My mother and cellphones:
an interesting thought
I don’t readily accept change. I’m a terrible traveler and I resist new technology. And I’m not the most sociable person in the world. Otherwise, I am perfect.
Obviously, this website is proof I eventually surrendered to the personal computer, though several years ago I was one of the last editors at the Providence Journal to make the switch from the electric typewriter to PC. (Previously I had been reluctant to abandon the manual typewriter.) Little did I know the iMac would become my all-time favorite toy, one that enabled me in retirement to solidify my status as a hermit.
As a hermit, I refuse to own a cell phone, though I realize the device has become as much a part of life as television and the automobile. I had a cell phone a few years ago, but used it perhaps twice before discarding it. I have no interest in getting another, but if I do it will be used strictly as a phone.
And forget those annoying commercials because I don't need no stinking aps. (Confession of a hypocrite: I am grateful for my wife's cell phone. It’s reassuring on our one annual road trip that she can reach those who'll help in time of need.)
AS I MAKE my rounds close to home — trips to the supermarket, the post office, our favorite restaurants, etc. — I am annoyed at the sight of people using cell phones while driving. These people aren’t on long trips, they’re not reporting an emergency or making or breaking hotel reservations. Chances are they’re chatting with a friend during the five minutes or so it takes to get from their home to their workplace or a nearby store. It’s unlikely they're tending to anything that couldn’t wait until they reach their destination.
More annoying: Those who carry on cell phone conversations while shopping. I run into these people a lot because I do most of the family’s grocery shopping.
What’s not enjoyable is finding a woman — sorry, it’s almost always a woman — lost in conversation while she and her shopping cart become an aisle-blocking piece of performance art. Worse is when you sit down in a public place and find yourself next to someone blithely conducting a very private conversation. (“Last night my daughter’s husband punched her again and this time she’s thinking about calling a lawyer, but the problem is she’s pregnant and doesn’t know for sure who the father is . . . ”)
AT SUCH TIMES I think about my mother, who died in 1998. I still miss her, but have concluded she got out of this world at the right time.
My mother was a very private person. She’d have been embarrassed to find herself subjected to a stranger’s real-life soap opera. (And by the knowledge a cell phone is the police department's best friend in tracking people's movements.)
On the other hand, Mom would have appreciated the convenience of a cell phone, though she’d never have made a call within earshot of another person. (My mother's motto: “Nobody has to know our business!”)
That’s not to say she wouldn’t have made life difficult for the person she was calling because my mother was a worrier who needed to share her concerns with a trusted family member. As she aged, my mother’s worries intensified, as did her need to share them.
At that point, my mother’s most trusted family member was my sister, Mary, who had become my mother’s taxi service during my father’s declining years. Mary and her family lived five miles from my parents and the two homes were connected the old-fashioned way — by a land line. So if my sister weren’t home, my mother couldn’t reach her and had to leave a message.
If my mother and sister had owned cell phones during the 1980s and ‘90s, my sister probably would have been driven crazy (unless she did what, surprisingly, very few people seem to do — turn the damn thing off).
I PICTURE it this way:
Mom calls Mary to announce she’s ready to be picked up for a trip to Wegman’s supermarket. Then Mom goes outside, cell phone in hand, to wait by the driveway (assuming it was not raining or snowing in Solvay, the foul-weather capital of the world). Ostensibly she’d do this for my sister’s convenience, being prepared to get into the car the moment Mary arrived. However, she’d call my sister a minute later to inquire why it was taking so long. She might call two or three more times — perhaps expressing concern my sister had been in an accident.
And if my sister were on the phone — talking to my mother — when she pulled into the driveway, my mother would greet her with, “Do you think it’s a good idea to talk on your cell phone while you drive?”