I work in a writing center at a community college, so I am typically working one-on-one with students who need help with an essay or a research paper. Recently, I was helping an 18-year-old female when my cell phone rang. Typically, I keep my cell on vibrate when I’m working, but on this day, I had forgotten, so I reached into my pocket not to take the call but to simply silence the interruption. When the student saw that my phone was an old flip model, she looked at me in disbelief, and after I had returned the dinosaur to its cave, she asked me with both sincerity and pity, “Is that really your phone?”
“Yes,” I laughed. I was used to the sarcasm because my wife and just about everyone else in my life gives me a hard time about my ancient relic. Only my father-in-law, who is approaching 90, owns a similar model.
“Do you actually text on that phone too?” My student asked in disbelief.
“Yes,” I responded again. Then, trying to justify my old-fashioned ways, I asked, “Didn’t you have a phone like this at one time?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “In second grade.”
Okay, I have to confess; at age 66, I’m officially an old curmudgeon, especially when it comes to phones. When cell phones first became readily available, my wife acquired one for work. At the time, she was selling web space for a local provider, so the cell phone made it so much easier for her to contact potential clients while she was on the road and to also stay in touch with those who had already committed to having a web presence.
“You should get a cell phone too,” she said, “so we can stay in touch. It would be like having me in your back pocket at all times.”
I don’t think I actually want you in my back pocket at all times, I thought.
Generally speaking, Barbara talks a lot more than I do, so, naturally, I worried that staying in constant contact would mean that I’d never have any time away from her. Don’t get me wrong; I love my wife, but as a bit of an introvert, I need some time alone, time when I can’t be found or interrupted.
“I don’t think I’m ready yet,” I told her. “I’ll think about it, though.”
And think about it I did. For a long time too. Even as our two daughters received their cell phones when they got older, I held out. I resisted. In fact, the situation became somewhat of a family joke. When Amy, the youngest niece on my wife’s side, began pestering her parents for a cell phone when she was in grade school, her father, who thought Amy was much too young for a phone, told her she could have one, “but not until Uncle Jim gets one first.”
Fortunately, Amy is a sweet girl, and she didn’t pester me at family gatherings to give in, so she could get a phone of her own. Her sweetness and patience paid off, too, because her parents finally relented and bought her a phone years before I caved in.
Why did I finally agree to enter the 21st Century? Probably because my wife and two daughters eventually upgraded to smart phones, and Barbara convinced me to use her old flip phone. “I promise we won’t bother you unless it’s an emergency.”
“Alright,” I finally conceded. “But I’m not texting.”
If you’ve ever tried to text on a flip phone, you know why I resisted that means of communication. For even after my daughters showed me the T9 shortcut, I could still drive home from work and talk to Barbara in person faster than I could type a short message to her.
Reluctantly, of course, I began texting as well. Don’t tell my pastor, but the first text I ever sent occurred during church one Sunday morning. During our early service, I was working in the sound booth, so I couldn’t leave or make an actual phone call, but I needed to convey a short message to Barbara who was still at home. “Thou shalt not text in church,” I heard my brain say as I methodically pounded the keys and dodged the thunderbolt aimed in my direction.
Since then, I’ve gotten pretty good at texting, and I’ve even learned to use the hands-free phone feature in my new car and the automatic text-reply feature in that same vehicle.
So am I ready for a smart phone? No. Not yet.
I know. I’ve heard all the arguments. I can use a smart phone for directions instead of a GPS. I can find restaurants and gas stations easily when I travel. I can read books or listen to them on a smart phone. I can also use it for e-mail messages and Facebook. I can even stay up-to-date with my beloved Mets and Jets if I make the switch.
Still, I am not ready.
I don’t want to carry a small computer with me at all times. I don’t want to be constantly reminded that “I’ve got mail” or be notified that my third cousin once removed just enjoyed a five-course dinner in Sorrento, Italy.
Instead, I’d rather enjoy my normal, daily activities and personal interactions without the technological interruptions that most often are not that important.
So will I eventually upgrade to a smart phone? Probably. I have to admit I do like the ease and quality of the camera feature. Until I finally cross that Rubicon, though, I will simply rely on another joke when people, especially students, ask me why I don’t have a smart phone.
“I tried to buy a smart phone,” I will tell my inquisitors, “but they wouldn’t sell it to me.”