Why I Don't Have a Cell Phone

I don’t have a cell phone.

No, I don’t mean that I left it at home, or that it’s not charged, or that I was playing Angry Birds on the toilet and accidentally dropped it in.

I mean that I don’t have one. I don’t carry one. If you want to talk to me on the phone you have to call my house. I won’t read your e-mail until I’m in front of a computer.

And forget about texting.

It’s rather rare in modern times for a person not to have a cell phone. Old people have them, some kids have them, and even people who are technology-averse have them. They’re practically a fact of life.

Believe me, I understand the allure.

They’re good for emergencies, like when I run out of gas.

They’re convenient, like when you’re stuck in a car and you have to know the name of the guy who played Sondra Huxtable’s husband.

They’re neat gadgets. What other device can entertain a three-year-old, a seventeen-year-old, and a fifty-year-old?

They’re cool. Why else would people race to get the newest model of a phone they bought just twelve months before?

I get it.

I don’t begrudge anyone a cell phone.

So why don’t I have one?

It has to do with that snazzy United States map that I see in the commercials for one cell phone company. The map is colored red where cell service is available, and almost the whole map is red. So that’s good, right?

I suppose. But it also means that no matter where you are someone can reach you on the phone. So whether you’re driving in your car, hiking on a trail, or lying on a beach, someone can dial your number and the miracle of technology allows that person to connect with you.

Most people like that. I don’t.

I’m friendly and I like talking to people. But I also like not talking to people. I like to know that there are certain places and times that I’m not going to talk to anyone other than the people I’m with.

Is it inconvenient? Yeah, sometimes, in the same way that communication has been inconvenient for all of human history, except for the past fifteen or twenty years.

And yes, I am that annoying person that will sometimes ask to use a friend’s phone, or who can’t be reached when making plans.

I don’t care though. I’d rather be that annoying person than the annoying person at a restaurant who’s staring at his cell phone while a real live human being is sitting across from him, or the annoying person behind the wheel who watches his phone for five seconds and then the road for three seconds.

When I’ve discussed my cell phone-free choice with others, they frequently encourage me to get a phone. “It’s nice to have just in case,” they say. “You can turn it off if you don’t want to talk to anyone,” they argue.

Sounds like gateway drug thinking to me!

I’m not one who throws around simple bumper sticker sayings, or song lyrics most of the time, but a phrase from the best rock ‘n roll band in the world seems to fit here: “With every tool they lend us/ a loss of independence.”

We’re told that cell phones allow us to be connected. We can talk to anyone and read about anything any time we want. We can use it when we want to use it. We can go out and do things. We’re not tied to land lines. We can do whatever we want.

But what happens when we use it all the time, when it becomes an extra limb? How many times have we heard someone talk about being lost, or naked, or discombobulated because they left their phone at home?

If we rely on a gadget that much, are we free? If we can take a screen anywhere, when do we leave it behind? Are we ever alone?

So there’s the short answer. I don’t have a cell phone because sometimes I need to take a break. Sometimes I need to be unreachable. Sometimes I need to be disconnected. Sometimes I need to be more than two feet away from a screen.

Sometimes I need to be.

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