By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
It has come to my attention, somewhat startlingly, that I have become a Luddite. According to a recent Pew poll, as of the end of 2015 49% of household in the U.S. don’t have a landline telephone. That’s an amazing number. I shouldn’t be surprised, given that a good many of my family members are part of that 49%. I’ve always thought of myself as fairly tech savvy, given my age and all. I pour over the reviews of new phones and computers, I browse the Best Buy ad on Sunday to see the latest gadgets, and I know how to do Ctrl/Alt/Delete to get me out of most computer problems. Heck, I worked directly for the CIO of a major corporation and often received the “samples” of new equipment left with him by eager tech companies. So this revelation of a cell phone centric society came as a shock and one, I might add, with which I totally disagree. My opinion has only been strengthened in the past month when we were in a rental house and dependent solely on the cell phone.
Before I launch into my defense of landlines I readily admit that I also love my cell phone. I’m constantly on it to check email, Facebook, the stock market, and the weather. Oh yeah, and once in a while I actually use it as a phone. So although I am old enough to remember plug-in switchboards at my first job, I do realize that having a mobile device is a marvelous thing. I just don’t think it should be the only thing. Here’s why:
I have nine telephones in my house so no matter what room I’m in, there is a phone nearby. But, you say, the cell phone is always with you. Yes, and that’s a good argument for some people. People who have pockets. Having only a cell phone over the past month caused me to realize something – I own several objects of clothing that are without pockets. My nightgown, for example. I know of some women that stick their cell phone in their bra but that brings back rather gruesome memories of when I worked as a teller at a bank. I had “regulars” who would waddle up to the window, reach down into their sweaty cleavage, and hand me a wad of bills that were as limp as yesterday’s fish. And smelled worse. So, far be it from me to ever do that with my phone. I suppose I could simply hold it in my hand but somehow I can’t see myself as one of those women who walk around with a death grip on their phone as if it’s the winning Powerball ticket. I’m just klutzy enough that I like to keep my hands available for those times I trip over the bath mat.
Do Not Disturb
The real problem with the cell phone-only lifestyle is being disturbed because people can literally reach you anywhere – shopping, at the movies, at the gynecologist’s office. Conversely, if someone calls me on my landline and I don’t answer they know I’m out doing something. They leave a message and I call them back AT MY CONVENIENCE. I can’t count the number of times I’ve received calls on my cell when I’m on the golf course, in meetings, and God forbid, the bathroom. My wish to not be disturbed is also the reason I charge my phone in the opposite side of the house from the bedroom. Once I go to bed, that’s it. Occasionally I hear my cell phone ring but I never get up to look at it. Experience has taught me that certain members of my family are prone to drunk dialing. Oh sure, they apologize the next day and blame it on butt dialing but I’m not buying it. When’s the last time someone butt dialed you from a landline phone?
I admit to occasional use of my cell phone in the car. I have a Bluetooth connection so I’m hands-free and I do find it convenient to return a call or make a quick call if I don’t have time to do it before I leave the house. But most of the time I save my calls for home because frankly, even after all these years, cell phone reception is horrible. There’s still that awkward pause where you have to ensure that the person you’re speaking with is done or you cut them off, and vice versa. But worst of all is a cell phone conversation when BOTH parties are using Bluetooth in the car. The clarity of the call is about what I had as a kid with a tin can and piece of string. Mostly it’s garbled, cuts out, and is distracting. Sometimes the reception at home isn’t any better. Like many people, some parts of our house get better reception than others and in our rental house last month there were whole rooms where there was no service at all.
So for me, I’m sticking with my landline. Perhaps I will become one of those gray-haired old ladies that gets invited to speak at the local library about life in the olden days when phones were actually attached to walls.