May 23, 2018
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Into the wilds of wireless communication

By Tom Walsh, Special to the BDN

Next week I’ll do something that, years ago, I promised myself I would never do.

I’ll buy a cellphone.

My spouse and my close friends are shocked, as am I. For years now they’ve endured my fanatical rants, my diatribes that went something like this: “Why in the world would anyone buy a piece of technology that only works when it wants to?”

Or this: “Why would anyone buy a piece of technology and then be forced to, in effect, rent it by the month?” Or my wife’s favorite: “Beth, don’t complain to me about your cellphone cutting out mid-sentence; it’s a cellphone, so, be definition, it’s not supposed to work.”

I’m not buying a cellphone because I want to, or because I’m one of only 5 percent of the adult population in America that doesn’t have one. I’m buying a cellphone because I’m starting a new job that requires that I be reached on the need — or whim — of the caller. That’s one aspect of cellphones that has always bothered me.I don’t want to be reachable.

I want to interact with others based on my need to communicate with them. On my schedule, on my terms, not on theirs. The notion that whatever I’m in the middle of can be violated by some ring tone doesn’t appeal to me at all. Not at all.

And then there’s the whole conundrum between a cellphone and a “smartphone.” I’m not sure I want to embrace the notion that some device that injects radiation into my medulla oblongata is smarter than I am. And what’s with these tiny keyboards that not even a skinny leprechaun with a great manicure could operate?

I already have carpal tunnel from 40-plus years of pecking away at typewriters (remember those?) and full-size computer keyboards, and now I’m supposed to compose messages on a Lilliputian keyboard? Spare me. But, apparently, that’s not an option.

My biggest fear — aside from the monthly bills that I don’t need — is morphing into one of those insufferable morons I encounter in airports who share the banality of their cellphone conversations with all who are condemned to be within listening distance. Please, Lord, let me never be consumed by this phenomenon to the point where I have one of those dorky ear pieces with a microphone. Can’t we just go back to pay phones?

OK. I’ll stipulate that we’re now almost 12 years into the 21st century, and I’m not. Such is being born way before 1980. I’m a dinosaur. I admit it. And I’m being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the morass of cellphones. Me, a guy who thinks the notion of sealing wax is way cool.

Verizon. Deliver me from evil. Or not.

Wish me luck.

Tom Walsh begins work next month as the BDN’s Washington County reporter. His editor will try to refrain from calling him on his cellphone while he is in airports.

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