I’m considering getting a home telephone installed. A prehistoric landline.
Like many people these days, I gave up my landline more than a dozen years ago. I didn’t need it. Heck, my cell phone has so many bells and whistles, I could give up my television, my CD player, my camera, my calendar, my calculator, maybe even my computer. The list goes on and on. I’m typing this on my computer right now, but I’ll admit there have been a couple of sunny mornings recently when I haven’t felt like sitting at my desk. Once or twice, I’ve sat in the cozy outdoor swivel chair my son gave me for Mother’s Day, typing a post on the Macbook Air my son gave me for my birthday. My son Tim is an incredibly sweet and generous person—he worries about me being at my desk too much and chose these gifts specifically to get me out of the house. Okay, I’m crying again, remembering when he told me that.
Once or twice, I’ve even used Siri to dictate a blog post into my cell phone’s notepad, then cut-and-paste it into an e-mail, sent it to myself, then cut-and-paste it into my blog, all while bundled up in my favorite blanket and tucked into the corner of my living room sofa. I like my cell phone and the quick and easy access to technology it has afforded me. Everything is at my fingertips. I never have to spend a moment trying to remember who the Salem Slasher was on Days of our Lives ((The Salem Strangler was Jake Kosticek, played by Jack Coleman, who also played Senator William H. Bracken on Castle and Senator Rob Lipton on The Office.)), or who wrote the Peggy Lane mysteries I loved as a kid ((The Peggy Lane Theater Stories were written by Virginia Hughes, which was actually a pseudonym for a group of perhaps five authors, including Geraldine Wallis, who wrote my favorite volume, Peggy Goes Straw Hat.)) or how evolution works in animals ((Sorry, evolution is a little too involved to explain in a footnote.)).
But having all that information at my fingertips is the problem, too. Sometimes, I kind of like pondering things. It’s probably good exercise for my brain, too, trying to remember something instead of looking it up. I don’t like the fact that I reach for my cell phone every time something comes up on television or in conversation that I want to look up or learn more about, or every time I remember something I need to add to my already-too-long “To Do” list. I don’t like the fact that I reach for it during every commercial break to check my e-mail or to see what’s happening on social media.
As a mom, I want to be available to my children and my grandchildren 24/7, but unfortunately, when your cell phone is your only phone, this means being available to the world 24/7 as well, including my cell phone service provider, who likes to text me (once as early as 4 a.m.) to let me know how much data is left in my plan. ((Apparently, although there are restrictions on when businesses can call you, there aren’t yet any restrictions on when businesses can text you, and because the provider owns my service, I haven’t found any way to stop text communications from them.))
Some call landlines “dumb phones” as opposed to the “smart phones” we all carry now. I don’t think that’s fair. Landlines had their drawbacks, but they were trying their best. In their latter years, features like Caller ID and Call Waiting let us pick and choose when to answer the telephone and let us stay on the phone chatting with our best friend for an hour without missing an important call. And when those features combined into Call Waiting Caller ID, it was life-changing! In the olden days, the telephone tethered us to the wall by a short cord. When my son Robert was a toddler, he took advantage of this to pull every book off my bookshelves and pile them up in the middle of the living room floor whenever I was talking to my mom on the phone. Cordless phones came along later but not in time to save my books. Then came cell phones. There’s nothing forcing us to sit still anymore. Sometimes, I think that’s a shame.
Thanks to a recent iOS update, I have now set up “focuses” on my cell phone—I can set my phone focus to “sleep” (my family can get through, but no one else can) or “work” (my family and my coworkers can get through, but no one else can). All this means, though, is that I don’t get notifications from anyone else. My cell phone is still right there by my side, and all I have to do is get distracted and pick it up and all the text messages and voice mail messages and social media apps are right there, ready and waiting for me to waste an hour or so of my day.
I tend to be a little too all or nothing, so my first thought was to get a landline and ditch my cell phone altogether. But it’s not the cell phone that’s the problem—it’s doing its job. It’s making it possible for my kids to reach me in an emergency, even if I’m taking a walk or I’m at the grocery store. It’s trying to help me. I’m the one who’s mismanaging it.
So, I’m keeping my cell phone, but considering a landline—if I had a landline, I could leave my cell phone in a room down the hall, but my kids could still reach me in an emergency. But they couldn’t reach me if I left the house. (I’m a worrier, so I’m sensing a theme here.) I’m also thinking of other ways I can compromise and unplug a little. I can sett my cell phone on “family” focus in the evenings, or “personal” focus so my friends can get through, too. Then I could set it on a counter or shelf across the room from me, so I’d have to get up to answer it or check it—in other words, I could put my laziness to work for me.
I considered getting a little crazy and turning it off completely, all day, on Sundays. But then, emergencies. So, I’m still thinking about it. But I need to do something—I miss only being on my telephone when I was actually talking to someone.
How do you unplug in today’s world?