The other day I found my cell phone at the bottom of my purse. Dead. It had probably been dead for at least three days. This happens to me fairly regularly. Ask anyone who’s tried to call me. My own loved ones now call me once, get voice mail, and then call my husband, Trent. A conversation like this then occurs:
Both: *small talk*
Loved One: Is Jenn there?
Trent: Yeah, she’s right here.
Then Trent either passes me his phone to use or tells me to call the person in question.
I then search for my cell phone, and if it has any battery power left, I call.
Here’s the thing: I hate cell phones. Ask my students.
I hate talking on cell phones. I’d much rather talk on a landline to someone else on a landline. I don’t care how technologically advanced they are now, I still think cell phone call quality blows. And there always seems to be delay, so you start talking at the same time as the person on the other end…which annoys me to no end. I had a landline up until the fall of 2012. The decision to give up the landline was a marital compromise.
I hate that cell phones have made us a less considerate people. Suddenly each of us is so very, very important that we can disrupt others, interrupt others, and ignore others.
I realize that cell phones are a convenience. I got my first one just in case my car broke down on the side of the road one day–I’d be able to call for help. I almost never used it. I had 30 minutes of talking time, which cost me about $35/month (it was the 90s). That phone was for emergencies only. Notably, I generally still don’t go over 30 minutes of talk time in a month (a fact that made the Verizon guy almost fall over in shock).
Hey, I even like the convenience of the cell phone–I like that I’m never more than a phone call away in the event of an emergency. However…
I hate that people now assume my cell phone exists not for my convenience but for theirs. And that everyone else seems to accept that their phone exists for the convenience of the people who want to call them. I shouldn’t be expected to drop what I’m doing to answer someone’s call…and neither should you. Unless it’s an absolute emergency, chance are, the conversation can wait. Answering the phone just because it rings is what we call a Quadrant 3 activity: urgent and unimportant (again unless it’s an emergency, in which case it’s important). Spending too much time on Quadrant 3 activities has a negative impact on one’s time management and ability to stay on task and complete important tasks in a timely fashion. In most cases, the caller could simply leave a message, and the call recipient could call back at a time convenient for him. Also–there’s nothing wrong with letting it go to voice mail and then checking the voice mail to determine the nature and urgency of the call. Listening to that message takes a lot less time than the actual conversation you would have if you actually answered.
I hate that people think it’s acceptable to let their phones ring out loud wherever they are. It’s rude. Your cell phone breaks out into song in the middle of a lesson I’m teaching–rude. Your cell phone starts ringing in the middle of a meeting we’re having: rude. In the middle of a meal we’re sharing–rude. In the middle of the movie theater, while the bank teller is trying to process your transaction, when the waiter is trying to take your order: all rude. And it’s only ruder if you actually answer it. It’s the rudest if you then proceed to actually speak to the person on the other end.
I hate that people think it’s appropriate to answer their phones wherever they happen to ring. I do not need to hear your end of a personal conversation while I’m standing in the checkout line at the grocery. That’s rude. I also do not need to listen to you talk about things like how your baby’s daddy is in jail now when I’m in the elevator. That’s rude. I don’t need to know that your best friend is a liar, you’re late on the electric bill, or that you really, really, really love your partner. Making me listen to this by insisting on answering your phone and having what should be a private conversation in a public place is rude.
A few years ago, in one of my English classes, my students were reading a novel in which two of the characters kept using the phone–in the kitchen. My students, bless their little hearts, had taken to heart my lessons on literary analysis: analyze everything about the text and ask yourself “Why did the author choose this language, have the characters do/say that, choose this setting, select these names?” And so in our discussion, one asked me, “What does it mean that they only talk on the phone in the kitchen? Why do they always go to the kitchen when the phone rings? Is it symbolism?”
I was baffled for a moment. But then I thought it through: my students have grown up in a world with no kitchen phone. Many can’t remember having a phone connected to the wall or even having a cordless house phone. They’ve always lived in a world where your phone is attached to your hip. A world where you stop what you’re doing and answer the phone wherever you happen to be.
A world of cell phones.
Cell phones that I hate.