This morning I was reading a thread on a newsgroup about which applications people have chosen to disable on their cellphones. Reading along, I can hear the drum beats, and know that it won't be too much longer before another piece of technology will enter my life and take away another piece of solitude.
Thus far I have managed to resist having a cellphone. My daughter was gifted with a phone by her father at the age of 10, and it never seemed like a great idea to me. For years it was mandatory to leave the phone on the dining room table overnight, because it came to my attention that her "little" friends would reach out and touch her in the middle of the night. Rarely did calls come through the house phone for her, and that meant that as her mother, I was not aware of just who might be calling.
It's been about 20 or 25 years since cellphones became available to everyman. At first it was mostly people who really needed to be connected, like doctors and emergency personnel. If you ventured to a mall, you might see some guy being very conspicuous while taking (or faking) a call, because at the time it was a status thing. Something to impress the ladies...
Now they are everywhere, and people are talking all the time. All the time! In the spring I was in Penn Station in NYC, and marveled looking around, seeing that almost everyone waiting for a train was talking on a phone.
Part of my resistance comes from the fact that I am some hideous combination of Luddite and Techno Junkie. Although job situations forced me to use computers long before the general public came in common contact with them, I resisted having one at home for years. As soon as I got one, somehow e-commerce followed within months, making it a daily part of my life. Okay, that was cool, but there was no way I was getting a laptop. The office was for work, and that would leave the rest of my life alone, right? Then my brother gave me a laptop as a gift one year, and I'm typing this on the couch, with Saturday morning coffee. Sigh.... and so it goes.
At least (so far) the business has thrived via email, the phone blessedly quiet.
I actually do have a cellphone. It was given to me during an extended family crisis, and in fact I did use it a few times. It is even charged. There might even be messages, but darned if I can find them. Once I tried to call home from the car during a snowstorm. It was someone else's car and operation of the windshield wipers was eluding me (see a pattern here?), but the little screen filled with strange characters. We don't know what that was about.
I'm afraid because of what I see happening to people. It may sound snooty, but it looks to me like people are losing their ability to be alone. In the grocery store, they need to phone a friend in order to choose a flavor of yogurt. Walking in a park, they can't enjoy looking at their surroundings without chatting with someone. In waiting rooms and restaurants, people have lost the ability to simply enjoy either the company they are in, or being alone. Apparently driving has become almost impossible to do without some kind of moral support. My daughter, on breaks from college has to be broken from the habit of constant texting in order to have a face-to-face conversation.
And the worst part? I know deep in my heart that all of those things would become my life, and I would be among the worst of the talkers. As it stands, I have long conversations in my head, alone in the garden, walking in the woods, or driving somewhere. Should something magnificent present itself to me during one of these times, there is the anticipation of telling about it later. I can work on how to describe it in my mind for a while. That will be lost.
Eventually I will have to learn how they work. Public pay phones are all but non-existent, and I am beginning to feel like one of the last hold-outs, so these days of solitude are numbered.
But I'll tell you what... I'm NOT getting an electronic reader. No way.