I hate the phone. I hated it as a kid, I hate it even more not.
The old phone in Cotuit was on a party line shared with a few neighbors and as a child I was warned never to pick it up unless it made some distinctive ring, like a long/short/short sequence I could never remember. The phone was a wall phone, rotary dialed, and in those days one didn’t have to dial the entire prefix when dialing around Cotuit or even Osterville — a simple five digits were all that were needed.
When I was allowed to answer the thing I was expected to be some perfect Lord Fauntleroy of telephonic etiquette and say “Churbuck Residence” and never “Hello?” There was one, and only one phone in the entire house, and if the call was for a grown-up one was expected to haul ass screaming from room to room that there was a CALL!
Long distance calls were expensive. As I grew older and called summer friends at their winter homes out of loneliness my father would call me to task and confront me with $15 charges for daring to yak with my buddy Jeffrey in Philadelphia. I’d have to work the conversation off raking leaves or doing some grim chore until I was so paranoid I never dared use it again.
The lack of mobile phones meant children were truly out of sight and out of mind. No one could stalk us if we took off on our bikes — the only rule was to report in ASAP if the firehouse whistle blew two times, the signal for an ambulance which made every Cotuit mother a nervous wreck until her flock checked in.
Skip ahead to 2017 and I have an ADHD inducing supercomputer in my hand that chirps, rings, belches and vibrates every time someone posts a picture of their latest meal on Instagram, tweets their displeasure, shares a video on Facebook, decides its cool to call me with a robot offering me solar panels, or finds me on LinkedIn and cold calls me to hear their sales pitch for “dynamic social engagement metrics solutions.”
So I turn the thing off and people are pissed. I get it, the entire purpose of the little tyrant is to be reachable anywhere, anyplace, anytime, but if nine out of ten actual phone calls are from IRS scammers in India, if text messages consist of incomprehensible emojis of poop, guns, vomiting smiley faces, and the rest is just so much shitty noise in a life already driven to Adderall by email, Slack, instant messages, news alerts, and all appointment reminders; then who the hell wouldn’t set the thing to “no disturb” and learn to ignore it?
Don’t get me started on the asshats who stroll the sidewalks of Boston with their earphones plugged in and their eyes locked onto their screens, just begging for a Silver Line bus to put them out of their shoes and their misery while obliviously crossing Atlantic Avenue. Don’t get me started on the parking lot entropy caused by some dipshit with their hand held to their ear as they blab away while trying to take off the bumper of my car. Don’t get me started on the pissed off accusations of “DON’T YOU EVER ANSWER YOUR PHONE” when I go silent on friends and families.
In my retirement I think I’m going device free. Heck, the inner Amish in me might even go back to candlelight and kick electricity out of my life.