T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Sunday, July 31, 2005
On Being Unreachable
My BIL called this morning, furious with us because nearly every time he tries to call us, he gets our voicemail. He can’t understand why we’re not at home when he calls, or why we don’t have cell phones turned on so that we can be connected with the rest of the world all the time.
Being unreachable is a conscious choice that T and I have made: we could have cell phones, but we don’t. We could have call waiting, but we don’t. We could have pagers or wireless PDAs, but we don’t. Sometimes, this makes our lives difficult. For example, when I was getting our car fixed last week (and it still isn’t fixed, but such is life) I used the dealer’s shuttle service to get to campus. The shuttle driver asked me for my cell phone number so he could call me when he was about to arrive to pick me up, and he was genuinely shocked when I told him that I’d be unreachable all day (except via email), and that I didn’t have a cell phone. In the end, he didn’t need to reach me all day, and the pick up happened as discussed that morning. Sure, it would have been nice to give the shuttle driver the peace of mind that he could depart from our agreed-upon schedule by giving me a call, but to me, carrying a cell phone is just not worth it.
I can’t think of a time when I have needed a cell phone, but I can think of many times where I’ve been really glad that I don’t have one. In seminars, in restaurants, in the car, in the check-out lane at the supermarket, on the bus… these are all places where, in my mind, cell phones have no place. I certainly do not enjoy hearing everyone’s conversations while I wait to buy my groceries, and I have learned some rather private things about people just by listening (not eavesdropping, because eavesdropping implies that I’m being sneaky about it) to one side of their cell phone conversations. There is a man who rides the same bus I do, and every afternoon without fail he calls someone on the bus just to chat. The other person, I’ve gathered from his conversations, is at work, and he just calls her (I know it’s a woman) every day to chat for 20 minutes while he rides the bus. This seems wrong to me – I should not have to share my boredom with someone at the expense of their job. Too often, I think, cell phones are used to cure boredom instead of for relaying important information.
I like being unreachable, quite frankly. Every time I miss a call, it means that I was out doing something in the world instead of being at someone else’s beck and call. Our telephone exists for myconvenience, not for my BIL’s or anyone else’s. That’s why I really enjoy email – I can check it or not, it doesn’t ring for me and demand my immediate attention, and I can reply when I want to, if I want to. I know that others are unhappy that we, as a family, are sometimes difficult to get a hold of, but that’s really fine with me. I think I actually get a sort of sick, twisted pleasure out of it (especially when BIL is on the other end, because his calls are usually pointless anyway), to be completely honest. It’s just a technological version of playing hard to get.