I got a new cell phone about two weeks ago. Considering what I think of cell phones it’s amazing that I have had an old phone to replace with a new phone. What am I doing with cell phones? I’m opposed to them on principle.
What’s wrong with only getting phone calls at home or at work?
What was ever wrong with party lines? Multiple people shared a phone line, but so what? You had to ask Mabel down the street to get off the line for five minutes to ask your doctor to come for a house visit. Big deal. How’s that inconvenient?
What was wrong with table dial phones in basic black? To hear people talk about them now they were ready to rip their hair out every time they had to wait for the dial to return after dialing an 8, 9 or 0. It was never that bad. Besides, the numbers were only 4 or 5 digits long until we got prefixes, which we didn’t need. We had operators to connect us to other neighborhoods. And the phone company paid them to do it. Good, decent American jobs.
I’ll never forget that first beige Princess phone. It was mounted on a wall. A table wasn’t good enough for the Princess. I was 9 when we got the snooty Princess, mounted just above my head. It was about 1959, the time in America when everything seemed to be beige except Formica counters, which had boomerang designs all over them.
We used to speculate there was only one boomerang-design Formica countertop salesman in the country who drove all over stopping at all the motels to sell them, and he made a fortune.
But back to Princesses. Times changed. It wasn’t too long before people got over the idea that wall-mounted Princesses were chic. The rotary dials were replaced by touch-tone dials. That helped, because then you could have the lightweight phones on a table and dial a number without the phone sliding all over the place.
That was about the biggest problem anyone had with phones until the 1990s. Oh sure, it cost more than your grandmother’s weekly grocery bills to call long distance, but, so? You had a good excuse not to call your grandmother long distance. Nobody told her to move to the other side of the country, anyway. Send a postcard, grandma.
Then, all of a sudden, everyone had to have a cell phone. It was right at about the same time everyone had to have a personal computer (PC) and an email account. I could go for the PC and the squawky dial-up modem and the email account. The email account was an alternative to phones and postcards. Finally, progress. But then people said, that’s not enough, we have to have phones we can use anywhere, even on buses and McDonald’s.
You know, the transit companies and fast food joints could have headed that nonsense off at the pass, right as it started, making it against the rules to talk on phones in buses and restaurants. They could have taken a stand for civility and common sense. But, no. Look what’s happened to civility and common sense since. Now people text and drive. One hand on the steering wheel, one hand texting and both eyes on the screen.
I held out until 2019, refusing to accept the idea I needed to be “connected” to the wider world of cell-phone dependence. I then joined the Eloi and became ready for harvest.
After getting the new phone — at a discount — I needed to set it up to receive emails. As soon as I did, I discovered notification hell.
Apparently the old phone wasn’t as advanced as the new phone, so I had somehow managed to trick the thing into not notifying me every time someone retweeted a Kanye West tweet.
Yesterday I read a notice, on a clay tablet, in the lobby of my Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) building that announced that I was expected to update my cell phone number and provide my email address so they won’t have to notify me by means of notices on clay tablets any longer.
So, every time some bureaucratic functionary kept in a pit in the basement of SHA headquarters gets lonely, I’ll have to hear my phone’s doodly-doodly-doo, cheerfully telling me an SHA master wants me to know something.
Exactly what I always feared.
Read more of the Dec. 8-14, 2021 issue.