By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

landlineIt 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:


money in bra

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?

cell phone in carAre You Still There?

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.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Rain, rain Go AWAY!

Rain, rain Go AWAY!

Those of us on the west coast had an odd experience this past week – wet stuff fell from the sky.  In buckets.  It would be foolish and terribly inappropriate of me to complain about the “El Nino effect” but for me, this lousy weather came at a most inopportune time.  As of last month, I became officially unemployed.  Each Wednesday for the past 13 years I have tottered off to the local yarn store to sell yarn, provide help and teach classes.  I loved my job and learned quite a bit over the years – a bit about knitting and a lot about people.  But the owner, who is 78, decided that she’d had enough of worrying about the business and decided to toss in the towel.  Now, you’re probably thinking, “Wow, 78!  No wonder she didn’t want to work anymore.”  But you would be wrong.  For the past 10 years (inspired by a happenstance viewing of “Dancing with the Stars”) she has been involved in ballroom dancing.  And not just slow-paced Viennese waltzes.  She goes for the Latin dances and participates in competitions all over the Western U.S.  So it wasn’t a lack of energy that caused her to close the store.  Regardless, I now have a day of the week that I have to fill.  This “extra” day, along with all of the rain this week that washed out my golf games, caused me to stay inside and finally face my demons: my unfinished projects.

Each spring I make a list of everything I want to accomplish over the summer when our weather is akin to a microwave oven.  Some of those projects roll over from year to year.  Okay, some roll over for a lot of years. Organizing thousands of photos, for instance.  But other items on the list are much more manageable.  So this week, trapped inside by Mr. Nino, I decided to tackle them.

Monday:  It hasn’t rained like this in ages!  At last I will get some “inside” work done.  I pull together all of our home improvement receipts for the past 15 years, put them into an Excel spreadsheet and figure out the cost basis of our home.  You subscribers who know me and have followed all of our major re-do’s on the house can appreciate just how daunting a task that was.  I finalize all of the paperwork for our tax return and file everything away.  At last I can check these items off the list.  I love this weather!

Is "1-2-3-4" too obvious?

Is “1-2-3-4” too obvious?

Tuesday:  Today I vow to finally clean up the piece of scratch paper containing all of my passwords.  I’d like to use the same password for everything because, frankly,  these days I only retain water.   Unfortunately, every company requires something just a bit different – consequently, my piece of scratch paper has become my memory.  Finally I organize it all and have it in a secure location even Dick Cheney would have trouble locating.  That was my morning.  I look out the window and it’s still sprinkling.  So I clean the house with a vengeance.  This weather is sure good for getting things done.

Wednesday:  I meet a friend for coffee and get home just as it starts to rain.  Dash the Wonder Dog, who will not set his princely foot on a wet surface, is now wondering what in the hell happened to our morning walks.  And just why am I home on a Wednesday?  How is a dog supposed to get any sleep, for cryin’ out loud?  Undaunted, I tackle my next “to do” – writing a piece for a class I’m teaching next week at the knitting guild.  This exercise actually has a dual purpose: I can use up all of the ink in my printer.  Last week I bought a new one but then realized that the old printer had a lot of ink left in it.  Ink cartridges, as we all know, are the modern-day equivalent to the old cell phone scam when they’d give you a phone for free but then charge you a month’s wage for the service.  So I wrote my piece, printed out 50 copies, and installed the new printer.  I am truly ready for the rain to stop.

W comes after V, right?

W comes after V, right?

Thursday:  I awake to what is now a familiar sound – rain battering against my bedroom window.  This is the rainiest day of all.  My dear husband suggests that we go to a movie, but then it is raining so hard we’re afraid the washes on the roads will fill and we won’t be able to get back home. Yes, living is Scottsdale is sometimes like living in the backwater of Montana.  So…what to do?  I finally hang a couple of pictures in my den bathroom that have been sitting there for four months.  I decide to play Candy Crush on my iPad. Three hours later I rouse from my stupor.  I saunter into the kitchen and re-alphabetize my already alphabetized spice rack down to the third letter.  My normally pleasing personality is turning just the slightest bit sociopathic.  If this rain doesn’t stop soon someone is going to get hurt.  I think it’s me.

Friday:  Have I mentioned that my husband is home all day with me?  Every. Single. Day.  He did go out earlier in the week to get me Starbucks, which gained him about a million husband points.  But still.  It’s a lot of togetherness.  He is spending his days watching You Tube videos of road trips we have taken or want to take. I am in my pajamas contemplating just how much Vicodin I have saved up over the years.  I HATE this rain!

Finally, finally, it dries out and once again we see the sun.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just declared that El Nino has peaked and the worst is over.  Thank God…I’ve run out of projects and patience . And Vicodin.




By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

rotary-phoneThis year I will hit a milestone birthday.  I have frequent reminders that I’m getting older, mostly from my knees and memory.  But these days the true test of whether one is on the “back nine” of life is dealing with technology.  I have long prided myself in my interest in computers and anything the least bit geeky.  I owe this to my long-time technology guru at work, Doug Clayton, who always assured me that pressing the “F10” button on the keyboard was NOT going to blow up Hong Kong.  He encouraged me to experiment and right-click my way through most problems.  I wish that I still lived near him – a man of endless patience who never once rolled his eyes at me or called me an ignorant slut.  Although he certainly would have been justified on many occasions.

vcr hook up

These days, I browse Best Buy like it’s a candy store.  Honestly, I’d rather spend two hours there than at Nordstrom (unless it’s the Nordstrom Cafe with their delightful chocolate cake).  I think for someone who started out with a black, rotary phone and a phone number that started with a noun (Twinbrook 23537), I’ve come pretty far.  I have lived long enough to marvel through push-button phones, cordless phones, answering machines, cell phones the size of a shoe box and now the Apple watch.  As for computers, much like the old TV sets, my first one at work had a 10 inch screen with bright green letters on a black background.  I remember when, with more enthusiasm than talent, I hooked up our first DVR back in 1986 and it was a simple matter of connecting two coax cables.  Now…well, there is a computer in everything, from my fitness band to the washing machine.  And everything connects wirelessly.  Even the TV is now called a “smart TV”.  I don’t know exactly what that means but I know one thing, it’s a heck of a lot smarter than me.

Computer wireLast week the intersection of technology and my ineptness crossed when, after 17 years with the same phone and internet company, I decided I’d had enough of their slow speeds and faulty phone lines.  So on Friday a nice young man from the new company showed up at our doorstep ready to install everything I’d need to wisk me through the digital age.  He said it would take about an hour.  That was at 10 a.m.  Apparently our home, which is only 15 years old, is the Parthenon of technology wiring.  At 4 p.m. he finally finished, having had to cancel every other service call scheduled for that day. I peered over his shoulder (which I’m sure he just loved) to watch how he hooked everything up.  When it was all up and running he left.  Big mistake.  I should have kidnapped him.

I spent the next two days uttering language that would make a sailor blush.  Somewhere over those 17 years I lost count of how many devices I’d hooked up wirelessly until, one by one over the weekend, they stopped working – the printer, the wi-fi extender, both iPads and the cell phones.  Don’t even get me started on that “smart TV”.  If it’s so damn smart why can’t it hook itself up?  Honestly, would it be that hard for it to detect that there is a new wireless router and think “Gee, the old router is no longer online and there is a new router.  I think I’ll connect to that one.”  I don’t think that’s asking too much of something that purports to call itself “smart”.

In any event, here I am a week later, and everything seems to be working.  Of course, we all know that I’ve lulled myself into a false sense of security.  I’m guessing that within the next week something will go down and I will have to call Tech Support in India where “Dave” will walk me through all the things I’ve already tried before transferring me to someone in Poughkeepsie.  Some days that old black rotary phone looks pretty darn appealing.

P.S.  For those of you who kindly commented, and related your own stories, on my blog about “Un-Fun Money”, we can now add “new garbage disposal” to the list.  It never ends.