Q: Did I read this title right? Are you really giving up your cell phone?

A: Yes. Well, yes and no. I am giving up my current cell phone, yes, as well as access to unlimited minutes. I am not currently reachable via a cell phone, so yes. However, for safety reasons, I am carrying a pre-paid cell phone for emergencies only.

Q: What precipitated this change?

A: Although my parents have been extremely generous in keeping my brother and me on a family cell phone plan for all these many years, we have decided that it is time for us all to go our separate cell phone plan ways. Makes sense, yes? I really expected them to nix the family plan years ago, but I think it made sense at the time to keep going with my teacher discount and my brother still in college. Even then, they have been more than generous in giving us free access to cell phone use for much longer than any other family I know. Since I am not sure yet about what, if any, kind of cell phone plan I want next, it did not make sense for me to keep paying for Verizon service at $40 a month (Bill has AT&T), while I figured it out.

Q: Wait, what? You think you might not enter into another cell phone plan?

A: Well, I am on the fence about it. Cell phones generally do not suit my temperament. I have felt guilty for a couple of years at least that my parents were paying for a service I rarely use. I am not sure if I am ready to commit to another plan or phone. That said, Bill has me somewhat convinced that an iPhone 5 (to be released by Christmas or sooner) might be the way to go. I would possibly do it for the camera and GPS capabilities. Even so, I am not a big cell phone user. That is part of the reason why I want to experiment with not having a cell phone in use for the next few months. Will I miss it at all?

Q: But this is a cell phone culture. How could you not miss it?

A: Unlike the land line, cell phone technology brought with it the expectation of constant access. We agree that, when we call a house phone, the person may or may not be home, may or may not be at dinner, may have legitimate reasons for not picking up the line. House phone culture has always been a bit more patient in that regard, more old-fashioned. Cell phone technology, however, carried with its emergence a sense of expectation. Because our phone could now travel anywhere and everywhere, it became expected that we would, or even could-should, answer our phone whenever it rings. I cannot speak for everyone, but I have personally never enjoyed the feeling of being constantly accessible, or the expectation that I could be constantly accessible. There are many times in which I am immersed totally and passionately in something or someone, and I am not reachable because I am savoring time with that hobby, task, or person/people. But  even just having a cell phone can lead modern callers to assume you want to be/can be constantly accessible, and this leads to hurt feelings and disappointed expectations… So I won’t miss it in that respect.

Q: A half dozen people, or more, have remarked how hard you can be to reach on a phone, and probably more than that have thought it. Care to remark?

A: Yes, I am extremely difficult to reach on a phone, unless we have made plans to call or unless we have somewhat of a standing date, like I do with Mom on most days. I am highly reachable by e-mail, even moreso by Facebook. Why am I difficult? Well, for starters, I guard my time in person with others like a jealous lover. If I am in the middle of something with Katie and Eric or Bill, for example, they have my full attention and I don’t usually answer the phone. Sometimes I do, it depends. I have the tendency to be immersed in whatever I am doing—I don’t know how else to describe it. When I am immersed, even if it is just polishing the wood, it is very hard to break my concentration on savoring that moment. I am a person who loves to concentrate. I multi-task very well, actually, but my mind feels happiest when it can immerse and concentrate. That is one reason why I actually love studying for hours and hours, or why I can work on a project all day hardly stopping to eat. I often don’t even hear the phone if it rings. People wonder how that can be; it is just the way my mind functions—when I am focused, my mind sometimes shuts out white noise. And don’t get me started on checking VM—the only time I check VM is if I happen to remember that it exists. Again, how can this be? Not sure, but I do know that “check my VM” is truly not a conscious thought most days, and the only way it would be, would be if I wrote myself a note daily.

Q: Ugh. You sound weird.

A: A little… But I am super easy to reach in other ways. The written word is a more natural medium for me. And I love to savor family and friends in person. And, I am not that weird. My mom and I talk on the phone almost every day. The advantage to e-mail and the like is that I can do it late at night, too.

Q: So, do you belong in the 1800s, or not?

A: Probably so.

Q: Really?

A: Yes, really. But I would want my iPad and access to the Internet. 😉 Oh, and access to modern medicine, especially for my children.

Q: Seriously, though, do you think you might get an iPhone 5 and rejoin our cell phone culture?

A: Honestly? Maybe so. It is tempting. I need to see how I feel about the pre-paid phone. It certainly would be cheaper to stick with that, and for the little amount I use a cell phone, I am not sure I could justify the iPhone. However, I have an infatuation with Apple products. Infatuation makes people do all sorts of crazy things…

Q: What do you think the outcome of this experiment might be?

A: I have often said that I feel as though I have “half a phone too many.” It feels like too much to me to have a cell phone and a house phone, in some undefinable way. Yet whenever I thought about giving one line up, I felt stuck with both for pragmatic reasons: the land line is more reliable, on the whole, and I can cradle it between my neck and shoulder if I need my hands to be free; the cell phone is a useful safety tool to have on long car trips or on walks with the kiddos. Maybe the prepaid phone solves the half-a-phone problem? Most of the time, I end up not using a cell phone when I am out (you can’t use them in the car, I am not a fan of buds in my ear, and I am usually talking with my children or my mom on errands), and when I am home, I can just use the house phone. It becomes almost a max-min math problem of sorts: what is the least amount of money I can pay to have all the functions/utility I desire? That is one question I will try to answer in these next few months.

Q: Any last thoughts?

A: Yes, a big thank you to my parents for gifting us with cell phone use for so many years. I do not think a cell phone is a right or a necessity, and so they really gave us a gift of something that is a luxury. I enjoyed my cell phone the most when I used it to talk with my mom every single morning on the walk from my room to my classes at Stanford. It came in handy during my season of wedding planning, as well, when I was doing business frequently and out and about in the local area. When I had my teaching career and was pregnant, it came in handy to call my OB a few times during my breaks about test results and appointments—it was nice to have a personal line to use at work, especially since I was often there from 6:30 AM to 4:00 PM every business day. The cell phone has also made traveling with the kiddos much safer, especially to and from music class. So it was a gift. A gift that was not expected or a necessity, but which made life a little easier and nicer here and there.

I think the time is right and good to strike out on our own, and to require my brother and I to put our own value on such a luxury. I will either end up appreciating the luxury more because I will be paying for it myself, or I will find that I can do without it. Either way, it is a worthwhile experiment.

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