By Jason Offutt
The telephone, to me, has always been a tool. You know, one of those woogly ones you bought 10 years ago to replace the faucet in the bathroom and haven’t used since.
I’ve never like telephones. I’ve always figured anyone who wants to talk to me badly enough to call must have some sort of separation anxiety and should probably work on that in therapy instead of bothering me while I’m on the toilet.
So it really bothered me when I realized I traveled enough it would only make sense to invest in a cell phone for safety reasons. That was eight years ago. I got the cheapest I could, a stone box you probably saw on “The Flintstones.” The one with the bird inside who carved the telephone conversation into granite and flew it off to whomever Fred was trying to call.
My cell phone was marvelous. I could call people on it. Period. I couldn’t text, I couldn’t take pictures, and if I ever wondered who played the oldest Von Trapp kid* in “The Sound of Music,” I could just wait until I got home to look it up. Seriously. It wouldn’t even bother me.
That phone was the size of a deck of cards that was missing most of three suits, and hardy as a Scotsman. I dropped it into a lake in 2008 and it still worked fine.
Of course, the day came when I had to get a new one. I held on as long as possible, but it was as hard to find parts for my talk-only phone as a 1946 DeSoto. When the battery went, I knew technology had past me by.
So my wife and I went to the phone store. It wasn’t called the phone store, but it was a store that sold phones, so it should have been.
Walking around the phone store was like walking around the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise. There were more screens flashing, chirping, and warning us we were approaching the Klingon Neutral Zone than should have been possible in such a small room.
With any of these telephones, the user could text, email, IM on Facebook, Tweet, update their blog, watch “The Walking Dead,” order pizza, and maybe – just maybe – place a telephone call. I bet any one of them could solve that Von Trapp kid problem if I’d bothered to touch one.
I’m not anti-technology. I love technology. Hulu is fantastic, I’m still somewhat humbled by the microwave, I like wiping a thermometer across a forehead instead of having to, uh, you know, and I appreciate, although am somewhat terrified by, the fact that I can see the outside of my house from my computer screen without ever having to get up from the couch.
So I was more than happy when my wife and I made it out of the store with a brand new cell phone each. Ones that we can call people on.
I’m surprised a company still makes them.
*Nicholas Hammond (Friedrich von Trapp) played Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man” TV series from 1977 to 1979. I don’t really care about “The Sound of Music,” but I do care about Spider-Man.
Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An epic beer run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at The Daily Forum.