I can remember the day when I said, “Why would anyone need a cell phone? Ridiculous!” This came about 4 years after saying, “What would we do with a computer?” I won’t tell you what years these remarks were made, because that would expose my generational resistance to new technologies. Since then, I have actually owned 3 or 4 cell phones, so I am an experienced user. I can now text or email from my phone (not with any Olympic speed), maneuver through my contacts, and make and answer calls. I can even use apps! And I recently learned how to use Face Time. My brother thinks it’s a hoot because when we were kids we dreamed about what it would be like to have “picture phones”, which we never imagined would happen in our lifetimes. I reluctantly entered the cell phone generation, but I am definitely not in a committed relationship with my phone.
I have, however, been surprised to notice how I’ve started to get that itch to answer the phone when it rings. I don’t always stop to think that just because you have the technology in your pocket does not mean that you have to respond like Pavlov’s dogs when you feel that tingle in your hip. But most of the time, I am a reasonable cell phone user. If I’m engaged in a conversation, working, driving, watching a movie, out eating dinner with friends, I don’t answer my phone, unless there is some expected call that’s important. I’m not texting with friends, listening to music with my earbuds, or snap chatting with anyone, either. And here’s that generational thing again, but I believe there are just times when it’s not appropriate to be paying attention to your phone.
Now this next bit may shock some of you younger folks, but back in the good old days, if you weren’t at home, you would never know you had missed a call. The phone was either attached to the wall, or sitting on a desk, attached to a wire, attached to the wall, and never left your house. There was no voice mail, no answering machines, no speed dial, and no call forwarding. It was a huge commitment just to dial someone’s number…very time consuming. And once you were talking to someone, you had to stay within the reach of that curly cord. No speaker phone, blue tooth, or hands-free devices.
Being of that generation that is still sort of in awe of the whole cell phone concept, I find it amazing how attached people are to their phones. And it’s not just young people. You can be engaged in a conversation with someone, and they start texting. Or you are out on a lunch date with your girlfriend, but she considers it vital to check her email at the table. And I know many of you have been in the bathroom stall, and heard that Chicken Dance ring, and then listen to the important conversation coming from the next stall. Eeuw!
It can be amusing, but also downright annoying, when you are with someone who has no hesitation to answer that ringing phone, no matter what the situation. And some people must not be aware of the silence option. We’ve all been in the movie theater, in a meeting, or at a restaurant, and heard that disco ring booming through the room. What happens next is the funny part.
Some people fumble for their phones, looking horrified that the ringer had not been silenced, and try desperately to stop the ringing. Others find their phones, and actually answer the call, right in the middle of the movie! And some run from the room, struggling to answer the phone to stop the ringing. Or they get up and head for the door, but stop there, and stand there talking rather loudly, as if we can’t hear them over there.
But last week, I experienced the ultimate. I was in a meeting, and a woman’s phone rang. She went through the lengthy finding of the phone, and then answered it, sitting right at the table! She put her head down, and talked in a low voice, as if that kept us from hearing her, and we weren’t totally distracted by her conversation! She didn’t leave the table, and she didn’t end the conversation very quickly. The person on the other end must have asked where she was, because the first thing she said was, “…in a meeting,” but the conversation continued! Amazing!
It’s funny, but it’s also sad. Are humans so boring that we no longer find each other entertaining enough when we are together? Is time so short that we can no longer only do one thing at a time? Is that call so important that you can ditch your date to take the call? Have we lost respect for one another to the point where we feel we don’t have to pay attention to what others are saying? Here’s a novel concept..we don’t HAVE to use all of our minutes. We CAN choose human contact over technology.