I grew up in a house without a television. When I was a kid, and classmates would learn this tidbit, they would follow up with, “Do you have a phone?”
“Yes, we have a phone. My dad’s a doctor. We have to have a phone,” I would say.
“Then why don’t you have a tv?”
“My mom doesn’t want one,” I’d say.
This is a teensy prologue to the question I often get today: “Why don’t you have a cell phone?”
There’s so much implied in that statement, most of which can be summed by either a) can’t you afford it? or b) what kind of Luddite misanthrope are you?
The other day, a fellow writer I’ve met on Twitter said this:
I responded with:
Mr. Khalifa asked me how I managed to live without one. Which is usually what most people ask. And I’m going to attempt to answer that question.
A couple of years ago I was having this conversation with someone, and they said, “Well, what if something were to happen to J?”
I thought about it, and said, “I’m not a first responder. If something were to happen to her, I hope someone with more training would help her first. I would find out whenever I found out.”
That’s the short answer.
Here’s a longer one. I’m not a spontaneous person. I like making plans. I don’t mind not knowing. I despise the environmental impact. I don’t understand the whole phone contract/plan thing, which just seems like a giant scam. I have a long list of peeves about how people behave when they are using cell phones.
And my girlfriend would remind me to tell you all that I’m not really that cut off. I have had an iPod Touch for the last few years, which allows me to get online whenever there is wi-fi. I’m actually finding free wi-fi is becoming more and more ubiquitous, which is diminishing what minimal desire I might have to get a phone. I can send text messages via google voice if I can get on wi-fi. And trust me, no one ever wants to talk on the phone. Except my mother. And sister.
A couple of weeks ago I made plans to meet up with some friends for tea, and that went off without a hitch. After tea, I planned to meet up with my girlfriend. On the quad at the UW. At peak cherry blossom time. On one of the first warm, sunny days in Seattle. Even though it was packed with people, we did eventually find one another. It would have taken less time if we both had cell phones, but it didn’t end up taking that long in the end.
The only time I ever wish I had a cell phone is when I’m traveling in the country. Trying to connect and meet up with people would be easier if I did have a cell phone. But it’s not impossible to meet up. It’s only the expectation around meeting up that’s changed. Ironically, when I’ve been abroad, if I’d had a phone, it would have been exorbitant to use it. Wi-fi was almost always included in my lodging. Even domestically that’s becoming more common. I was just at delightful set of beach cottages last week that had wi-fi.
I’m not holding out or trying not to not have one. I don’t want one. Because when I want something? I just get it. I see how it might reduce a small amount of friction in my life, but for now, the cost just isn’t worth it. I am either in a place where I am available and can connect, or I’m not. I like the structural limit.
But maybe I’ll take Beth Wodzinski’s approach, the next time someone asks me: