends and they hand me their cell phone to use – say, while they’re doing 65 mph on the highway and I’m hysterical because they want to dial and talk on a phone at the same time – I have to ask one of their children to get the dial tone and then send the call for me. 

When people tell me how lost they are without their cell phone, I honestly question their sanity.  In a world full of noise from every conceivable source, why would you want to spoil the few moments of peace you might find while walking or driving by having a ringing phone nearby?

I know the argument made by many parents about the phone keeping them connected to their children. To be perfectly honest, it might help those children grow up to be mature adults with good independent decision making skills if they didn’t have mommy and daddy on the other end of the phone every time they were trying to decide whether to scratch the itch at the end of their noses.

I can’t begin to express how rude it seems when I am sitting down to visit with a friend over lunch or a cup of coffee and the phone rings and they spend the next ten minutes discussing what to buy for dinner that night or whether the child on the other end should be allowed to have a friend over on the weekend. There are honestly times when I just want to get up and leave the table since I am obviously extraneous.

I have one friend whom I love dearly who I would like to have around for a long, long time because she and her husband are the rocks I lean on when all around me starts to shake. She inevitably calls me to chat as she drives home from work before she starts her second shift as mom.  I love talking to her, but the whole time we’re on the phone I am scared. I’m scared because she is on Anchorage highways in winter and I know she doesn’t have her full attention on the road. 

Her argument is that she has a hands free phone so it’s not as though she isn’t steering with both hands.  While that is some relief, the truth is that even two hands can’t save you if your attention is distracted at the wrong moment from a car cutting in front of you or a moose leaping across the highway. Even more frightening for me is that if she’s had a bad day at work and wants to talk about it, she gets even more distracted as she discusses what happened.

It seems to me it wasn’t that long ago that we all survived with phones firmly attached to an outlet in our walls.  Kids grew up despite not having a 24-hour umbilical cord connecting them to mom and dad.  I’ve yet to see any study or statistic that shows that cell phones have made this process safer.  In the general scheme of things, being able to call mom cause you fell and are now experiencing arterial bleeding is probably not going to save you.  Knowing how to tie a tourniquet over the bleeder will.

Friends should call each other not from the highway but from the office, the way God meant it to be – sneaking in personal calls when the boss isn’t looking. And kids should find a public telephone when they need to call their parents to ask a question. The sheer bother of finding one that works will seriously cut down on the number of extraneous phone calls they make.

Give me the peace and quiet of my car traveling along the highway with the only real sound being that of my heart thumping in my chest because some idiot just cut in front of me in white out conditions and has now slammed on his breaks.  You just can’t find that kind of peace and quiet very often in today’s world.