March 22, 2009 in Idaho Voices

I need to chat a bit, not orbit the Earth

Stefanie Pettit

I’ve been thinking about cell phones lately. I want my phone to go ring-ring-ring when someone’s calling me. It’s unnatural for phones to attract attention with “When the Saints Go Marching In.” And I really hate that vibrating thing, where it jumps across the table or buzzes your leg.

I want my phone to have a bigger keypad so I don’t have to file my fingernails to a point to hit the key I want on the first try. I do like the phone book feature, because at my age, it’s hard to keep all those numbers in my head. And voice mail is nice because I sometimes don’t answer the phone because I’m in a public ladies room (don’t you hate those conversations you overhear in the next stall?), actually having an in-person conversation with a living, breathing person, or have forgotten to turn the phone on in the first place.

But that’s it. The phone doesn’t need to come in a myriad of colors named for flavors or snap open, slide open or reveal its innards in a host of mysterious ways. It doesn’t need to tell me what time it is in, say, Tokyo, or serve as a calculator, music delivery system, conduit for checking my portfolio, or game system. And taking pictures with a phone – puhleeze!

It’s a phone, for Pete’s sake, not a portable home entertainment system. I can manage to amuse myself without interacting with my phone all day. When you’re out in public, it should to be used to conduct needed business, make sure the kids got home OK, check to see if the family needs anything at the store since you’re stopping there anyhow and maybe one or two other reasons.

That’s the way it should be and will be again once the Magna Carta is revoked and I take over the running of things. OK, I’m older and I don’t get it, but that doesn’t make me entirely wrong.

Seems that everyone is walking down the street or driving or moving about in packs of peers – with a phone held to each and every ear (one ear per person, so far). And, of course, there is that obnoxious stubby thing that hangs on the ear permanently so people can answer or call without moving any body parts except for the mouth. How many of you have been startled when a seemingly normal person standing next to you begins animatedly speaking, almost in tongues, about something you have no idea is actually anything relevant and maybe responded thinking the remarks were meant for you?

And I really hate it that my phone often makes me feel like an idiot. Just when I think I’ve got all its bells and whistles mastered, up pops something I can’t figure out and I need to borrow a nearby 10-year-old to explain it to me. Where’s the dignity? No phone should be able to have that much power over a person.

And have you noticed on an airline flight that as soon as the wheels touch down, all those itty-bitty phone lights begin to glow in the semi-dark and everyone is busy announcing their arrival to someone who I suppose needs to know the exact moment of touchdown. New edict: At that time, phone calls will only be allowed to reassure your worried old grandmother who is terrified that you left home on one of those flying tubes of death, or if you have the cooler on the seat next to you containing the donor organ that a surgical team is all scrubbed up and waiting for at a nearby medical center.

But that’s it. All other calls can and should wait until the jostling and unbuckling and everything else that needs to take place to safely get off the plane takes place. Let’s face it, none of us is so important that our every moment or every move needs to be reported in excruciating detail. And please don’t get me started on that worthless, irrelevant and totally self-promoting and trivial Twitter thing that’s so hot now.

I’m no technophobe. I use a computer in my work and have mastered a number of the modern gadgetry things that make life easier. I don’t want to beat my laundry with a stick along the banks of a river nor am I nostalgic about the days when my ancestors did.

But I am offended at how self-absorbed so much of this technology makes us. Doesn’t anybody walk down the street anymore just looking at what’s around them, listening to ambient sounds and engaging with the people they’re with in real time?

I bring this rant to a close with an observation from my husband, who has heard it all before. He says that Andy Rooney should watch out, there’s a new curmudgeon in town. Guilty, I say, and with a modicum of pride.

But I haven’t quite refined it yet. Maybe if I grow a pair of those Andy Rooney eyebrows.

Contact correspondent Stefanie Pettit by e-mail at

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