My husband has a cell phone. He really didn’t want one, but his job dictated that he be available at all hours of the day — in case of emergencies. Emergency, in his case, means that the local seafood purveyor delivered only half of his ordered salmon filets. Somehow the cell phone is supposed to make that problem easier to solve. To date, he can barely check his voicemail, has no clue how to program his contacts and still dials numbers the old-fashioned way, by hand, each time. He prefers to be technologically challenged. And quite frankly, we’re all probably safer that way.
I choose not to have a cell phone. I don’t need to be that approachable. I have an answering machine — I’ll get back to you. I’m not interested in having a conversation in the grocery store or while standing in line at Starbucks or even at the doctor’s office while receiving a pelvic exam. I need my time in the store to figure out where they moved the Ramen noodles this week. Why complicate the situation with my sister on the phone talking about the BOGO sale at Target?
There is very little in this world that I need to have communicated to me instantly and I value my privacy more than 450 minutes a month with rollover. But other people’s cell phone conversations are like free cable. Recently I discovered that someone named Jordan is running around the Broad Ripple bar scene passing out a scorching case of herpes to every bimbo in thong panties. Who needs Sex in the City reruns when you’ve got that standing next to you at Starbucks? Isn’t some information best kept on a landline in the privacy of your own home?
“I am NOT going to talk and drive,” my husband stated as we left Best Buy with cell phone in hand and a two-year available-to-anyone-with-the-number contract. “People who talk and drive really piss me off. I am not going to become one of those people.”
I know he talks and drives and I know he thinks I don’t hear the rush of traffic in the background or the horn that is honking at him because he has failed to notice that the light has changed or that his turn signal has been flashing left for the past two miles. He has become one of those people, the kind I am pinning my retirement dreams on. It is just a matter of time before some Soccer Mom on a cell phone rams her Lexus into my Saturn and then I am set for life.
“If you ever take or make a call in a restaurant or at the movie theater, honey, I swear to you right now that I will invoke clause 15b of your new cell phone contract. I’ll take the dog, the cat AND that ugly ass bar you love so much. I’ll sell it just so you can’t have it,” I warned him. Clause 15b provides that I have the right to a divorce with spousal support if my darling sweetie pie ever takes or makes a call in a restaurant or movie theater.
Not only do I value my privacy but I also try to have consideration for others when I am out in public. Still, no matter how many times the movie theater plays that Please Turn Off Your Cell Phone song before the movie starts, there is one schmoe who receives a call halfway through the movie. I can’t remember the last time I ate out when I wasn’t sitting next to a Motorola Moron yakking away about his stock returns. Some people see nothing wrong with using a cell phone in a restaurant, while I consider it to be a major fone pas. If I’m shelling out $100 for dinner and a movie, more than likely I’m doing so to escape ringing phones and other interruptions.
We discussed cell phone etiquette for ages before my beloved purchased the phone and we agreed on this etiquette — body, mind and soul. And yet, weeks after bringing home the new baby we are sitting in Bazbeaux’s munching on ’za, when Sweetie Pie whips out his phone to make a call. I remind him, gently, about clause 15b.
He smiles and puts the phone back in his pocket.
Later that night, we come home to a power outage. Our home phone is out. It’s after midnight, he’s got to be at work in less than six hours — a power outage is not what we need. The cell phone appears, followed by his smart-ass smirk and a dim light bulb over his head as he starts fumbling with the phone while I look up the power company’s emergency line by candlelight. Ah, the romantic moments we cherish after a few years of marriage.
“Look, honey, this thing’s got an alarm.”
“Let me see that,” I said, trying not to sound too interested.
Sure enough, the damn thing has an alarm … and games, and Internet access, and a camera. What it can’t do is brew me a decent cup of coffee. I turn the thing over and notice something else. A warning label:
Dealer not responsible for loss of manners related to cell phone use or subsequent loss of privacy.
I knew it. Cell phones DO cause brain damage.
Amy Patton is a writer living in Indianapolis.