Yes, I can hear you now. Sort ofBeverly Godfrey column: This Christmas marked the one-year anniversary of my family getting cellphones. It’s an anniversary most people marked years ago, I know. But for the longest time, I couldn’t see spending so much money on something I’d been living without for so long.
By: Beverly Godfrey, Duluth News Tribune
This Christmas marked the one-year anniversary of my family getting cellphones. It’s an anniversary most people marked years ago, I know. But for the longest time, I couldn’t see spending so much money on something I’d been living without for so long.
With the kids getting older, though, there was a rising expectation that they’d have cellphones — that our whole family would. Only if you don’t have a cellphone, I think, would you recognize the shift our entire culture has taken to operate with the assumption that people can be reached immediately at any time, and that plans can be changed at the last minute, and everyone will immediately know.
Getting the phones didn’t solve this problem right away. You’ve heard the expression, “A poor workman blames his tools”? Turns out, owning the phones isn’t even half the battle, more like a tiny sliver of the battle. The rest of the battle lies with the phone operators, and we’re not doing the best job.
We need to make sure we have the phone with us, that it’s turned on, that it’s charged and that it’s where we’ll hear it ringing. Those are a lot of hurdles; it’s a lot of new chores to get used to. At first, I felt like I had another child. Make sure the phone doesn’t get dropped, doesn’t get squished, doesn’t get wet. Make sure I’ve “fed” it by keeping it charged and then listen for it to cry.
People who wear those little phones on their ear can clear some of these hurdles more easily, because they’ve decided they’d rather walk around looking like a cyborg than dig for their phone. If you wear one of these cyborg-ear-phones, please don’t think I’m judging you; I do understand. And years ago, it seemed like you were talking to yourself — loudly — but our culture has gotten used to that, too.
It’s funny to be alive at the time cellphones were invented. I was in college, 1991, maybe, and working in the cafeteria serving food when a student came though the line, pushing her tray with one hand and talking on the phone with the other. It was such a new sight, people were stopping to stare, and cafeteria workers out on the line were ducking back into the kitchen to tell people: “She was on the phone while she was in line!” We laughed and laughed.
A former News Tribune co-worker and her husband got cellphones in about 1996, and I remember her husband calling her. “He’s calling from the Lakewalk!” she shrieked, delighted by the novelty of it.
Remember those commercials for the Sprint long-distance network in the late ’80s? The big deal was you could hear a pin drop because the sound was so clear. People seem to have given up caring for that; most calls from a cellphone sound like they’re coming from the moon. You can’t have quiet conversations, either, which is probably why texting has taken over for teenagers. I wonder: Do girls still go through a half-hour of “you hang up first” when they’re texting their boyfriends?
Of course, for me, texting with all those tiny buttons was another hurdle. Plus, at first, I didn’t know why my spacebar automatically put a period after each word.
With dead batteries, bad reception and texts from me — like this real example I sent to my teenage son: “Why. Your phone. Never work? You. Done?. We ARE. Rrrady. To. Go.” — it’s no wonder I feel like we’ve taken a step back.
Beverly Godfrey is a News Tribune copy editor and columnist. You can reach her at email@example.com.