It is late in the year of 2008 and I am one of the very few Americans that I know that does not own a cellphone. I’ve never owned one, in fact. There was a time in the early part of this decade when cellphones were making the awkward and annoying transition from being a flashy novelty for the affluent into becoming a general everyday utility. It was at that time that resisting the cellphone was a source of pride and integrity. When Jamie Lee Curtis was on the television spewing out nonsensical phrases like “anytime minutes” and that Vorizon dude with the grey jumpsuit and the face begging for a fist in it was bleating “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?” over and over again the choice to not join that squad of turds was an easy one. People that had cellphones in 2001 generally didn’t need them. They were mostly a novelty for soccer moms and dumbfuck bling bling people that flushed their money away on diamond grills and P-Diddy albums.
Things are different now. These days having a cellphone is as commonplace as having a set of car keys. It’s expected. It’s normal. You no longer look like an asshole when you’re walking down the street talking to no one. Cellphone etiquette has evolved to the point where people know that you shouldn’t answer the phone while you’re in a movie theater or ordering dinner at a restaurant. This year several states finally passed a law making it illegal to use a cellphone while driving. We, as a people, have evolved.
I’ve been in many a situation where cellphones have saved my ass. I’ve also been on the opposite end where not having one has caused me undo trouble and inconvenience. I’ve been stranded at the airport with no ride and no money at 3:00 am. I’ve broken down on the side of the freeway in the middle of nowhere six miles from the nearest exit. I’ve been lost in a strange city en route to a rendezvous at a place I’ve only heard of. Make no mistake, I realize the scope of functionability that cellphones provide.
But still, there’s a part of me that wants nothing to do with them. It is the crotchety old man part of me that hates teenagers and sneers at shitty rock bands. It’s the part of me that remembers the “good old days” when people had standards and knew how to party. When it all boils down I am from “Generation X”. I am cynical to the core of my being through no fault of my own. Anyone born after 1980 can never truly understand. They weren’t there at the height of the cold war. They weren’t born and raised on Star Wars. They didn’t get together with the whole family to watch Married With Children. They weren’t frying out of their minds on an endless supply of pure LSD for three straight years. They aren’t impressed with Nirvana and don’t really know what the big deal was with Kurt Cobain. They can’t remember a time where they could turn on the radio and hear good new music. They don’t remember what life was like before the internet. They grew up with cellphones.
I didn’t. I’m in my thirties now and have noticed a gaping generational chasm between anyone born in the 1990s and myself. I was candy flipping at underground and highly illegal raves before they could walk. I was gambling hundreds of dollars on the Super Bowl before they even knew what money was. I was in a beer guzzling metal band when they were watching “Blues Clues”. We can’t have a conversation that’s flow isn’t inevitably broken by a reference that goes over their heads. They just weren’t there. And while I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second to nail a nineteen year old girl to the wall, I know I’ll never truly relate to them. Hey nineteen, we got nothing in common.
For someone born in the 1990s text messaging comes as naturally and easily as opening a bottle of beer with a lighter comes to me. Watching these kids is almost fascinating. Their fingers fly across these tiny buttons and within seconds they’ve sent a lengthy and detailed communique in a coded language that is completely foreign to me. When I borrow somebody’s cellphone to make a call I feel like a grandmother trying to work a DVD player. I still press “1” before I dial an area code. Hell, I still dial numbers. I’m like a slow lumbering dinosaur surrounded by chipmunks on speed. I’m out of my element.
But the time has come for even me to cave. On October 15th I will get on an airplane bound for San Francisco where I will be assistant directing a movie. Not having a cellphone will not be an option for me. That means that at some point between then and now I will have to go to the mall and deal with people I do not want to deal with. I do not like the people that sell cellphone plans. I don’t like their slick hair, their cheap cologne, or their arrogant demeanor. I don’t like their cheap pseudo business attire that attempts to conceal their trashy background. I don’t like the aspect of society that they represent. I don’t like their product, and I don’t like them.
I am absulutely dreading this eventuality. I really don’t want a cellphone if not for any other reason than I don’t want to pay another bill. It’s really that simple. I don’t need a gadgety doo-dad that takes pictures and plays mp3s and checks my e-mail and regulates my heartrate and triangulates my position and boops and beeps and costs me $50 a month on top of the initial cost of buying the damned thing in the first place.
Everyone I know has lost their cellphone at one point in time. Whenever they do it is a tragedy for them. They lose all their phone numbers. They lose all their contact with the world. They freak the fuck out. It’s crazy. It’s like watching a heroin addict whose regular fix didn’t come through. I don’t want to become that. I don’t want my vitality to revolve around an electronic toy. I don’t want another artifice to dictate the path of my life.
Wait a minute… What am I saying? I live in the United States in 2008. My whole life is artifice. I’m typing on a computer right now. I’m sitting in an office chair. I’m looking out my window and I see parked cars, houses, paved roads, and telephone poles. I’m surrounded by gadgets and tools. I don’t know the first thing about survival in the wild. I’m a city-slicker. What am I complaining about? What’s one more thing? Fuck it. I might as well get the implants in my head and plug into the matrix. Beam me up, Scotty. Cellphones here I come.
Se la vi.