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Confirmation of lack of interest.

February 24, 2016

I have been a hardcore non-owner of a cell phone ever since there have been cell phones. Over the years this has become a thing that I enjoy saying (I don’t have a cell phone) and over the years that simple statement has become more and more shocking to people.  As I also say, though, I rarely ever think “wow, if only I had a phone right now”.  When I go to the supermarket and can’t remember what type of yoghurt to buy, I don’t phone someone … I just decide like I always have.  Sometimes I get it wrong, but the consequences are extremely easy to get over.  Last Spring my kids went out on bikes to buy some stuff and a huge rainstorm started up … rather than phoning them to confirm that it was, indeed, raining a lot, I just drove out on what I presumed would be their route, and found them (like my parents would have, or I would have just gotten wet).  Nobody said, “if only you’d had a cell phone”.

A few months ago, I decided that I would buy a cell phone just to make sure that I wasn’t just super-stubborn and self-righteous (which I may be … probably am). I found a well-reviewed Chinese-made android phone for $55 and bought a couple to try out.  I received the  thing, set it up, and even used it in wireless environments.  I figured out (this could be useful to people!) that since our home phone is VOIP, I could pop a iPad SIM card into the thing and get full data service for $15/month with unlimited calling etc.  Woo-hoo, I was ready to walk around like an idiot holding my cell phone out in front of me, texting “sup” to everyone and anyone.

Except that didn’t happen.  I did carry it around for a while, place it on tables at meetings, and occasionally look at it, mostly to see what time it was. As it turns out, though, I really don’t care about cell phones.  All of my self-righteous posturing was actually a genuine lack of need or interest in constantly having a personal radio in my pocket.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have never cared about any kind of phone.  In fact, I hate the phone and dread talking on the damn thing.  In fact, my fondest memories are of the times when nobody knows where I am … days when I happily wander around Toronto while nobody even knows that I went there, the days that I cam home from university but didn’t tell anyone  that I was coming and wandered around town for a while before going home.  I love anonymity and being completely out of touch, and the cell phone absolutely ruins that. So, shortly after getting the thing running like I wanted, I pretty much forgot about it and would just leave it at home, occasionally using it for an over-powered alarm clock.

I am in wireless environments at work and at home, and the only time that I am not in a place where I can just open my laptop and be connected is on my walk home.  That’s a time when I really don’t want to be bothered, so a phone would not help.  I have stood under a tree to wait for a passing rainstorm, and more than once I have walked across town instead of calling for a ride, but in those cases I probably could have found a phone … but, then people would have to drive to get me, and that seems like a waste when I am perfectly capable of walking. I have one chat-like setup so that I can chat with my kids (who also do not have phones), when they are in the wireless-enabled environments of school or home.

I think that I have sent about 4 “texts” in my life.  Once I was meeting someone in Toronto and needed to know when they were arriving.  I went to a Starbuck’s and used the wireless. Actually, the other time I was also meeting someone in Toronto, so maybe the big city has something to do with it.  Anyway, it seems that I really do not care about cell phones.  I have tablets and laptops and iPods that can pretty much do everything a phone can do. (You can easily send SMS messages with apps on your Mac that come built-in).  With these devices you don’t have to give in and be a complete chump, paying for “data plans” and “voice plans” at ridiculous prices (and they are ridiculous … stupid, even).  I mean, I can’t even stand to take about data and voice plans … there haven’t been “voice plans” really since everything went digital and you got rid of your rotary dial phone. Your “voice” is just digital data that goes over the same damn line as the “data” that you use to browse.  That you pay for voice AND data is just ludicrous. It’s all data. (ever talk on Skype? Your voice goes magically over the internet, without having to use to amazing “voice lines” that the phone company would like you to believe are a thing.

Ages ago, computing services came to the Library and asked what we wanted in our new VOIP-based phone system.  I asked “why do I need a phone?  It’s just another computer on my desk and I already have two of those that I can makes calls with?”  The guy actually agreed with me, but the university got thousands of little ringing desk computers whose only function is to be restricted to imitating a telephone. Weird, huh?  Well, it seems that although I have confirmed that I actually do not care about cell phones, I am obviously completely insane.  How else can you explain not wanting to stare at a tiny screen with people chattering mindlessly on it, and paying more for that that I do for everything I already receive over the internet (the same wires and network that my “phone” would work on and that I already pay for)?

There is hope.  It seems that while 20 year olds can’t put down their phones, the next generation doesn’t seem quite as attached.  My almost 15 yr old son doesn’t seem to care in the slightest about cell phones, and I’ve never seen one of his friends with one. Perhaps this wave will pass, and we’ll once again be able to walk through a door or up the stairs without watching out for oblivious phone-starers walking into walls and people.

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