Cell Phones


Paul Hord


One Sunday afternoon, I was making my weekly visit to the grocery store.  I usually have one or both of the kids with me because Dad's a sucker at the grocery store, and they both know this.  As we were rolling along in our cart towards the dairy section, we all watched something amusing that was about to happen nearby.  An older gentleman, shopping by himself, was pushing his cart while also looking at his phone, maybe texting, or even getting a score update on NFL.com, as it was a fall Sunday.  As he rolled along, without watching where he was pushing his cart, he rammed directly into another cart.  He looked up, a little startled.  The cart he hit was being pushed by a middle aged mother, she having her child sitting in the cart.  Now the woman that he hit had been watching the man the entire time, knowing what was about to happen.  Her little boy, maybe three years old, looked up and said, “That man just ran into us.”  Now this was not your typical soccer mom.  She looked and sounded more like the crazy lady from the movie, Misery.  Her reply in a raspy voice to her son was, “Yeah I know; he was doing the same damn thing all those other crazy people in town are doing when they're driving their cars, on their phones and not even looking where they're going.”  The man apologized but received little sympathy.  She scared me a little as well.  We moved along, all of us chuckling at what we had seen.  However, it made me think about current technology, especially phones, and how so many people in our current age are absorbed with the gadgets.  I'm obviously not, which is why it doesn't really bother me to rant a little about those who are.

I'm way behind the curve when it comes to cell phones.  My wife and I were probably one of the last married couples to get a cell phone.  Once we did, we bought just one, to share between the two of us, which really meant that it belonged to my wife.  Anyway, I was always able to manage without one, no big deal.  A couple of years later, I became principal at a school in Bryan.  Bryan schools required that all of their principals have cell phones, because the district paid them a whopping $15 per month stipend towards them.  I decided not to mess with buying one, instead, applying the stipend towards our “family” cell phone.  It was all good until my boss told me that I needed to get my own phone because he was tired of getting my wife when he was trying to get in touch with me.  So, I broke down and bought my own cell phone in 2008.  My purchase was the most simple phone that one could buy, a pay as you go phone that came with its own $15, 150 minute phone card.  I was legit now, had a cell phone.  I even bought one of those hip little pouches to put it in that you clip on your belt, true “dorkdom” now looking back.  And then I was required to share my cell phone number with a bunch of other people in the school district:  other school principals, central office administrators, building maintenance people, the Bryan Police department, etc.  My secretary, unbeknownst to me, put my cell phone number on the school directory list for other staff members to see.  That opened up a door for other people to call and text me at will.  Speaking of texting, I had no idea what this was until two years after I had my first cell phone.  Pretty neat I thought.  Then it took me a few weeks to figure out how to respond to text messages.  Once I learned this, then it was kind of easy to not actually have to talk to people, which is good when you're not in the mood to talk.  Within a year, I had all kinds of people calling and texting me for all sorts of stupid reasons.  Sure, a few of those calls were important to the position I held at the time, but most I could have done without.  It didn't take long for me to reach cell phone burnout.  Finally, I reached a point where I realized that it's okay not to be important and that I was ready to become a hermit - but that's for another story.


Back to the texting thing . . .  my personal political view is that government shouldn't spend too much time, effort, and resources telling us what we should and shouldn't do; however, it's okay if it means the interference can keep me alive a little longer.  So I'm okay with some of the city governments in our country that have banned texting and driving within their municipalities.  I'm even okay with the feds getting involved in this one as long as they don't tamper with speed limits.  I would much rather face the drunks on the road than the texters; at least most of the drunks have their heads up and can, while with delayed reaction, swerve to avoid the oncoming blurry objects.  Texters have their heads down, one hand or knee on the wheel, and are totally oblivious of their neighboring drivers.  Back in my texting days, I was guilty of this.  And now, with the recent popularity of smartphones (iPhones, Blackberry's, Droids, etc.), drivers can now check their e-mail, get updates on the weather and their fantasy football teams, check their Facebook page, etc., which compounds the number of drivers that aren't watching the road, which puts my life at risk.  So hell yes, I'm all for banning texting and driving.  My brother-in-law, Shelby, is admittedly guilty of texting/surfing the web and driving.  His dad told me a funny story recently.  He and Shelby decided to take a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to watch the Longhorns vs. Huskers football game.  His dad talked about how he was a little more than nervous about how much Shelby was checking things on his cell phone while driving.  At one point, somewhere along the interstate, Shelby and another driver he was passing both looked up from their smartphones, locked eyes and laughed at each other, then went back to their phone business and driving.  This was very disturbing to Shelby's dad.


Now, speaking of smartphones, I'm a little in the dark ages with my current phone.  It's a replica of the original Nokia, circa 1995, which in cellular phone analogs, is ancient.  Doesn't bother me a bit; I'm okay with it.  It works for my needs, which consists of my wife calling me with reminders or me calling my wife asking her to remind me of my reminders.  Anyway, I do find myself a little out of place these days in public places where you have to wait or have some down time.  In the doctor's office, I'm usually the only one that picks a magazine from the rack to pass time.  It's the same when I get my haircut.  Everyone else is performing their daily, routine down time tasks on their smartphones.  I really became aware of this when my family and I traveled to Disney World recently.  I served a really important purpose for my family at Disney---my wife despises standing in line for the rides, probably more than our kids.  So, I would stand in line, while they would wander off and do other things.  When I would get about 5-10 minutes away from being able to get on the ride, I would call my wife on my phone and tell her and the kids to head my direction and find me in line.  I had a lot of “me” time while standing in line.  I must admit, having a smartphone during my “me” time would have been kind of nice.  What I noticed is that I was about the only person in line without one.  I even peeked over the shoulder of a young boy with an iPhone in his hands who couldn't have been more than five years old---he was playing Angry Birds.  Great way to pass the time standing in line.

I'm not trying to offend those who are in love with their juiced phones.  It doesn't bother me a bit that they have those gadgets.  It's just not for me.  I'm not anti-technology either.  One of my favorite activities after the kids are in bed is to sit in my recliner, watch TV without sound, and read my daily news websites on my iPad.  I just don't feel adequate enough or the need to have a cell phone on steroids.  You might even say I have smartphone envy.  For those of you that do have them, I would rather you drink and drive than play on your phone and drive.  And just maybe I will be ready to get an iPhone the next time our family goes to Disney so I can spend my “me” time playing Angry Birds.   



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