The Definitive Mobile Phone Manifesto

“Hey, thanks for helping me with my computer. If I have any other problems, can I call you? What's your cell number?”

“You're funny, you know that?”

People find it hard to believe I don't have a mobile phone. They never see me carry one, but just assume I have one. I find this ridiculous, but they find my telephonic situation ludicrous.

And then, when they find out that I'm against mobile phones as a general concept, they think I'm completely nuts. Maybe I am, but nobody's been able to convince me to sign a 2-year contract yet.

At what point did American society decide, “Hey, I need to be reachable around the clock. I want my buddy to ring me whenever and wherever either of us are to tell me he just saw a guy in a wheelchair pushed down a half a flight of stairs.”

We are at the point now where no matter where you are, and regardless of who you're with, there is always an overwhelming need to talk to somebody else. People are walking around now with their hands in their pockets, talking at full volume to somebody who's not in the same room. That strikes me as a skosh insane.

While experimental mobile phones have been tested as far back as the 1940s, the commercial mobile phone has only been available since the late 1980s. It took the original (and more reliable) telephone over four decades before it was a part of everyday life.

It was during the late 80s that the first cellular towers were going up. The first one I saw as a 12-year-old kid made me a bit uneasy. What is that thing?

But now they're everywhere, many of them reside in clusters of three or four. And no one seems to mind. We didn't need these things 14 years ago, but now we can't live without them? I'd be willing to wager if the average person tried living without a mobile phone, they'd find life a little more peaceful and a lot more relaxing.

There's a lot of people out there that have phones that shouldn't have phones. Obviously there's the brazen disregarders of phone etiquette; I've discussed those previously. But now children are more and more frequently carrying mobile phones with them at all times. I was much older before I had a wired phone in my bedroom, and I don't think that was such a bad idea.

I know a lot of people have things they need to tell me. Occasionally, that needs to take place over the phone. I understand this; that's why I have a home phone. And that's why I am reachable via phone while I'm at work. But I am also available via email and instant message while I am in either location. During the 15 minutes I'm driving between those locations, it can probably wait. Leave a message. Send an email. If it requires my immediate attention, you will hear from me. If you were just looking for somebody to talk at, I'm sorry, I was unavailable. But I'm not really sorry.

Sometimes, you just want some peace and quiet. People these days are talking increasingly more about decreasingly more important things, thanks to this miraculous device. I get enough meaningless blather from cable news; I don't need my friends family and acquaintances calling me for a one-on-one discussion on more meaningless topics.

It doesn't matter to anyone anymore where you are or what you're doing. All anyone has to do anymore is find your name in their address book and click send and they're talking to you about the adorable puppy photograph they just saw on the internet. “Well, I was driving down the highway at 70 mph, but I'm glad you finally found the right background for your computer. That's great. I've gotta go, I'm being pulled over.”

And it's not just people who have your number that can find you wherever you go. Every single modern mobile phone has a GPS unit inside that broadcasts your location, with accuracy down to a foot, to the government-owned satellites in the sky.

While those transmission towers are more widespread these days, they still leave a lot to be desired of a service charging you fifty to sixty dollars a month. My landline costs half that, and I never have to worry about dropped calls. Ever. Mobile carriers today are advertising as their argument to switch to their service the fewest dropped calls. Yeah, get back to me when you can promise no dropped calls. I'll stick with my land line.

I've mentioned it previously, but I still find it ridiculous that these carriers insist on charging more for binary data transfer (internet, SMS/instant messaging) than for a voice call. If anything, they should offer data at no extra charge, as a thank you for using their paid voice plans.

If that dark day does come, that I do break down and acquire a mobile telecommunications device, there's no way I am committing to 24 months with a carrier. I don't have to do that with any other service contract I've entered into, and I certainly won't do it for a phone. Here, tell us how much you're going to talk for the next 104 weeks and we'll overcharge you for it. You get dropped calls for free!

That's another thing about the mobile carriers that's bothered me for years. You're paying all this money for their service and they throw in deals like FREE* anytime minutes! FREE* nights and weekends! If you're paying them every month, it ain't free. Leastways, not where I'm from.

Finally, there's the phone itself. Here's a hunk of plastic. It will be obsolete in 6 weeks and the contract lasts longer than the battery (which isn't covered by the 90-day warranty). But that doesn't matter, you'll probably break it before the battery goes out anyway. But, boy does it have features! You can listen to mp3s! (But you have to buy those from us.) You can take pictures! (But we charge you for every single byte it takes to transmit them over our towers to your email box.) You can film grainy video of a guy getting tasered repeatedly for not showing his ID card at the library!

“Well, you don't have to sign a contract. You can pay as you go.” Yeah, because they don't charge extra for that luxury. $100 a month for Boost mobile? Do I need to watch cable TV on a 1.4” screen? Well, sure I do. That's what I use my PDA for.

My PDA is nice to me. It never interrupts meetings or movie theaters or church services, and it can give me any information I want it to give me. I've got all my contacts in there, it can connect to the internet when I want it to (and at no other undesignated times) at no extra charge, it can keep track of my finances, tell me when I have an appointment coming up, and if I wanted to, I could emulate NES games on it.

Did I miss anything?

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