Hands free

The new cell phone law goes into effect today, but while many of you are rushing around shopping for headsets, yours truly is unconcerned. (So is Captain Hook, who’s been hands-free for years.)

I’m one of those holdouts who has yet to embrace cell phones. Never owned one.

Historically, so few people needed to get hold of me that owning a cell phone seemed like an act of vanity. The inevitable rebuke would be day after day of silence, akin to the disappointment of coming home from vacation to find a big red zero on the answering machine, except the cell phone’s zero would always travel with me.

It’s likely I’ll have a phone before the end of 2008 because now, there are enough times when it would come in handy that it’s probably worth the trouble. Also, not having a cell phone is an increasingly untenable, not to mention eccentric, position. At this point it’s almost like not having electricity. In the meantime, I’m savoring the freedom.

Not that I would expect to ever talk on a cell phone while driving anyway. I don’t know how anyone does it, honestly. Driving is difficult enough. So is conversing, for that matter.

Cell phones are something of a mystery to me, as you can imagine. I watch with curiosity as friends use them. A part of me would like a BlackBerry because of the Internet connection; plenty of times I’ve been on the road and wished I could look up the address or cross street of a business, for instance. If you’re going to get a cell phone, just go for it.

On the other hand, maybe a half-step would be less overwhelming.

I was at a Dodger game last week with a group of dozen friends. The friend next to me (I was at the far right end of our row) kept getting text messages from friends further to the left and responding. One of those people was getting drinks and food for the group, which was quite nice of her.

And yet my friend’s phone kept buzzing, and he would read the message, reply by typing with his two thumbs and hit send. Must have been eight or 10 messages throughout the game. Would you like a drink? What about food? I’m in line, ask so-and-so what she wants because she’s not responding. I’m in line and forgot what you wanted. Etc.

After a while, the allure of the device kind of wore off. It was pleasant to sit there unencumbered, thumbs relaxed, and enjoy the game.

Although I did relay a drink order.

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  • From: http://www.defectiveyeti.com/archives/002539.html

    Typical Reaction to the Revelation That I Do Not Own a Cell Phone, By Year

    1998: Solidarity (“Yeah, me neither–I hate those things!”)

    1999: Envy (“Lucky you; I had to get one for work.”)

    2000: Indifference (“Okay, what’s your home phone number then?”)

    2001: Encouragement (“You should get one–you can play Tetris on them now!”)

    2002: Confusion (“I thought you were, like, a tech guy.”)

    2003: Sympathy (“They’re getting pretty cheap. You’ll be able to afford one soon.”)

    2004: Irritation (“So how am I supposed to get a hold of you?”)

    2005: Derision (“If we go out tonight I’ll send you a fax.”)

    2006: Skepticism (“Are you serious?”)

    2007: Awe (“Wow, you’re like the last one.”)

    2008: Incomprehension (“You don’t … how …?”)

    [I’m worried what 2009 will bring. — DA]

  • John Clifford

    So the last holdout Luddite is about to join the rest of us with our “electronic leashes.” Go with a Blackberry, iPhone, or Treo to get the Internet connection. Then you’ll be right here in the 21st century. If your thumbs get good enough, you can even blog from Grinder Haven. 🙂

    [Blogging from Grinder Haven! You’ve almost sold me, John. — DA]

  • Bob House

    David, I sympathize with your ambivalence. My wife and kids finally forced me to get a cell phone last year. They had to buy it however. I refuse to wait in a line to do anything that has to do with a telephone.

    I’m still amazed at what people will put up with to own a cell phone. I don’t answer my cell phone if it’s a number I don’t recognize and I have yet to memorize my number. I have a small piece of paper with the number written on it Scoth taped inside the phone. Isn’t that one of the 12 Signs of Being a Geezer?

    This post brings us full circle — I first emailed you a couple of years ago BB (before blog) in response to a column on old phone numbers to mention my parents having the same one in Claremont since 1951.

    [Just because we’ve come full circle, don’t use that as an excuse to stop commenting, Bob! — DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    I am also a holdout. I like the personal communication of face-to-face. If I need to speak to someone voice-to-voice, I’ll call from home. It’s wonderful to be able to be un-found anytime I wish!

    [I hear you. — DA]

  • Lisa

    Anyone who can round up 12 people to see a ballgame has enough friends to warrant a cell phone. Sheesh. I think you’ve been avoiding late night calls from copy editors … not that you ever a make a mistake. 🙂

  • Tad Decker


    Please hold out a little while longer before buying that phone! I do not want to know the feeling (just yet) of truly being the last person alive without a cell phone. Once a person crosses the line of cell phone ownership, it is indeed a slippery slope toward becoming a Star Trek Borg, with electronic devices growing out of the side of his head.

    I do find it interesting that we are so willing to sacrifice quality for convenience. No one in years past would have put up with so many dropped calls and scratchy connections on their land lines!

    I still think that the best reason for not owning a cell phone is the reactions you get from the dumbfounded, when they learn this fact about you. Priceless.

  • Derek

    Sounds right — David a holdout.

    There is only one problem with this law, it is more “feel good, we’re doing something” than anything else. As David said, “Driving is difficult enough. So is conversing, for that matter.” It’s not the phone in the hand that is the problem, it’s the conversation. I have observed people driving while taliking to passengers and looking directly at them, and not watching the road.

    Besides, according to a study conducted for the AAA, there are many other distractions that outdo cell phones. The study was conducted via hidden cameras in 70 vehicles. Some of the results are:

    Reaching and leaning inside the car is the most common distraction: More than 97 percent of drivers do it, according to the study. In addition, the study found 91.4 percent manipulate the car radio; 71.4 percent eat and drink, and 77.1 percent talk with a passenger. Only 30 percent use cell phones while driving, the report says.

  • Desdave

    I think I am one of the really weird ones, because I used to have a cell phone… and now I don’t.

    I got sick of it. I got sick of being in contact ALL the time. Of being able to be found at any time. There should just be time to be me. Alone, and unencumbered by the ringing (or vibrating) madness.

    Oh, and to people who wear the Bluetooth in your ear all day when NOT on the phone: You look foolish, really… ask your wife.

  • Kristin McConnell

    Due to my faith, I tend to live simply. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have any of the up-to-date gadgets. I have my share. But, I tend to forego all the bells and whistles.

    My phone is a basic phone. It can hold pictures, if I could figure out how to load them in. I :::could:::: text, but I don’t want to. But, I don’t have a camera on it, nor can I access the Internet on it. I don’t NEED all that. All I need is to be able to contact my family if I’m out — or for them to contact me.

    That said, that iPhone that Apple puts out is veeeerrrry nice. And, it influenced me to make a very unnecessary purchase. I finally joined the 21st century when I bought my first ever iPod Nano. I thought it’d be easier to run with than my huge discman. Remember those?? LOL

    Good luck finding a phone. If you’re serious about getting one, I’ll give you some info about a provider that will save you LOADS of money.

    Talk to you later! 🙂


  • ren

    I had one at one time but then I found out the city of Pomona was getting their lil tax bite out of my cell phone payment so I got rid of it. Anyway, didn’t need the thing. Just another way for my girlfriend to find out what I am up to. I swear hon I am not at the sports bar (yea right).

  • Matt P

    Good luck finding a phone now without a camera.

    Nothing more exasperating than telling your parents or girlfriend that you’re at the library when you’re not… only to have them demand that you immediately take a photo of your surroundings and send it to them. D’oh!

  • K

    Awww, Dave, if only you had a cellphone with Internet access, you could approve comments in near-real time. 🙂

    Good on you for sticking to your guns, but I have to appreciate the cellphone as a kind of walkie-talkie for grownups. It’s so nice to be able to call somebody you were meeting and say, “I don’t see you, where are you?” or be able to check to see if that pizza joint is still open or whether the bar is closed on Monday.

    If nothing else, my long LA commute would be much tougher if I couldn’t check the on-line traffic report at the I-10/I-605 intersection to see which path is more congested.

    [Your second paragraph lists most of the good reasons I’ll break down and get a cell phone. Your first paragraph lists a good reason not to. — DA]

  • Stupid Happy Idiot

    For those that don’t want to be tied to the phone, don’t want to be found, or don’t want to be a slave to a machine…you guys know that cell phones have an “off” switch, right? Yes, it’s true — you don’t have to answer those calls. They come with voicemail!

    The difference between that and a land-line is that you can actually check your messages just about anywhere, and call someone back if it’s absolutely necessary. Also handy during an emergency.

    But what do I know, I’m just a stupid happy idiot. 🙂

    [You’re right, of course. However, most people leave their phone on — which is kind of the point — and a tuned-out approach that might work for me might not work for my friends. And they’re half the reason I’d be getting a phone. — DA]

  • Ramona

    I do have a cell phone. It’s kinda like my AAA card. It’s there for emergencies. Medical conditions in my family make it necessary that I can be contacted. My phone isn’t activated for texting. No camera. No internet. It’s just a phone, people.

    I saw a photo of a guy who got around the expense of the fancy hands-free devices by fastening his phone to his head with a large rubber band. Wish I could send it to you. If you do take the plunge and get a cell phone, maybe this would work for you. Worth a shot.

    [That photo, or a similar one, was in a 99 Cents Only ad the other day for rubber bands. — DA]