Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"If nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve." Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

"I’ll call you when these are ready," the clerk tells me, tying the shirts together. "What’s your cell phone number?"

"I don’t have one," I reply.

The clerk stares at me in disbelief. "How can you live without a cell phone?" "I like it this way," I reply. "I don’t want an electronic leash."

"But what if I need to reach you?" the woman presses.

"We’re talking about dry cleaning," I say, my patience ebbing. "What kind of emergency are you expecting?"

Cell phones. They used to be a luxury for the rich. Now they’re considered essential for anyone with a pulse.

I have no moral objection to cell phones. I simply do not view them as urgently required for intelligent life on the planet. Evidently I define "necessity" differently from most.

I work at home. My college kids live on a small campus. My high school kids are nearby and have predictable schedules. Would a cell phone occasionally make life easier? Sure. But do I place it in the same category as food, shelter, and coffee? I do not. As a consequence, we have not provided cell phones for our adorable offspring.

By the cries of pain in the Cram household, you’d think that I refused to give my children Easter candy.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this issue is that nearly all adults side with the children, especially after the kids begin to drive. "You’ll change your mind when your daughter gets her license," friends warn. "I mean, what if she has an accident? What if she gets lost?"

My answer is annoyingly simple. Automobiles became commonplace in the 1920s. Cell phones became popular in the 1990s. This means that people drove cars for 70 years without cell phones, in luxurious quiet. As far as I know, the system worked reasonably well most of the time.

Our solution is to tell the kids that if anyone wants a cell phone, by all means, get one. And pay for it yourself.

Can you hear the grumbles?

Personally, I hope to go to my grave without a cell phone. I dislike the telephone. I don’t want to be found easily, and sometimes the only peace and quiet I get is in the car as I retrieve kids from sports practices. Why would I want to shatter that silence with a toy that I don’t like?

Recently, I had a bad day that served to reinforce my distaste for the telephone. It began with several phone calls from a youth group kid needing advice. Then a friend called, frustrated that her teen’s English teacher is assigning sexually explicit books to read – in a Catholic school.

A doctor called. A kid’s coworker called for a sub. My son phoned for information about holy day Masses. One wrong number. One call from hubby to ask about my life of leisure.

Have I mentioned that I hate the telephone?

After dinner, I slipped out of the house and headed to the church, where I reveled in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I love the dark and the quiet and the pleasure of Jesus’ company. I stayed for hours.

I arrived home late, after everyone was asleep. A note on the whiteboard alerted me to a package on the kitchen counter. The small box was labeled with my name and emblazoned with the brand, "Sprint." It was a gift from my family – my very own cell phone.

I said some bad words.

Have I mentioned that I hate the telephone?

I’ve had the phone for two months and have used it a total of six and a half minutes, none of which were particularly voluntary. I keep it in the glove compartment of the car, where it’s not likely to bother me. I’ve resisted learning the phone number since I don’t want anyone to call me. I certainly won’t be one of those people whose cell phone interrupts a concert or a wedding. Don’t get me started about the guy who actually took a call during a funeral, chatting away until the priest stared him down.

Feel free to write a letter to me, readers, in care of this newspaper, with stories of how much you love your cell phone. Tell me how your cell phone saved a drowning goldfish or rescued your child from a detention. I will read your letter in delightful quiet, which suits me just fine.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.