Thursday, 9 June 2011

Cell Phoning It In...

Hello Friends.

Do you have two quarters? You do? Then you can make phone call on a payphone. Did you know the rate was fifty cents now? Who approved this one hundred percent rate hike and why weren't we sufficiently informed?

The other day, I passed Korean grocery store who was selling Doritos for a dollar a bag! There are several Korean and Chinese grocers in my area, and they're all like bad members of Contestant's Row on The Price is Right. They all have very similar prices for obscure items like eggplant and mango, but throw in some other items and they just guess blindly. “Paper Towels? Uh...nine-fifty.” “I say four-fifty!” “One dollar, Bob!” Their lack of common sense means I keep my good eye on their junk food prices and one dollar Doritos is like winning the lottery during a vacation while having an orgasm. I stocked up well for myself, but suddenly thought to call Jon because I couldn't remember his specific Dorito preference (fun fact: MS Office recognizes “Doritos” but gives you the squiggly red spelling error line under “Dorito”). So I found a disgusting payphone, dug out fifty cents and called home (where he wasn't), and then his cell (where he was). Jon failed to understand the significance of the dollar Dorito (he's got the bargain instincts of a Korean) but pointed out, after giving his flavour preference, that I had spent just as much money calling him as I would then spend on his snackfood. “Bugger!” I thought. “You are right, but I can't admit it.” Conceding his point would reopen a discussion we've had many times, and will occasionally just trot out when there's nothing on TV: James needs a cell phone.

Dream: Successfully avoid getting a cell phone.

Goal: Achievable, maybe? When I moved to this Big City, it was with the understanding that I would be able to transfer my cell phone contract from one provider to the other. Apparently, this was possible when I initially signed the contract in the prairies, but a dissolved partnership between two companies meant that this transfer was no longer an option. I was told by the snarky, disinterested Bell employee who had weirdly long fingernails and the name Jerzy that I would have to buy out my old contract (a few hundys) and start a new one (more hundys!). Too many hundys would have to be spent for this, so I begrudgingly bought out the old contract and stuck with my landline. By the way, Jerzy is no pseudonym, because what are the chances he ever reads this, but if he ever does: Dude, cut your fingernails!

Plan: Proponents of the cell will often point to situations like the Doritos bargains or the time I got on the wrong streetcar and missed a movie date with a friend as evidence that I should just bite the bullet and get one, but I plan to stand firm and silence these pro-cell persons by arguing the following points:

Texting will ruin us. Though the run-on sentences throughout this blog indicate otherwise, I really am a stickler for spelling and grammar, both of which are effectively obliterated by text messages. And they certainly aren't cost-effective either! Unless you're on some kind of plan, isn't it ten cents to send a text? A girl I work with left her text correspondence (I think that's what you call it) on the screen of her phone, which she left behind in the break room. The back and forth was something like.
“Sum1 tell lance to stfu!”
“omg i no!”
There's fifty cents right there, girls! Not to mention that one of you could simply call Lance and instruct him to shut the fuck up. But there's another point: the prevalence of text messaging has saved us from ever having to talk to each other. Talking on the phone is now the exception, it seems, not the rule. Whenever I call a friend's phone, they answer tentatively, like it must be an emergency of some kind: “Hello??? Are you okay, where are you? Do you need me to pick you up?!” This same girl at work (quite a bit younger than me, it is worth pointing out) will receive text messages all night but is sufficiently shocked when her phone actually rings. “Who the hell would be calling me?” she wonders aloud, before going back to her barrage of text messages. But I worry that texting is the wave of the future that I'm just stubbornly ignoring at my peril. For instance, in a play that I wrote recently for high-school kids, a major plot point hinges on the fact that a boy gets text messages and his ex-girlfriend wants to figure out who they're from. Seeing the play onstage a few months ago, I inwardly cringed when I heard lines like, “So who sent you the text messages?” Or, “Are you saying you didn't text message him?” Those poor teens, reading my stunted dialogue. Texting has become a verb, and the lines should read “Who texted you?” or “Are you saying you didn't text him?” Goodness knows what else I'm missing out on by hitching my buggy to an old horse while everyone else speeds by on motorcoaches.

Though I'm glad to be missing out on sexting. (My adults only version of that teen play has lines like, “Who sent you the sext-message?”) This aptly-named Congressman Weiner who sent ladies pictures of his erect congressman is just the latest in a barrage of people photographing their nakedness and getting into trouble. Like this Blake Lively girl! I've never seen Gossip Girl but I've always kinda liked her. For a blonde starlet, she seems more often to be relaxed and smiling with her tousled hair and California cool demeanour rather than the forced, contrived pouty faux-sexiness of her contemporaries. Plus, she's something of a fashionista; it's no small feat for a twenty-three year old non-model to land two covers of Vogue in one year. So why does she have to taint this goodwill with grainy self-portraits of her boobs and bum? With no stylist, photoshop and (especially) clothes, she looks... sort of trashy. I understand the publication of these was probably unintentional, but if you're that freakin' famous, why risk it? This is to say nothing of the sixteen year-olds taking pictures of their goods to send to their high-school sweethearts only to have the sweethearts face charges of child pornography (an extremely overblown reaction, in my opinion. Treating horny teenagers like sex offenders serves to ruin more lives than sex offender registries were originally put in place to protect). And not to be holier-than-thou about it (I've definitely perused that Guys with iPhones site as much as the next gay), but what's so titillating about close-up junk? If I opened my phone one day to find a fullscreen wiener pic, I think my first thought would be that a penis was somehow trying to contact me; that balls had evolved to figure out dialing on those little keypads and had an urgent message.

Lastly, to always have a phone at your side is to be literally constantly on-call. Except in rare occasions, if I'm out of the house, it's because I'm doing something necessary (like running errands or working) or I'm paying a social call. Neither of things need interruption. And, as I've whined about before, nothing honks me off more than someone on the phone while I'm interacting with them. Those people that unload their sundries at my till and whip out their debit card without even acknowledging me really bug me. “I'm a person!” I want to yell, “Whoever you're talking to can wait five minutes while I bag your tampons!” Plus, it's been proven that hearing a one-sided phone conversation actually stimulates and frustrates part of our brain. The same impulse we have to finish a Law & Order we start when nothing else is on controls our need to figure out what's going on with the stranger on the cell. When given some of the information and withheld the rest, our brains work to understand the circumstances, even if the circumstances aren't important to us. Jon has a brand new cell with all the bells and whistles, and it is apparently prone to pocket-dialing. That's when, though your phone is safely in your pocket or even your manpurse, something is triggered and it dials your contacts who pick up their phone and can only hear whatever is going on in the background. The first time it happened, Jon's dad called our house phone, worried that Jon was in some kind of trouble. I laughed and explained that Jon had just come home from a trip and he had his phone in his bag. He laughed too and said, “I figured it was something like that. I heard what sounded like a door opening and him saying, 'Hello, love!' That must have been him coming home to you!” That's what it was, I thought, smiling, and wondered if cell phones had a worse reputation than they deserved.

1 comment:

  1. You are officially my hero. Cell phone non-users must stick together. Your story of "text messages" reminded me of a similarly cringe inducing moment when I referred the internet for the very first time in a play as "the interweb." As Woody would say, I'm certainly not on the cutting edge, but rather the buttering one.