By Sharon Yamato
The battery on my cell phone suddenly went berserk on me last week, and so did I. Without my indispensable mobile device, I couldn’t make that last-minute call to a friend to tell her I was late to meet her. And what if someone was trying to reach me? I didn’t have instant access to my emails. I couldn’t read the day’s headlines while standing in line at the bank. I couldn’t google movie times or directions. I couldn’t text a friend while lingering over a cup of coffee. I couldn’t check Facebook to see what everyone else was doing. I felt lost and alone.
I have to admit that being without a cell phone is not the worst tragedy, but in today’s technocrazy world, it is second only to living without a PC, Mac or iPod. I don’t think I’m alone in my dependence on consumer electronic devices. According to what I just read, they now account for 15 percent of our total electric bill, and that number is expected to triple over the next 20 years. The number of these power-guzzling gadgets per household has risen from 3 in 1980 to a mind-blowing 25 now.
I have a friend who prides herself on not owning a cell phone. She doesn’t want to rely on something she calls unnecessary and what she considers one more dangerous item to add to our landfills. One of the greenest people I know, she nevertheless does own a PC and an iPod. A few years ago, her hold-out didn’t mean much to all of us, but not owning a cell phone today is almost unheard of. One day while stuck in traffic on the 405 on my way to meet her, I wanted to kill her for not having a number where I could reach her. It was clearly my fault I was late, but it was my cell-less friend I wanted to blame.
Still another friend who decided she didn’t need the extra expense of a cell phone causes me more irritation. Whenever I am with her, she asks to borrow my phone so that she can call her husband, and then disappears with it for 20 minutes while I sit worrying about my battery going dead. How crazy that this inanimate object can cause such agitation—and worse, towards a dear friend.
Does anyone remember what life was like without the cell phone? Forgetting the whole aggravation of bad cell phone etiquette (having a phone go off in the middle of a theater, hearing someone next to you ramble with an bud sticking out of his ear, etc.), cell phones can now do just about everything. At the same time, I can’t help but feel terrified at buying a new phone that has a 100-page manual to explain how to use the thing.
As much as I rely on all these new and wonderful electronic devices that have no doubt simplified my life, I can’t seem to keep up with all it takes to use them. I can’t tell you how long it took me to figure out how to use the Bluetooth mechanism in my car, not to mention how to keep it turned on. I finally got the hang of texting, but now without more than a few frustrating moments.
And do all these gadgets negatively affect the way we choose to communicate with each other? Are we texting more and talking less? (If you know anyone under the age of 16, you know what I mean.) Granted, cell phones may have simplified our lives, but in many ways, they have made them much more complicated. With my Verizon contract expiring in December, I simply can’t figure out what new phone to choose: a Blackberry or an iPhone.
Sharon Yamato writes from Playa del Rey and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.