Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Call Me

I am a dinosaur. Not only do I not have a smartphone, I don't even have a cell phone. While my landline is cordless, on the days when the power goes out, I use a phone that plugs right into the wall. It's complete with a curly little cord that, while adorable, tethers me to a three-foot radius in my bedroom. Often, when I'm chatting on those calls, I realize as I dial the final number that I desperately need to pee. It's glamourous, my life.

There's no definitive reason for not having a cell phone, although the spectre of being constantly in touch was pretty gruesome. I like privacy. I like returning calls at my convenience. I've never left my landline in a cab, or dropped it in a bar toilet after too many whiskey sours. I feel zero pressure to upgrade to a fancier handset every year. Like renting movies and tap water, landlines are a call back to a slower and less technologically frenetic time. It's not nostalgia that drives my commitment to my home phone; it's the desire to commit my whole brain to my task - talking on the phone - instead of fragmenting my time into a thousand slivers of unusable connection. I'm young - 28 years old - and I realize that my multi-tabbed, multi-tasking lifestyle needs monotasking balance.

I'm one of the 30% of Canadians who don't have a cell phone - according to one research firm, we're not likely to get one, either - and we're not exactly a growth market. But just in case you're friends with a throwback like me, here are some helpful hints and tips for dealing with us stuck-in-the-past weirdos.

Leave a message. I have an answering machine, the kind that results in hijinks on sitcoms because some hapless character overhears something he shouldn't, thanks to a machine that broadcasts the message into the room. Many older home phones don't have caller ID, so if you have the option of leaving a message, please do.

Understand that we will get back to you. My friends kvetch when I'm not home, but I get their messages and call them back. It may not be instantaneous, but it will happen.

Don't text us. I mean, you can--we get your texts, and they are read to us by robots, which is one of my favourite things ever. (True story: depending on your cell phone provider, if you text "LOL" to a landline, the robot will either say "loll" expressionlessly, spell out L-O-L, or - my favourite - cackle maniacally.) However, once we listen to the text once, it's over. It's not in an inbox somewhere. We can't refer to it later. If you're making plans or conveying important detail, call us. We'll get another retro tool - the pen and paper! - and take notes.

Somewhat disingenuously, I've done my best to cultivate a wide network of people who have cell phones, and encourage my friends and family to call them if they need to get in touch with me. My boyfriend has 10+ entries in his phone that link him to my friends and family. "I'll be with Rachel, you can text her to meet up!" is a common refrain in my house. I carry quarters for the payphone, and I try to keep plans and be punctual. There have been moments when a cell phone would have been useful - massive subway delays, last-minute change of venue - but these are few and far between.

It's 100% possible to have a thriving personal and professional life without carrying a cell phone all the time. Even if you need one, understand that just because people can reach you 24/7 doesn't mean that they're your priority. One of my pet peeves is when someone pulls out their cell phone when we're mid-conversation and texts. It's a blatant middle finger to our conversation, a not-so-subtle signal that I'm easy to dismiss. Landlines have two options - talking or not talking - and it forces me to acknowledge that I either need to talk the person on the other end or I don't.

It's important to remember than constant communication doesn't always equal good communication. Smartphones, cell phones and landlines are all tools to be used to that end, and so it doesn't really matter what kind of phone you have. I may not be fancy, but I will totally call you back, and that's the whole point.