A month or so ago I relented and accepted an unrepeatable offer for a cellular phone. This particular technology I had passed over many times, preferring to shout at cellphone users wherever I found them. That was unfair of me, but I really really enjoyed it. In most cases I was a luckless pedestrian, shouting at the cellphone user high atop her Range Rover, or, in the very worst case and I’ll never forget it, dyed blonde and high atop her peace dividend-ed Hummer:
Stop talking on the phone!
I would say with some firmness, and even a little bit of 2nd grade teacher authority.
You are driving a vehicle designed and manufactured for the purpose of making it easy for military personnel to traverse combat areas!
A long sentence that usually brought a response, but only because the word military was in it, or the percussiveness of the word combat was at the tail end. Isn’t it always?
Which means you paid for this vehicle twice!
A point lost on anyone who came in even a second late on this rant. Add a changing traffic light and you are instantly a lunatic screaming on the street corner.
Imagine my dismay when my siblings thought it would be a very good idea if I joined them in cellphone ownership. I reminded them how I had humiliated myself on the street in opposition to cellphones, but their arguments for a cellphone’s readiness and economy in emergencies was too much to bear. With a sweeping gesture that took in my mother ruminating in her wheelchair, they nailed the discussion completely shut.
And this is what has happened so far:
- I received the cellphone and unraveled the instructions. I haven’t seen instructions like this since my heyday with Ortho-Novum 35s, a particularly heavy (and unnecessary) dose for a woman my age. The instructions come in a folded pamphlet measuring an inch square, and explode into something you can use to replace your kitchen linoleum. I instantly liked the instructions, them having a dual purpose and all.
- I provided enough information to the cellular service company for them to impersonate me on the global stage. If it weren’t for these people, I would have escaped learning what my credit rating is. Not that I care. I knew I was a goner for credit ratings when my fourth grade teacher threatened to send me to the principal’s office for something and then reneged when I accepted her offer. I liked my principal, but for some reason never got on with my fourth grade teacher. Why is that? Her threats meant nothing to me, nor her admonishments. Finally acquainted with My Permanent File, I saw right through it the first time. Very bad for the people waving it menacingly. Very good for me, so far.
- I programmed the phone to Not Work At All No Matter What You Do. It wasn’t a good idea, but it can be done, so I did it. Then I worked hard at the conundrum it presented: How Do You Program A Cellphone To Work When You’ve Programmed It Not To Work? Coming soon to an Olympics near you, the millennial replacement for the Ski A Little Shoot A Little event. But you can see the advantage in this: you can wave the cellphone, show that it’s powered-up and waiting, and not be responsible for the absence of any real activity around the device. Unless you use it to play catch. Then it works fine.
- I fail to remember my cellphone number, even when I purposefully forget other things in order to make room for it. The trouble is that my cellphone number does not )spell( anything memorable. It has too many 1s and 0s in it, destroying the chance of having a great number as I did when I lived in the Vulcan: Legit-OD. That’s all I was ever after, ladies and gentlemen. Why did I ever have to move from there? Sad.
- My first cellphone call came as a hectic exercise in stupidity. What cellphone call doesn’t? I was riding back to the Bay Area on I-80, as usual, after spending the overnight at Ma’s pacing around and staring at the Fisher-Price Baby Monitor as it redlined her breathing. That’s right, I was completely trashed. I hear this honking and waving in the lane next to me, and I recognize, and only barely, my brother-in-law. He’s shaking his cellphone at me, but it isn’t because of 3, above. I shake my cellphone at him, and feel satisfied that we’ve communicated. He’s a very nice brother-in-law, but I’m just not a brother-in-law type of person, if it must be said. Then he weaves all over traffic for a long time, doing something in his lap with a strong rhythmic motion. I was unwilling to take this any further, preferring to remain solidly in brother-in-law’s blind spot. When he pressed something against the passenger window of his car, I reluctantly pulled up to see what it was: his cellphone number. He does not suffer from 4, previous. I dialed it while driving, an act which nearly killed everyone around me, and connected to a local lumber yard. My brother-in-law suspected I would do this, and spent the time scratching out his area code for me to read in good time. I redialed, completely, and began to talk to my brother-in-law as we drove side-by-side on a crowded freeway. The call cost me seven dollars, and I don’t remember a thing he said.
- While in the Hamptons, I kept the cellphone on and within reach 24 hours a day. This ended up being great cover for what would otherwise be a situation of glaring outsiderdom. But in reality it meant that if the cellphone rang, my Ma was dead or dying. The kids were perturbed by it, bless their homespun manhattan hearts, and they urged me to ditch it in order to make me easier to sit on and drag around the place. I can’t, I said, I have to keep it on in case The President calls. I felt this lie was easier than the truth, and it seemed to stop them cold. They wanted me to call the President right away, and not wait for him to call me. I can’t, I said. This phone only accepts incoming calls. To prove this, I tried dialing, having become an expert at programming the dysfunction of my own phone. Why would the President be calling you, they asked, with a little too much incredulity. He is the people’s representative, I reminded them, it would not be so unusual would it? Indeed it would. Very well, I said, he’s the leader of the free world and I’m integral to his plans, if I tell you anymore I’ll have to kill you. This brought great laughter, so I finally broke down and told them the truth: I’m the President’s Analyst. No reaction. I blame myself.
- Somewhere along the way, I programmed my phone to Auto-Answer on the third ring. I always turn on my phone and place it in the coffee cup holder when I hit the road for another caregiving commute, in case the people who pressured me to purchase it call me to tell me to hurry it up, dammit. Then I put the radio on Scan and listen to whatever signal is strong enough for less than five seconds over the course of 90 miles. This is akin to tying a brick to the channel up button and turning on the tv as you sink into the couch, then firing the couch into space. You’ll cycle endlessly through the bandwidth, collaging a post-post-post modern experience. So post it’s pre. Caves of Altamira, if you hang with it long enough. The hum of 150 channels says about as much about us as those paintings say about them. Where was I? Auto-Answer. If someone has rung me, and I don’t know yet if someone has, then they may have heard me yowling along to a Supertramp song for less than 5 seconds, then recoiling in horror at the reverb used in many Spanish-language stations to make the announcers sound more thunderous, then cranking up the death metal as I dutifully snake by the high school microwatts. Sometimes I imagine my Ma’s lawyer has called me to confirm some asset or some liability. Caught in the act of being myself, she vows never to see me in the same way. I headbang through New Country, however briefly, knowing that, at least in my imagination, I have disillusioned an attorney. If I could, I would put a buncha buckshot through the next road sign I see.
- The only other calls I make on the phone are to Z, and I make them to him as I’m walking up behind him, so he can turn around and look at me, exasperated-like. One time I called him every 30 seconds but the line was busy, causing me to dip down into BART, forcing me to board a train, compelling me to get off at my stop, and driving me to walk home, one foot after the other. At any moment, I knew I would connect and Z would hop in the car and pick me up and take me to eat sushi. In fact, the line was busy a full half hour after I got home, at which point I picked up the cell phone and called him, just to see how he was doing. He told me I wasn’t coming in very clearly, me being in the loft and him being in the kitchenspacelikearea, so I picked up the receiver in the loft and talked to him through that mouthpiece and the mouthpiece of my cellphone. He asked if it was OK to put me on speakerphone, and I agreed, doing likewise from my perch. I rang off the cellphone, but stayed on the speakerphone catching up on the days events until the mechanical operator intervened and told us if we would like to make a call, to hang up and try our call again. I considered it, then rang off. Z continued on with her for a little while longer, but it soon turned one-sided. I wish he would pay more attention to me.
- Four times now I’ve forgotten to bring the cellphone with me when I’m on the road. And we all know why. I hate that phone and cannot integrate it into my life, unless I start using it as a hammer. It’s a bleak vision: me in the car practicing radio interruptus while a phone bleats on the counter 90 miles away. And like many things in my bleak life, very fitting.
On the strength of that alone, one of the best things I ever bought.