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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cell Division

It’s the end of July, and although it’s sizzling hot here in the northern hemisphere, temperatures are in the mid-twenties in Hell. On a related note, I’m getting a cell phone.

I’m not happy about it, though. In fact I am being dragged, kicking and screaming into the early 1990’s. For over 20 years I have been unwavering in my pledge to never own one. I’ve saved thousands and thousands of dollars by refusing to become one of Those People. I have prided myself in being a stubborn curmudgeon, lashing out against all those people who say, “How do you live without a cell phone?” The real philosophical question is: How well do you live with a cell phone?

My early relationship with cell phones was dysfunctional at best. I was required to schlep one around when I was on call 24/7 at work. The phone was the size of Shaq’s shoe (gesundheit), and along with it I also dragged a “laptop” computer that weighed as much as a bag of topsoil. Back then, I think engineers were instructed to create a “laptop” that would fit Mama Cass.

When I was on call, production workers used to call me at 3 in the morning because they had forgotten their passwords and had to get into their work e-mail so they could show off pictures of their new children/grandchildren/puppy/cat/pickup truck. When I left that job, I renounced cellular technology and swore I’d never fall into that trap. That was a decade ago, and I’ve held my ground. I did say that I might consider a cell phone if they came out with one with a rotary dial.

I believe cell phones are responsible for the collapse of civilization that I see happening today. They turn normal human beings into rude, selfish, dangerously inattentive robots. They are responsible for an increase in traffic fatalities. They are destroying traditional grammar by turning nouns into verbs (as in, “He texted me yesterday.”) And even if research is inconclusive about them contributing to brain/ear/salivary gland tumors, why take the chance? Should I mention the cell phones that have caught fire, cell phone batteries that have exploded or overheated and burned people? Terrorists use them to remotely set off bombs, and they even make guns that look like cell phones that can go undetected at TSA checkpoints. They have spawned the art of “sexting” that has brought down government officials and embarrassed parents of teenagers. Want me to go on? They are harmful electronics, pure and simple, and I detest them. Don’t tell me they’re a necessary evil. They’re just evil.

This is not to say that I don’t fully understand the benefits of having a cell phone for an emergency, but why do I have to pay $11 a month (my half) for something I might never use? For years this has been a point of contention between Other Bill and me, and after a lot of insisting and complaining and whining and me giving in, I say, “I’ll get one as soon as I find a cheap enough plan.” And then I never go looking for a plan, and it is forgotten about until some event happens where having one would have been useful, and Other Bill takes it to task again.

I am as stubborn about this as he is about direct deposit. For 19 years I have told him it would save time and gas if he eliminated standing in long bank lines on Saturdays by signing up for his salary to be electronically transferred into his bank account. He also waits for 3 or 4 checks to pile up before he gathers up his loot and takes it to the bank, so he’s also losing interest on that money. He seems to think if he doesn’t see or touch the check, (or leave it on his dresser for six weeks) he won’t get paid.

So we have both reluctantly agreed. I will get a cell phone if he gets direct deposit. He has 30 days to do the paperwork for direct deposit, and my Jitterbug phone has a 30 day free trial. So if one of us (i.e. Other Bill) fails, the phone goes back.

That’s right: Jitterbug. You’ve seen them advertised on TV and in Parade magazine. It’s the phone that caters to the greater AARP community because it has big readable buttons and displays. When you order it, they will even pre-program frequently used numbers that you give them, because you’re too old and stupid and can’t read a user guide to do it yourself. My favorite part of this service is that the phone has a dial tone to give you a false sense of security and make it seem like you are home on your hospital bed with your oxygen mask on and ordering take-out from Wan Fat.

I prefer the Jitterbug because it’s the farthest thing from a smart phone. In fact, it’s downright stupid. It doesn’t do anything but pretend to be a land line. It doesn’t send or receive texts. It doesn’t have a clue what the Internet is. You can’t download ring tones for it. And when you press zero, you get to talk to a Jitterbug operator for free. It’s been decades since I’ve called an operator just to ask her the time, so I look forward to that. As far as add-ons go, I was overruled when I insisted I didn’t want to pay the extra buck-fifty a month for voice mail, so instead, I have taken a secret vow to never check it. I’ll contend I don’t know how, because I’m too old and stupid to read the user manual. And after a few months, I’ll press zero and tell the operator to cancel the voice mail. That way my Jitterbug will turn into something even stupider.

Part of my giving in to this ridiculous plan is that I get to waive the right to learn my cell phone number, because I am still planning on telling everyone I don’t have a cell phone. And if I don’t know the number, I won’t be able to give it out. The only one who will know the number is Other Bill, and the 911 operator who will take my call during the alleged emergency I will be having somewhere between today and death. You will only be able to get this number if Other Bill betrays me or you bribe the 911 operator who will tell me that sometimes it’s good to make yourself cough when you’re having a heart attack.

We have also agreed that I will not be obligated to carry the phone around with me on my person. I plan on leaving it in the side pocket of my car door. Note to thieves: It’s a red Honda Fit, and the door will be unlocked, so please don’t break the window. That way I’ll be able to go for months without realizing it’s been stolen, provided the thief does not use over 50 minutes a month, which, incidentally, are rollover minutes, whatever that means. Hopefully these minutes won’t trip over the dial tone when they roll over it.

I know there are a few friends out there who will be gleefully trying to rub it in with told-you-so chants, malicious greeting cards and Facebook postings (which will be deleted). So I would like to remind these so-called friends that I am a master of, and pride myself in, the art of retaliation. So expect to get something ten times worse thrown back at you, and if you’re smart, you’ll hide your precious iPhones if you know what’s good for you. I accidentally discovered a liquid you can buy in any grocery store, which will literally dissolve your cell phone while giving it the overpowering smell of a urinal cake. With Glade Plug-In icing. And just because Other Bill’s cell phone melted and is unusable because this liquid accidentally coated his former phone does not mean that I did it in retaliation for his insisting upon my having a cell phone. Or did I?

Is it clear I am not happy about this?

I have agreed to get the phone solely in the event of an emergency during my lengthy 7-mile commute to or from work. And since it’s illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone in this state, the only time I can use it is when it is illegal to do so. (Note to fact checkers: Actually, we don’t have any laws in Florida which ban phoning and driving, but since I work in law enforcement, I can say anything I want, and Other Bill will believe it.)

So yes, I have a cell phone, but if anyone asks me to my face if I have a cell phone, the answer is still no, and I will deny it until the day I die.

So if you want to talk, call me at home.

Creative Commons License by Bill Wiley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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And yet another reason to own one.


  1. If you were to delete all of the erroneous, inaccurate and dinosaurical stretches in this posting you would be left with a document smaller than the Republican truth meter and equally as significant. Maybe we should ask the writer how many times he has reminded Other Bill on his way out the door, "Don't forget your cell phone?". It appears that the writer wants to claim the retro pleasure of not having a cell phone but he is unwilling to forgo the substantial benefits of living with a cell phone semi-user. And, this brings up another factual error the writer has conveniently forgotten. Other Bill has a WORK cell phone and that's it. All of these calls made for the writer's convenience are reimbursed to OB's employer by OB and often exceed the monthly fee of the new cell service. The writer frequently likes to take advantage of the ability to find OB any time anywhere and has been known to admonish OB when he is not immediately available (the writer was looking for his glasses or his keys or our house probably). It seems that he is uncomfortable being similarly accountable. Apparently he is spending more time on the roof shooting squirrels out of the avocado tree and is afraid of being caught. I could go on.
    The writer should be very careful about over whining this situation. Someone might just post his new cell number somewhere. Any suggestions???

  2. I'm sorry, but I don't respond to anonymous postings. You can either create an account, and I will NOT help you do that, or you can just deal with my ability to delete your comment.

  3. the cell phone number begins with 954........

  4. I will no longer be reading comments on this post.

  5. I love this one. make me want to just take my phone and put it through a window way to go bill :)