Calling all cell phones

Marcy O’Brien

I’ve been trying to decide if the cell phone is more of an asset or a curse and I’ve decided it’s both.

It’s sorta like living with a man – some days you can’t live with him while most days you can’t imagine life without him.

There are even days you’d trade your man for a cell phone . . . with unlimited minutes and long distance. Thankfully I haven’t had one of those days –lately.

I am amazed how often the cell phone subject comes up in conversation – and naturally, this is among us elders who weren’t born

with an I-phone attached to our hands… We can all recall car trips or accident stories, mishaps or mixed signals, when today’s comment is, “well, that was before cell phones.” We all can remember schedules that went upside down, lost articles and lost children, sometimes engendering real fear until communications were established.

I think back to a normally 6-hour Thanksgiving drive we made in a blizzard with a newborn on board. (Can it have been 45 years ago? Yoiks.)

Weather forecasting wasn’t what it is today and we had no idea the trip from Boston could possibly take more than nine hours. The hand-wringing grandparents were frantic. Being stopped on the NY Thruway with no visibility for over an hour was the biggest delay. We were fortunate to have gassed up at the previous rest stop during a diaper change. The remainder of the trip was a 35-40 mph crawl toward Rochester. While we new parents were hoping we wouldn’t run off the road with our precious cargo, my in-law’s fears were so heightened over the extra hours that my stoic German mother-in-law wept when we finally arrived. A 3-ounce cell phone would have saved the day, and an anxious night, for the whole family.

I truly think a lot of adrenaline and indigestion in my life could have been prevented if the cell had been invented earlier.

The anxiety of not knowing in any difficult situation has elevated the cell phone from a fun, keep-in-touch plaything to an instrument of necessity.

I personally can no longer imagine life without it. Thankfully, kids today or their parents won’t ever have to face the myriad of not-knowing challenges.

Personally, if I were raising children today I would have a GPS implant placed under their skin as soon as they learned to walk and have it removed the day after college graduation.

That way I would only need the cell phone convenience for less anxious, everyday moments like tomorrow.

As I write this, I’m preparing to leave in the morning for New York City. A retirement gift from my dearest friend, Ginger, is calling me to the Big Apple for 5 days to

take in some much-desired theatre and visits with old friends. My cell phone is being charged tonight for its heavy demands tomorrow:

Dear Richard will want to know that I’ve arrived at the Buffalo airport safely.

Jet Blue has the cell number in case of delay or gate change.

When the flight is boarded, I’ll text Ginger that we’re leaving on-time (or whatever the departure reality is).

Upon I arrival at Kennedy, I’ll call Ginger who lives less than 15 minutes from the terminal

Because the Jet Blue terminal at JFK is only slightly smaller than an Olympic stadium, by the time I walk to baggage claim to fetch my suitcase, Ginger will be outside.

Then finally, Richard will want to know that I have arrived safely. Other than needing a phone number or showing Ginger a picture, my cell phone’s purpose for the day should be over.

But that is where the similarity of most cell phone users and me ends. I won’t be sitting in Ginger’s apartment catching up on Facebook or my e-mail.

I’m going to New York to visit with my best friend. We’re going to yak, reminisce and laugh like we always have. We will have no need to constantly be “in touch.” What in the world other than life-shattering news should interrupt the joys of friendship?

A few times recently, Richard and I have been in restaurants or party gatherings and watched entire families ignore each other while each person is completely absorbed in their cell phone. Maybe these people are bored with each other. But games? Tweets? E-mail forwards? Maybe I’m just too over the hill to realize the importance of this, but from where I sit, today’s latest YouTube video of magic tricks is not worthy competition for family time. I want to say to them, “Put them down. Talk to each other. Life is short and this is your only, precious family.” But of course, I don’t because it’s none of my business. But oh, it hurts this only child to see their indifference.

In the meantime, my cell phone is going to be busy serving me tomorrow – keeping me in touch when I need to communicate or be informed. And it has a bright red case so I can find the stupid thing when it’s ringing in the dark recesses of my tote bag.

I can’t imagine life without my cell phone. It has given ease to our way of life and I love it.

It’s also addictive, cold, impersonal and ruining our sociability. And I hate that. Rats.

Marcy O’Brien is a longtime local columnist of the sign of the times, and longtime executive director of Struthers Library Theatre.