Column: New user baptized into the fraternity of the cell phone

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2002

My wife claims to have rescued me from geezerhood. She did it with one swipe of her credit card. That’s right, thanks to my wife’s generosity, I am now the proud owner of a cell phone.

Now friends can stop asking me how I am able to get along without one. My answer to this question was always the same &045; we all have done without cell phones. I haven’t heard of anyone who emerged from the womb with a cell phone pressed to his ear.

Owning a cell phone is quite a change for me. I grew up around a large dial phone that weighed about the same as the entire starting offensive line of the Minnesota Vikings. You could base an entire exercise program on dialing that phone. It was a phone that could take a light tap or a swift kick if it deserved one and asked for more. I think that telephones came in only one color in those days &045; black, blacker than an IRS auditor’s heart.

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It was a phone that was used only when it was needed. It existed as a necessity, not as a luxury. Our phone conversations were short and to the point. My father never truly trusted the telephone. He once told me that he didn’t care to have a device in his home that anyone could make ring any time they wanted to. He would talk on it for business purposes and would let my mother tend to the personal matters. He allowed my mother to do all of the dialing and she would pass the phone onto him once the party answered. He refused to answer its rings. Others in the family handled the answering chores.

My wife’s gift allows me to be in constant touch with all humanity. I think my wife grew weary of being Ma to my Pa Kettle and thought that the tiny communications tool would drag me kicking and scratching into this century. She got the kind of cell phone that even a moron could use. And I am just the moron to use it. Now I will be able to visit with unseen people at a sound level loud enough so that anyone within shouting distance of me will be able to enjoy my half of the conversation. Thanks to my ownership of this telephone, I will be able to annoy countless folks at movies, airports, meetings and checkout lines with my mindless and pointless, brain-numbing chit-chat. I will be able to call acquaintances and inform them of my exact location just because I think they would want to know. From listening to other phone talkers, I have discovered that this is information that people are evidently craving.

Now I will be able to complain right along with others about the mushrooming size of my cell phone bills. I now am able to carry the cell phone with me and make unnecessary calls from wherever I find myself. I have yet to talk on the device while driving my pickup. I do not think it is safe to do such a thing. Besides, it interferes with the time I like to spend reading a good book. I do think that people should be given a driving test that measures their ability to drive while using a cell phone. If they pass the test, their license would be issued with an endorsement. Anyone without such an endorsement would be subject to a healthy fine if caught reaching out and touching someone while driving.

The hardest thing I have found about the little phone is the dialing part. It is a diminutive thing and the wee numbers on the buttons do not always cooperate well with my bifocals. My suggestion to the manufacturers of these things is that they put a big old dial on them just like the huge telephones of my youth were equipped with.

I have asked myself how I ever got along without a cell phone. What did I do with all the time I now spend looking for my cell phone? I have only lost the tiny cell phone a couple of times. My wife is very good at finding it. She has a talent for that sort of thing. She can even find that occasional shirt of mine in a closet where it definitely was not when I looked for it. Losing a cell phone is enough to make a dog’s breakfast of the day for many people. I know I will lose the tiny phone on a regular basis. I know because I am not that organized. I don’t have to be. I don’t mind looking for things.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.