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Look Ma, No Wires!
by Mad Dog


How important could it be for me to make a call while I’m standing in line at the supermarket? Unless of course I’m calling the cow’s orphan calves to apologize for having the butcher grind up Mom so I can have meatloaf tonight.
     Just before Christmas I broke down and bought a cell phone. While this may not sound like a big deal to you, for me it feels like I should be standing in front of a group of people at a 12-step program watching them nod their heads and chant "Hi, Mad Dog", all the while wondering what buying a cell phone has to do with overeating.

     I know, I know—I’m pitiful. You might be thinking that because you’re a part of the population which thinks it’s about time I entered the 20th century since we are, after all, in the 21st now (don’t even think about starting that debate with me, okay?). Then again, you could be in the other group, which just crossed my name off their list of "People Who Haven’t Lost Their Mind Yet" and is making a note to see how quickly a brain tumor starts to sprout out of my ear.

     I have to say: philosophically I don’t like cell phones. For some people they make great sense, like real estate agents, salespeople, and others I try my damnedest not to associate with. But for most it’s just another way to annoy the people around them. As if they need another weapon in their arsenal. The truth is, I really don’t need to be found all the time. I don’t talk on the phone much as it is, so how important could it be for me to take or make a call while I’m standing in line at the supermarket? Unless of course I’m calling the cow’s orphan calves to apologize for having the butcher grind up Mom so I can have meatloaf tonight.



I figure if I’m home and not getting calls, why in the world should I walk around with a cell phone and not get any calls? What could this possibly accomplish other than make me eligible for a Xanax start-up kit?
     I think we all know the downside of cell phones by now: how distracted drivers are when they’re using them, how obnoxious it is when they ring in the middle of a movie, and how loud people talk on them—loud enough so the person on the other end can be two time zones away and not have to flip open their phone and waste precious battery time to hear. But we might as well resign ourselves to their being around from now on. Cell phones and time zones. In fact, in Italy there are now more cell phones than conventional ones. And a lot more cell phones than time zones.

     So what was my rationalization for getting one? I live a strange life. I don’t have a permanent place to live and I move around a lot. For the past several years my only sense of grounding has been a mail drop and a voicemail/pager so people have a place to send junk mail and leave garbled messages. During all that time I carried the pager twice—both times to hear from women who never called—so it was really just a virtual answering machine. And a very compact one, at that. Which is pretty much what the cell phone is too. When I found out that for a lousy five bucks more a month I could have voicemail, get and receive calls, have a cool looking clock with my name on the display, and get $30 worth of long distance calls for free, well, is it any wonder the practical side of me said, "Get those rationalization wheels turning, baby"?

     God, I hate when practicality beats out philosophy.

     So far I haven’t carried it and, to be honest, I don’t intend to. Unless, of course, I’m expecting to hear from some woman who won’t call. It will stay wherever my belongings are at the moment and be an even more high-tech answering machine than the pager was.



Of course I have to admit that email is a whole other thing. I’m compulsive about checking my email. Once, twice, three times a minute isn’t at all unusual.
     Back in the good old days, when I actually did have a place to live, I had an answering machine at my office but none at home. Friends knew to leave messages for me at the office because I’d check them when I got home. Those who didn’t know, well, I probably didn’t want to hear from them anyway. See, the truth is, I’m just not that popular. Or important. Not many people call me and the last time someone did because it was an emergency it turned out to be one in their mind only.

     Of course I have to admit that email is a whole other thing. I’m compulsive about checking my email. Once, twice, three times a minute isn’t at all unusual. But that makes sense. After all, it’s not like regular mail which comes once a day, so if you didn’t get a letter there’s no sense checking the mail box until the next day. And it’s not like the telephone, which lets you know when it wants you. (Like mail, there’s no sense in picking up the phone when it’s not ringing just to see if someone might be trying to reach you. Which isn’t to say I haven’t done that.).

     But email? It could show up at any second. And it could be important. Who knows when Tiffanny4U@xxxluv.com will have a new web site she wants me to check out? Or someone will let me know about a weight loss program that doesn’t include throwing up after every meal? For that matter, it could be any of a thousand scams I used to have to stay up all night watching infomercials to learn about, only now they’re delivered right to my Inbox! Hey, for all I know the next email that arrives might be about a 12-step program for people who buy cell phones after they swore they wouldn’t do it. I sure hope I don’t have to call them to enroll.

 

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