The holdout

NO PHONE SYMBOL_logoFCPAn acquaintance reacted to news that I don’t own a cell phone with the combination of ridicule and disbelief normally reserved for people who vote for the Green Party.

“You must have a cell phone,” he said.

“No, I honestly don’t,” I replied, and my tone wavered as it always does on this matter between self-righteousness and embarrassment.

“But you work in communications!”

True, but I’m also a big fan of irony.

We were on the telephone. Well, I was on a telephone, one with a chord and solid buttons to push, a telephone whose sole function was to be a telephone. He was on a cell phone and was asking me to text him the coordinates of a third party. That’s when I baffled him with the news that I was stuck in 1995.

“I can email it,” I offered, and when I said it I felt 85 years old. If I had said, “I can send it to you by the emails,” it would have been perfect.

I was once offered a cell phone for work but resisted because then people would be able to find me all the time. And if they found me, they’d ask me to do things. And if I did things, they’d discover I’m not actually very good at those things. And then I’d be fired, at which point they’d take away my cell phone, so really what would be the point?

But now it’s beyond that. Now it’s partly a matter of being overwhelmed by choice. I go to the mall and every second kiosk is selling cell phones or cell phone plans or cell phone condos. Other kiosks are selling cell phone cases. The rest are hawking hats and mittens. Do people really go through so many mittens and hats that it warrants dedicated mall-based mitten-and-hat kiosks? Is there some correlation between cell phones and mittens and hats? Do cell phone buyers think, “Hmmm, I should get some mittens and a hat since I’m going to be standing stock still on the cold sidewalk and blocking pedestrian traffic while I break up with my boyfriend via Snapchat”?

I feel I’m too late for cell phones. We’re already up to iPhone 6 and I haven’t even worked my way through levels 1 through 5. At this point, cell phones are like that co-worker whose name I never learned and, well, there’s no way I can ask now! Instead, I just duck into a bathroom when I see cell phones coming.

But I know I could manage. I navigate through technology all the time and am actually pretty good at troubleshooting. I have my iPad (v.1), my laptop, my 8-year-old 2GB iPod. I survived Windows 8. I tweet. I could easily have a friend recommend a phone and a plan and would have my new phone figured out faster than you can write “Autocorrect slacks.”

But I continue to resist, and not just because I know I’ll get sucked into that world and bump into things.

I think it’s for the same reason I don’t want a GPS in my car telling me where to go. A GPS would be convenient and make driving to points unknown easier. And I wouldn’t get lost nearly as often, and let’s be quite frank, getting lost puts one’s patience and family relations to the test. The day I tried to drive through Calgary and missed it entirely was not a good day, although there’s really no reason now to rehash whether I was right or wasn’t wrong. The point is, getting lost can make you panicky and miserable.

But getting lost is also a reminder that strangeness is the essence of travel. You’re travelling in a foreign place and you must rely on your sense of direction, consult a map, risk wrong turns and near-misses with semi-trucks as you take that exit, take it NOW! Plus, you might find something amazing in that wrong turn, hopefully something amazing that won’t steal your hubcaps.

If ever there was unknown territory, it’s life. Going cell-free, being out of contact, not having every convenience at your fingertips all the time isn’t a bad way to remind yourself of the need for self-reliance. Going without technology reminds us what we need, not simply what we want.

Most of the time I don’t really need to speak, to text, to post photos of focaccia. Few things are that important that I need a cell phone. And if it really is important, I’ll simply keep doing what I’ve been doing all along: borrow someone else’s.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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58 Responses to The holdout

  1. breezyk says:

    lol @ “by the e-mails”. My mom, who is in no way technologically proficient, messes up internet verbs all the time. She’ll be like “can you Google your sister and let her know dinner’s at 5? “Get on the e-mail and find out how long I should be cooking this turkey”. She did just get a cell phone though and it’s been a real treat. She texts in ALL CAPS and signs off every one LOVE, MOM. (Just in case I wasn’t sure). I respect your point about self-reliance – although I don’t think I could ever be woman enough to try it.

  2. I think it’s admirable that you’ve resisted the swan song of mobile phones. There’s a part of me that wishes they’d never been invented. They’re a terrible addiction and they’re turning people into robots. There’s a front page story in the New York Daily News this very morning about a girl who was texting, dropped her phone into the street, stepped off the curb to save it, was smacked by a bus and died. I’m not making that up. You’re better off and a bigger man than I am because I don’t think I could do it.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    While the rest of us develop brain tumors from constantly using our phones, you will stand proud in your defiance of them!

  4. You make a compelling argument, my friend. (…she said, typing with her index finger on a tiny phone screen.) However, without cellphones, our family would miss out on highjinks such as “reprogram your sister’s autocorrect so when she types ‘hi’ it auto-completes to ‘hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.'”

    Also, if I were to forget my computer in another city, God forbid, I wouldn’t be able to type long blogs on my phone, thus depriving the world of…oh, screw it. I’m ditching this thing.

  5. Cell phones are the reason I now hate phones in general. I have one, since we’re a one car family and the town is too big to holler across. I keep my ringer off and rarely take calls. Misanthropes never had it so bad, as the day when people could communicate with them anywhere at any time. So bravo for you!

  6. ksbeth says:

    i say hold out until it goes to the double digit version, iPhone 10, or more, and jump in holding your nose –

  7. How did you miss Calgary? Isn’t it a fairly large city? I held out on the whole cell phone thing for a good while. That was after proudly having never owned a pager. I broke down to have a phone just for the duration of my wife spitting out that first kid, but after Ace was born, I could no more give my phone away than I could have my beautiful first born child, which I almost had to in order to pay the cell phone bill, but that’s for another day. Stay strong, Ross.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’ll try.
      I don’t know how I did but I did. On that same road trip, coming back home, we were attempting to loop underneath Chicago. Somehow I sorely underestimated the gigantic-ness of the city and headed back north too soon. Wait, should we be heading toward’s Milwaukee? Several toll booths and one very helpful toll booth operator later, we were back on track.

  8. byebyebeer says:

    This morning I was trying to pay for my kid’s picture day via the tiny screen of an iphone 5. This is when my husband said “you know the 6 has a bigger screen…” and this was funny because I railed yesterday about how stupid it is that they keep coming out with updates and we keep buying them. I’ve threatened to ditch the smart phone fewer times than I’ve then gone on to play a candy-matching game, but trust me when I say it’s still often. I long for the past when I was forced to pay attention to what real live people said, like “can we have dinner now?” and “ma’am, you’re about to run into that door.” We’ll agree to disagree on the GPS. Frankly I don’t know how I got anywhere without it.

  9. Wow, I thought I was the only one. But I do use GPS on occasion, so I bow to your awesomeness (and Amishness).

  10. Lynn says:

    Did you know that you can not by mittens/gloves specific to being able to text with them on? It’s insanity!

  11. R. Todd says:

    Hints of Lewis Grizzard-ian style writing. Very nice.

  12. goldfish says:

    Your non-cell-phoniness must engender similar reactions to when I tell people I’ve never been to Disneyland or World. When I was a kid, I just never went, but now, it’s almost a matter of principle. It was fine when I lived several states from Disneywhatever, but now, it’s about an hour away.

    I say, fight the power! Stick it to the man! Keep getting lost!

  13. I’m with you, man! No cell phone here, and I’ve only recently understood how retro my old iPod nano is.

    Then again, I resisted the infernal “horseless carriage” as long as I could, but I’m now pleased as punch with my MINI Cooper…

  14. franhunne4u says:

    I do have a cell phone, but no smart phone. I keep posting this everwhere: I will not get a phone that is smarter than me.

  15. WHAT!!! I held out on a smart phone for a long time…and still dont’ have a very cool one…but wow, man. A true pioneer. I admire your ability to hold out! But instagramming your food is SO fun…

  16. Paul says:

    Ahhh, I bow down to your strength of character and devotion to IRL Ross. There are few who have held out as you have – a special group. Great Post.

  17. I usually don’t use my phone for all the fancy crap phones can do nowadays, even though I am young enough that I should not be talking like an old person about smart phones and I even do own one now. I just like being able to call anyone at any time provided their number is in my phone, which is likely I’d never be able to remember it. I can’t even flipping remember my own number. I always have to turn to my husband and say, “Is it 830 or 860? What were the last four digits again?”
    I like that my phone can hold a billion songs AND a billion phone numbers. It’s nice to have communication and music compact in my pocket. And I like that I can set my phone tone to “Fruity Oaty Bars” so fellow Firefly fans can know I am a cool person if they happen to be nearby when someone who isn’t my husband calls me. I can check my email but if I try to use my phone for other internet things,l I usually give up after about a minute because I can’t figure it out, or manage the website on such a small screen.

    Of course, I’m pretty limited in other things – like I don’t own a car and I can’t drive one anyway so if I get lost all alone, I need to be able to call someone and convince them they love me enough to come find me and take me somewhere else. It’s nice to know that if I’m failing to cook something or sew something or do some other domestic activity I can call my mom and because she has a cell phone, likely reach her to ask how to do the thing correctly. And then hopefully not get stuck talking about something else afterward. Downside is that if she wants to chat with me about something I don’t really want to talk about, it works the reverse way, too.

    Obviously a cell phone suits my needs, but it doesn’t sound like it necessarily is necessary for yours so I don’t see what the big deal about your not having one is, aside from perhaps a little additional convenience.

  18. I have a TracPhone, which costs peanuts per month to own. I can text, but not send or receive pics. Sometimes people try to send me pictures or videos, and I blissfully tell them I don’t receive such fancy things. When I’m bored and mindlessly roaming around on my desktop computer, looking in vain for fun things to read (after reading a few blogs), I look at the Google news feed (and wonder “Where have all the serial killers gone–they made for fascinating reading, at least”). How there can almost never be interesting stories in a world of, what?, 7 billion people, I’ll never know. Anyway, today there were, I think, 8 stories there, out of maybe 30 stories total, that were reviews of some new “iGadget.” Madness.
    Don’t feel bad about Chicago. You can’t go from east to west in the U.S. without passing through Chicago, unless you want to visit Arkansas or Louisiana, or ask directions from the “children of the corn” in rural Illinois.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      We sure do love our gadgets. Again, there’s a certain amount of smugness to what I say here, but I feel good that my wife and I haven’t immediately surrendered to every new thing our kids have requested. I think it’s important they understand that stuff needs to be made and disposed of. Make do, for god’s sake.

  19. pieterk515 says:

    I just don’t know what to say. Or write for that matter…No mobile phone…
    Does your finger glow red when you need to phone home, i.e a extra terrestrial, or are you an X-men with telekinetic powers? For those would be the only rational reasons for a person NOT to own a mobile phone.
    It’s like the conversation I just had about e-books and this friend who refuse to believe that books, as we know it, will ever disappear.

    Maybe it’s just me. Must admit, my wife will be VERY impressed. She hates them, phones I mean, not X-men.

  20. My boss does not have a cell phone either and he is one of the happiest people I know!

  21. Letizia says:

    How lovely not to have a cell phone! I ask my students to turn theirs off in class and some act like they are ER doctors on call that must have them on or lives will be at risk! I love that your phone also has a cord, may I add…..

  22. I only have a “pay by the month” dumb phone, but they are getting rarer. Even the cheapy phones now have touch screens and play music and video and do your taxes and all that crap. I can text, but that’s the best of my mad skills there. I can’t send elaborate pictures, I don’t have a GPS on my phone, I can’t talk to someone named Siri, and I don’t know where each of my friends is (exact location) at all times. Seriously, my student worker can do this. It’s creepy.

    What’s worse is that it is expected for even little children to have freaking phones. I mean, my youngest was the only kid in SECOND GRADE to not have a phone because of her cruel mother. What kind of seven-year-old needs a phone? Dougie Houser MD, maybe, but not your average kid who still picks his nose. In fact, remember when it WAS just doctors and emergency personnel who had those things? Wasn’t that nice when you couldn’t hear everyone’s conversations ALL THE TIME?

  23. markbialczak says:

    Yes, Ross, you are right and you are not wrong. I love my cell phone. I hate my cell phone. It’s great taking photos for my blog everywhere I go! It’s hideous having it vibrate in my pocket with calls and texts ALL THE DAMN TIME. (And that’s just because I know how to turn the sound off. Finally.) Stick to your last-man-standing stubborness, I say. It’s worked for you all these years …

  24. Pingback: We could have died out there! | Drinking Tips for Teens

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