I remember a world without cellphones. It was not a bad world. I recall when you picked up a phone, and the operator asked, “Number please?” We were on a “party” line. That means there were multiple parties or families on the same line. Other parties or individual family members could (and often did) pick up and listen in on your conversations. I remember our phone number. It was 598-M4.
My friend and former neighbor, Bobby Neal Cothron, graduated from high school in 1959. When he was a senior, a futurist came and spoke to his graduating class. The speaker told his class that in less than 50 years wireless phones, no larger than a pack of cigarettes, would be available to the public. And with these phones you could talk to anyone, anywhere in the world in real time.
Bobby said, “My buddies and I said, ‘That dude is crazy!’ ”
Well, here we are. And cellphones have already been here for a while.
In the late 1970s, I had a “bag” phone. You remember “bag” phones. It plugged into the cigarette lighter in my car. It was a forerunner to today’s cellphone. There were many cell towers back then. Coverage was not really great, but the phone came in handy from time to time.
The late 1990s found my eldest son as a sophomore at the University of Tennessee. One evening at a UT men’s basketball game he won a “free” cell phone in a 3-point shooting contest during halftime. We ended up buying a plan. The phone turned out not to be free. This is how it worked out: he played and I paid. I came to find he was loaning his phone to his fraternity brothers. The phone was being used 24-7. You might say I had a rude introduction to wireless.
Now we have an entire generation who has never known a world without cellphones. Scary, isn’t it?
All this evolving technology that was supposed to make our lives better has only turned out to make things more complicated and irritating.
We are talking and texting more and more; and unfortunately, communicating less and less.
Communicating on any kind of deep level with another human being has become the exception rather than the norm.
And to make matters even worse, someone, or some unknown entity, has begun to share my cell number with the whole world.
Recently, I have been inundated with phone calls I have no desire to receive. For instance, someone out there is terribly concerned about my student loan.
I graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1973. Prior to attending, I never once applied for a student loan. While there, I never received a student loan. At my age, it is very doubtful that I will ever have need for a student loan. But someone is determined to talk to me about my student loan. If I block the call, they change the three-number prefix and keep calling.
And then there are the people who are equally concerned about my car’s extended warranty. I can’t remember the last time I purchased a new motor vehicle. Frankly, I could care less how far below MSRP carmakers drop the price. And I have never purchased an extended warranty. But someone has “been trying to reach me” because my car’s extended warranty is about to expire. And they are not giving up. Well, I thought they had. One day the caller said, “This is your final notice concerning your car’s extended warranty!”
“Well, praise the Lord, and pass the biscuits!” I hollered out before I could catch myself. But, alas, it weren’t true. The calls keep coming.
And finally, I keep getting this call: “Your name has been randomly drawn,” or “I have been recommended by a friend or family member” to receive a free weekend stay with Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn, etc.
I did one of those “free” weekends one time. Only it was not free. My wife, Kathy, and I agreed to sit through a 60-minute sales presentation involving a hotel property in exchange for a two-night hotel stay. How was the sales presentation experience? Let me just say I would rather be rolled up in a sheet and beaten with a piece of rubber hose.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures. Sadly, it has come to this: If I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer.
The downside to that strategy is I may get behind on my student loan payment, my car’s limited warranty may expire, and I could miss out on a free vacation.