I thought I was the only one, but I guess it just feels that way sometimes. It’s not something I tend to bring up in casual conversation, not because I’m ashamed but because usually my announcement is met with disbelief, incredulity and at times even confusion.
I do not own a cellphone, and until recently I honestly believed I was the only individual over the age of 12 who could make such a proclamation. But then one Saturday, during a casual conversation with acquaintances, I came clean.
After a brief silence, the woman next to me grabbed my elbow and uttered words that were music to my ears: “Oh my gosh! Me too! I thought I was the only one.”
It’s not that I’m anti-cellphone. As a matter of fact, I’d like to state for the record that I do actually rely on cellphones every so often in my day-to-day existence – to contact my husband on his train ride home to find out when to expect him for dinner, or when going out for a night with my girlfriends and leaving my BFF’s cellphone number for my sitter in case she needs to get in touch. When making the drive with my kids down to see my parents in Windsor, Ont., I sometimes borrow my mother-in-law’s phone and stow it in my glove box, just in case.
It’s not that I’m concerned about developing a tumour from using a cellphone (should I be?). And I don’t consider myself morally superior to the cellphone-toting masses. I don’t feel that I am technologically illiterate in any way just because I have never sent or received a text message. I’m a regular user of Facebook and I own and operate an iPod.
I do, however, boast a greater sense of freedom in knowing that I can’t be contacted at various times in my day – off the grid, so to speak. Laugh if you’d like, but I feel empowered and in control without having a cellphone on my person.
Often it seems that speed and immediacy have replaced quality within our harried society. If you want to see a movie, you download it; if you can’t remember where Omaha is, you Google it; if you want to reach people instantly, you call their cells. Not owning a cellphone is my meagre way of attempting to put the brakes on the rat race that is slowly but surely enveloping my existence.
No cellphone also means no worrying about becoming that person. You know the one: the person who believes everyone within earshot wishes to be regaled by obnoxious gossip; the one gabbing on the phone while pushing a child on a swing at the park; the one who attaches a phone to their ear in any situation where they feel lonely or self-conscious.
At times I have cursed my lack of a cellphone – like when I arrived home from running errands and had two messages on my answering machine from my daughter’s teacher asking that I drop off a change of clothes. Or the time I drove all the way to the grocery store and realized I had forgotten my list.
The absence of a cellphone is most painful when I’m faced with using a dreaded public payphone. Yes, those dinosaurs still exist. But just asking someone where one is located is an experience in itself. Adding insult to injury is shelling out the 50 cents it now costs to make a call.
Despite all this, it’s never been enough to push me into the cellphone generation. With the bombardment of social media, I’m hoping my kids will take a step back from it all, even if only briefly, thanks to my example.
Once upon a time, my parents attempted to establish a rule that no child of theirs would have a television or telephone in their bedroom. When my brother and I became teenagers and started earning our own spending money, these rules softened. In eighth grade I had finally saved enough babysitting money for my first TV, which was promptly plopped at the foot of my bed. And I believe my first in-room telephone followed a year later. Interestingly, my brother also does not own a cellphone.
The truth is, the main reason I don’t own a cellphone is because I’ve never had a need for one and have merrily gotten along all these years without one. And I plan to continue doing so for as long as possible. Years ago, my husband bought me a basic cellphone and asked that I load some credit onto it and keep it in my glove compartment. I put the horrid thing (which at the time was the size of a cordless phone) in my glove box and forgot all about it. To this day, I’m not sure what happened to it.
I know this won’t last forever. My feeling is that my first cellphone purchase will coincide with the time that my children get their first cellphones. And then I will consciously make an effort not to become that kind of family: the one that sends texts and checks e-mails during dinner; or texts each other about what they feel like eating for lunch rather than just calling out to one another.
However, until that moment arrives, I’ll continue communicating with my friends the good old-fashioned way – through e-mail.
Tanya Kuzmanovic lives in Oakville, Ont.