Cutting Loose

Getting a phone that’s smarter than I am is one thing – cutting my landline is a lot harder!

I’ve never been a Luddite, just a laggard, a latecomer rather than an early adapter to the wonders of the modern age. My first computer was a Kaypro and in the 25 years since then I’ve upgraded to newer models fewer times than Donald Trump changed wives.

The first time I was aware of cell phones they were called car phones, but I confused them with CB radios. The only person I knew who had one of those was my brother-in-law, and since I didn’t want to sit in my car and talk to him, why bother? Besides, everyone I actually wanted to talk to could call my home phone (which is what we called it then), and leave a message on my answering service (which is what we had then ) if I didn’t pick up.

I finally got a cell phone when I began to live part of the year in New York, about the time the last working pay phone in Manhattan expired, in the late 90’s. I’ve only had one replacement since then, and it’s the second dumbest phone extant – all it does besides make and receive calls is do texting, but on a tiny qwerty keyboard it’s not exactly a time-saver.

I neither envy nor admire the digiterati, whose fingers skip nimbly over their smart phones, conjuring up the nearest sushi bar, social messaging like crazy, checking in at 4-Square and talking to a sweet-voiced entity named after Tom Cruise’s daughter (and what’s up with THAT?) But I’ve been toying with the idea of upgrading to a slightly smarter cell phone since a friend’s cell phone’s built-in GPS helped us find our way when we were (truly) lost in the woods.

I’ve even been thinking about giving up my land line and depending solely on my cell phone to keep me connected to the world. Frankly, I haven’t been satisfied with my home telephone service since there was only one company supplying it. But first I had to choose a phone and a plan, which I finally did.

My new phone has arrived, and my new plan, with enough bytes to keep me from getting lost, let me check my e-mail, and play Words With Friends (but only if Tina Fey will play with me) went “live” as soon as I activated it. In order to justify the expense of this vastly more superior (or at least newer, which in the tech world is usually the same thing) instrument, I have to let go of what I’ve come to think of as my life line – my land line. The prospect gives me a galloping case of separation anxiety. Irrational, I know –i’s not my identity I’m giving up, just that thing that always works, even when the power fails. It’s not even the phone number I’ve had for three decades, the same number in two houses and four different apartments; within days those digits by which my oldest, nearest and dearest reach me were magically teleported to my smart new cell phone. I’m not sure yet whether the telemarketers, phone spammers or political phone bankers will come, too – that remains to be heard.

Giving up my land line is scary. What if I lose my cell phone? What if I forget to charge it and I miss the call I’ve been waiting for? What if someone really needs to reach me but can’t find my number because it’s not in the white pages any longer? What if there’s some kind of terrorist attack that wipes out all the cell phone towers or networks? What if my phone falls into the wrong hands and anyone can do anything with it, especially all the things I don’t know how to do yet and probably never will?

(I think now I really understand why advertisers aren’t interested in selling to people my age.)

By janeellen

Jane Adams PHD Social Psychologist