I knew living in Ireland would require some major adjustments, but the one I didn’t anticipate was a social group that expected me to have my mobile phone with me all the time. This wasn’t just the youngsters, it was everyone in my generation, too. Although we had a landline, most of them insisted on calling the mobile and leaving a message instead of trying the other number. They didn’t e-mail, they texted.
I couldn’t hear the mobile from the other end of the house, especially if it was still in my purse. Why should I be required to have it surgically attached? And I didn’t think to check it for messages on a regular basis. I was a mild e-mail fanatic, checking it several times a day, but otherwise living an old-school life. Facebook was for sharing funny pictures, and phones were to actually talk to people. And definitely not for sending notes that required pressing 7 four times to get an S.
Against my better judgment, I gave in and learned to text. By the time we returned to the States, it seemed like everyone was glued to their phones. Smart phones, dumb phones, and everything in between. And then we chose not to get a landline, so I’ve had to learn to keep my phone charged and with me.
It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I’m supposed to be available. Watching Once Upon a Time? Answer it. Reading Phillipa Gregory’s new book? Answer it. Washing dishes? Dry hands and answer it. Cooking dinner? Break my neck trying to hold a slim iPhone between my ear and shoulder, and answer it.
And that’s just the calls when I’m home and would hear a landline anyway.
Even when I’m avoiding speeding semis on the freeway, or deciding between Wheat Chex and Cocoa Krispies at the grocery store, or – dare I say it – having lunch with a friend, the cell phone will ring, and I will be expected to answer it.
Heaven forbid it should happen when I’m in the bathroom. Do I answer it? How much can they hear through the speaker? And if I don’t answer it, do I really tell them where I was when I call back?
In Jane Austen’s day, ladies actually had “at home” mornings. Friends and neighbors knew that you would be home and ready for visitors at a particular time. And if they couldn’t call by, they could send a note – the post came two or three times a day, after all.
I don’t know that I’d go that far back, but sometimes I long for the days when I’d just set the answering machine to silent. My time was my own. I would dig in the soft loam of the garden, with the breeze in my hair and the birds calling above. I would send my children swinging high and listen to their shrieks of laughter. I might just read several chapters of a book at one time.
I’d answer the phone once in a while, sure, but it would be an occasional occurrence, not constant.
I do manage to ignore it while on a busy freeway, and I refuse to put my in-person friend on hold just so I can talk to someone who’s not there. I give in at the grocery store, which gives my caller a distracted conversation and me some unplanned-for items in my shopping cart.
At home it’s a different story. My phone chirps and I run to see what the message is. I answer tweets and texts right away. I can look at who’s calling and I may roll my eyes, but I answer it anyway.
Why do I do this to myself? What part of me isn’t strong enough to guard my privacy, my autonomy? It is my fault, after all – I was the one who shelled out for the iPhone when Hubby O’Mine said it wasn’t in the budget.
But look what I can do! I get instant pictures of my grandbaby. I get coupons for ever more craft supplies at JoAnn’s and Michael’s. I can send my mother in Oregon a quiet “good morning” when it’s too early to call.
I use GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel prices. GoogleMaps keeps me from getting lost. I can even use my phone as an airline boarding pass.
All in all, it’s worth it, especially if I can re-learn some self-control. Right now it’s sitting on the counter and I have about 40 pages left in my book. Will the heroine make the right choice? Will the ancient treasure be found? Will the . . .
Excuse me while I go see who just texted me.