15 Sep 2014
50° Clear
Patch Instagram photo by chrissybagnoli

iF i Have To

"I’ll probably end up getting a smart phone so that I, too, can multitask while being ignored by a person I would otherwise like to be talking to."

iF i Have To

I do not have a smart phone.

There, I admitted it. iDon’t have an iPhone.

I’m not afraid of technology. I use computers all the time, do email, pay most of my bills online, surf the internet regularly and know how to text. I have an iPod, and I don’t even have to ask my kids to load music into it for me anymore.

And I no longer believe that an “app” is something you order in a restaurant to eat while you wait for your entrée.

It’s only a matter of time before I get an iPhone or a Droid. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to take the leap yet.

I’m not exactly sure why. For a while, I told myself I was waiting for the prices to come down. I blew my cover on that excuse about a year and a half ago, when I went to the Verizon Store with my son Mark to select a smart phone as his Christmas gift. To my consternation, the sales representative told me that buying one for Mark meant I was eligible to get one for myself, too. For free.

I politely declined. You see, I wasn’t allowed to just take the free phone and mothball it until I wanted to use it. No, I had to activate a data connection account. I knew the monthly data charges that piled up while the fancy phone gathered dust on my dresser would far exceed the cost of buying a new one when I was ready for it. By now, that free phone would have cost me about $500.

In the meantime, I’ve been perfectly happy using my old, beat-up flip phone. The phone’s camera takes fuzzy pictures. The display screen is tiny. The keys are so much smaller than my fingers that the one I use most when texting is the backspace/clear button. The lettering on the outside is worn to the point that “Samsung/Verizon” has become “Samsu  /   zon.”

But the phone fits really nicely into my pocket. And I don’t worry much about it being lost or stolen, since it’s practically worthless. Oh, and I can make phone calls with it, which was what mobile phones were for when I bought it.

Plus, it’s all paired up with my car’s hands-free system -- thanks to Mark, my personal tech support. If I got a new phone I’d have to figure out how to redo that myself, since Mark is a lot busier than he used to be. Before I managed to do so, I know I’d get a call on my new phone in the car, answer it in case it was important, and get a ticket for talking on my cell phone while driving.

Besides wanting to avoid a life of cell-phone crime, I think my reluctance has something to do with fearing a loss of freedom. I held out as long as I could before getting my first cell phone. Lacking one allowed me to be oblivious to the outside world sometimes. When I was driving my car listening to music, no one could call me. When I was on vacation, it was harder for people to reach me to talk about work. Like ignorance, obliviousness can be bliss.

But, unfortunately, it’s also super inconvenient. Eventually the inconvenience outweighed the occasional periods of refuge I enjoyed by being cell phone-less. Of course, once I got one I loved it and didn’t know how I had lived without it.

I had been down this road before. It seems like the Dark Ages now, but I remember when fax machines first came out. They were miraculous at the time, but I held out on getting one as long as I could. I liked the fact that the normal pre-fax way for a business to deliver a letter or document was via -- don’t laugh -- the U.S. Postal Service.

This conferred a certain freedom. If a client or another lawyer told me on the phone (land line, of course) that he needed a document right away, my typical response was, “I’ll put it in the mail to you today.” But this gave me some wiggle room. If I didn’t have time to prepare the document that day, I could finish it the next day, put it in the mail and the recipient would still be satisfied. He might assume that the mail had taken an extra day to arrive. More likely, he really didn’t need the item as urgently as claimed and was just as happy to get it later.

It’s like what my father, a pediatrician, used to say: the things his patients considered emergencies usually weren’t if you just waited a little.

The fax machine eliminated the freedom to wait a little before sending something you had promised immediately. But there came a point where any respectable office had to have one. When I finally took the plunge and shopped for one, I was told the cost depended on the features I wanted.

I said I wanted that feature where, if someone asked whether you had a fax machine, you could say yes.

Inevitably, I know that one day soon I will be the proud owner of a smart phone. And I know I will love it, even though it will take away a little more freedom, like the freedom from reading work email only when I’m not at work.

I even know what will finally drive me to purchase it. It’s that I can’t figure out what to do when I’m trying to have a face-to-face conversation with someone who has a smart phone. Invariably, while I’m trying to hold up my end of the conversation, I notice the other person’s eyes being drawn irresistibly to the device. I can’t blame smart phoners. They’re holding in their hands a virtual gateway to all of the information in the whole world. How can my small talk compete with that?

My sons both have smart phones now, and since they got them I believe that every question I have asked either of them has elicited the same delayed response: “What did you say?” Now when I have something important to tell one of them, I send him a text even if he’s sitting right next to me.

So, I’ll probably end up getting a smart phone so that I, too, can multitask while being ignored by a person I would otherwise like to be talking to. Someday everyone will have smart phones and there will be no more personal conversations at all.

Unless they come up with an app for that.

Share This Article