Loose Ends: Cell phone addiction

“Wait, my hands are full, I can’t talk right now,” the woman said into a cell phone. Leaning over a cart full of groceries, she dropped a couple of boxes of cereal on top of the precarious pile. She still was able to hold her phone and resume her conversation, as she pushed her cart slowly down the center of the aisle. “OK, go on. Now I can talk.”

“Really?” I muttered. I could see from the expressions of the people flanking her on both sides that I was not the only one who remained blocked from making any progress. I quickly turned around. I got a glimpse of the one item that I needed on a shelf at the end of the aisle so I headed back. Although I found the item and checked out, I later shared my annoyance with a few friends. They commiserated and voiced a long list of their own complaints about our cell phone dominated lives. Each story, no matter whether it occurred here in Meeker or happened in another Colorado town, had one element in common: rampant misuse of the cell phone in public.

Most all of us can recount our own harrowing stories from the road. So many people are conducting business in their cars these days, many of us have developed the bad habit of answering the phone immediately when it rings. It doesn’t matter if we have decked out our dashboards in holders and can use digital technology to ensure we are not holding the phones. It appears that even when we have silenced the phone and put it on vibrate, we can’t resist looking down or over. Many drivers within town or city limits are driving one-handed.

  These days it seems that the majority of folks are using their phones not only while driving, they seem to be transacting business in public places. Most of us have overheard the apology, “I am sorry, I just have to take this,” followed by an extended conversation in restaurants, grocery stores, doctor’s offices or banks. Time and again one hears, “Oh, it’s you. What do you need? “or “I called you, thanks for calling me back. I just had a question.”  This is followed by a long dialogue. 

Unfortunately, this is not someone else’s problem. Years ago, when I took care of grandchildren at least three full days a week, I kept my own phone close at hand. Although I thought I had not developed the unhealthy problem of over- attachment to my cell phone, I had to face the facts recently. As the first group of grandchildren got older, the time required to be available for them changed. I began to be able to plan my daily schedule to include the tasks required for my own life. I put my semi-retirement plan into action. As I got used to using the handy digital calendar that was available on all my devices, those empty spaces filled up fast. Although I was spending less time trying to keep up with my wonderful part-time caregiver’s schedule, I continued to check my devices daily.

I cannot stop not answering the familiar numbers on my phone or checking my voice mail before continuing on my way.  Now that I am back to a regular schedule with the second group of grandchildren, I have been instructed to put my phone on vibrate and call back when I am done. I cannot do this. The mother and now the grandmother in me refuses. 

     When we all started using cell phones as our main form of communication, I was sure that our rural life here would not be affected so drastically. It continues to be a rude awakening for me, as when I try to use the telephone directory to find a number for someone’s landline, that person has gone totally cell phone dependent. Just try it for yourself. 

The old Yellow Pages commercial jingle comes to mind, “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking.” I have only one word of advice for those of you who share my cell phone addiction. Don’t let your fingers do any such thing. Let your thumb do the talking and walking!

By DOLLY VISCARDI – Special to the Herald Times