for release Friday May 21, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Cell Phones: Fad or Necessity?
I was a cell phone hold out. We held out so long people were beginning to question my good sense. When my daughter started applying for jobs in a nearby metropolitan area, she felt like it made her look like a backwoods schlep not to have a cell phone number to list. But what really got me was that people seemed shocked when they learned we didn’t have a cell phone. I felt so out of it.
So our family got one last summer, just in time for summer travels. Of course it has come in very handy although there have been times when, I confess, I used it completely without cause just to call and say the equivalent of “Oh, I’m calling you from here. Isn’t this cool?” But I have been in several situations where I was extremely grateful for a cell phone, although I have to admit even then we would have survived just fine without one.
Once was during a snowstorm last February when two of us from work were traveling by minivan to a convention. The snow kept getting thicker and slicker and eventually traffic crawled to a halt. What was up? An accident? Just bad snow? As the first hour slowly ticked by, my colleague, Sheri, decided to call her husband at home who looked up on the Internet what the nature of the traffic snag was. He learned it was a tractor trailer turned over. It looked to be a long night. But at least we knew what the problem was, so I was very glad for her cell phone and that we could be in touch with the outside world during what turned out nearly a six-hour wait.
The other story concerns an unexpected snowstorm, too, in West Virginia ski country in April where we had gone to hike. We had some gloves and hats along but no boots. At any rate, our family slid off the road into a deep ditch and could not push ourselves out. With cell service being very spotty in West Virginia, I walked to a nearby store to find the number for the area’s only wrecker service. But the first time I called for the wrecker his cell phone was out of range, the message said. I thought, oh great, we are really stuck here forever too. Snow was driving into my face, everyone was doing what they could, but we definitely weren’t getting anywhere with the van frame actually stuck on the dirt edge of the bank.
In about ten minutes I called again using our cell, and this time he was in range. He could be there in 20 minutes. We were very grateful. And very lucky.
One night last fall we went to a football game when we were promptly redirected to the gymnasium to wait out an approaching thunder and lightning storm. Everywhere students were running around with their cell phones doing their important cell phone business. My oldest daughter, sitting in her old gym, was a little blown away by the picture. “I was just trying to think of who even had a cell phone when I was in high school. No one. It just looks so weird!”
She is no oldster but now being out of college, she was hit by the changes in the last five years. She wouldn’t have thought twice about seeing the ubiquitous phones on her college campus, but transposed back here to her high school setting she realized a cultural wave had taken place.
I kind of pride myself in being a late adapter, because I think there is a tendency to think that the next gadget or thing will improve our lives tremendously. Of course I was tickled to have a cell in these weather-related mini emergencies: There are countless ways our communication is improved when gadgets are used judiciously. But we would be wise not to be dependent on them.
During Hurricane Isabel last fall we lost our electricity for about 20 hours. Good old phones still worked (land lines and cell towers) but I thought about how much good it does us to be without electricity for a little while. Of course, some folks had to wait a dozen or more days for the electricity to be restored, and I think would have been really upset. But we would have probably coped like those who were affected. I remembered times when the children were small that we actually had to heat water for baths on our woodstove when the electricity used to go off for extended periods during a winter ice storm. During Isabel, we got out a game and played by candle and battery-powered floodlight.
Will today’s kids only know how to whine, “What can I do without a computer, TV, or video game?”
No problem. They’ll just play games, Instant Message or send photos over their cells.
So what do you think? Are cell phones a luxury or necessity? Send comments to me in care of this paper, or post comment yourself at http://www.thirdway.com/aw/conversation.asp
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 858 words; end material = 105 words
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