Friday, January 06, 2006

Cell Phones

Nope, for once this isn't a rant about people using cell phones while they're driving or whatever. That's all been said. And yes, I concur.

I don't have one. Face it. Shakespeare hasn't had an emergency in almost 400 years. My department really doesn't call me to tell me that there's a comma splice and I'd better correct it FAST or else the sentence will fall apart! 2R rules are broken, or not, without my being notified.

My friends want me to get a cell phone so I can call them from the road, or they can call me to check that I'm okay. I'm sort of surprised in life that people care enough to worry about me, but I'm resisting the cell phone. My Parent wants me to get a cell phone, has been threatening to buy me one practically, and very much wanted me to get one before my trip. They (friends and Parent) want to be able to get hold of me, to find out where I am and what I'm up to.

They ask what I'll do in an emergency. I tend to counter with a question about who I should call if I had a cell phone. I live some 2000 miles from the area where I grew up, so it's not like I can just call the old homestead. Ahh, they say, you can call 911! I point out that my car has Onstar, and that with the press of a button, I can get emergency help. It also has the further supposed bonus that if I get in an accident that sets off the airbags, Onstar will try to contact me, and failing that, will contact the police. So I think I've got the really bad emergency out on the road pretty much covered.

I tell them that I don't want to get calls on the road, in the grocery store, or whatever, that I don't want the world to think I should be available 24/7.

They reassure me that I can turn off the cell phone. But then they open theirs, turn it on, try to call a friend, and curse because the friend's cell "must be turned off." What's the point of having it if you turn it off most of the time? How does it help for an incoming emergency call?

Do people really have that many emergencies? I see a lot of people on cell phones in the grocery store, calling for a consult. Should they get the 8 oz or 16 oz size of whatever? Seriously. Not an emergency.

I lived my cell phone fantasy last semester.

It was the first day of our special first year program class meeting (a special class section of all first year new students, through which we provide some help adjusting to college), which meets a weekday before all other classes on campus start, and is a long introductory session. A student's cell phone started singing some not so dulcet tones, and I (jokingly, I thought) held out my hand. (I've done that before, and every time students have laughed at me and turned the phone off.) This time, the student, no doubt more intimidated than I'd realized, obediently handed me the phone.

I looked at it, stupidly, then asked, "who is it?"

"My Dad," she said. I looked at it more stupidly.

"How do I answer it?" And she dutifully took it out of my hand, turned it on, and handed it back to me! (Yes, they're all impressed with me now. Idiot.)

I gulped, because really, this was a HUGE fantasy, but I've always imagined that if I do this, and answer a student's phone in class, the call is really going to be an emergency, one of those, your sister was in a car accident and... kind of calls that we all dread. But, valor is the other face of foolishness, or something.

"Hi Annie's Dad." I paused just long enough for a confused sounding "Hi" from the other end. "Annie's in class right now, but she'll call you back later."

"Errr... okay." I handed the phone back to my student, and she turned it off and stowed it away.

It was totally my fantasy, and totally felt lousy in every way. Poor Annie was mortified. I don't know what Annie's dad thought, but really, would you be impressed by that from a professor teaching your kid?

If my action had in some way inspired other students in the class to turn off their phones while in class, there might have been some small, tiny redemption, but to judge by the number of calls they got during the semester, it had no such effect. Instead, it probably gave them a feeling that I'm a bit cruel and heartless. Normally, that's a fairly good thing, but not with that first class of first year students, because they're already pretty darned on edge and stuff.

(Okay, some are intimidated as all get out. But others think that I'm their substitute Mom for gosh sakes. I wish I could melt the whole attitude together and get a moderate mix, some reasonable intimidation combined with a sense that I actually am a human being and not completely monstrous. See? I really DO live a rich and full fantasy life.)

So, I'm driving across a fair bit of the country on this trip. And I've been thinking about the people who settled here at various times, American Indians, colonists, people brought as slaves, people who came as indentured servants, and on and on. Most of them, at some point, left the not so safe place they'd come from, and faced into a vast landscape, and then started on their path. Some of them no doubt disappeared into the landscape, and their families never heard of or from them again.

My own ancestors, at various times, left various places, and set off.

And not one of them had a cell phone. Or a car.

What whusses we've become!

For those who worry, and no one should, I'm heading on the road again for a couple days, then another visit with some friends, and then back to the world of snow and ice.


  1. "Shakespeare hasn't had an emergency in almost 400 years." That's really funny!

  2. I'm finally breaking down and getting a cell phone this weekend, despite generally feeling about it as you do. The reason? Because my stupid land-line company can't repair my stupid phone line at home worth a damn and my phone has been nearly unusuable or completely dead all week. With a mother temporarily in a nursing home and an equally elderly dad, neither of whom have access to e-mail, I'd like to be able to get a phone call, even of the non-emergency sort.

    I'll probably only use it on the road and as a back-up. And perhaps for free long-distance calls (though I hate talking on the things -- I have a hard time hearing on them).

    And I laughed sympathetically at your classroom story. Perhaps I will not act on my own fantasy/policy of answering their phones now!

  3. My husband bought me a new cell phone. ONe with lots and lots of extra stuff like a camera and radio--imagine listening to a radio through the phone. Anyway, it has so many bells and whistles when he calls me I can't answer it. I hate my cell phone, always have, and usually keep it turned off. I don't like people having the ability to constantly find me, sometimes I like to be left a lone.

  4. I made an account and this is my first comment. Travel safely.

  5. Dulci!

    Thanks for the great visit! I'm safe at the next stop, having a wonderful visit with my grad school friend, and looking forward to meeing J.

    JM - thanks :)

    Dr. Virago - Yep, it sure didn't work out to be nearly as fun as I'd always planned.

    Zelda1 - I'm a semi-geek, but most cell phones confuse me. I just want an on/off toggle and some numbers! I hate having to get out my reading glasses to see the numbers, too!