Simple Living Tips: Cell Phones – Helpful lifeline or social menace?

My friends, Sarah and Sarah, invited me over to their place in Guelph for dinner this past Thursday. As is customary these days, the details were coordinated via Facebook, and I made the 20-minute drive into Guelph, armed with a bottle of wine, a Tupperware container full of pineapple, and hand-written directions I copied from Google maps.

I arrived at my destination with a few minutes to spare (my mother taught me well) and rang the doorbell… and waited… and waited. No answer. So I rang again and waited again and rang again and waited again but to no avail. I also tried knocking on the door as doubt crept into my head and I started to second-guess whether I had written the right address down.

Several minutes later I was convinced I had totally screwed up the whole evening and had lost out on a free, home-cooked meal. I cursed simple living and my decision to get rid of my cell phone several months ago. Idiot! And in our age of GPS, who handwrites directions anymore? Moron! I kicked myself for ever listening to hacks like Thoreau, Elgin or Ghandi; they were probably never even invited to dinner with two beautiful women.

I jumped back in my car and sped off to the nearest gas station, kicking it old school with a pay phone. I didn’t have the Sarahs’ phone numbers on me of course (and who remembers phone numbers anymore anyway?) so I called collect to my roommate Shane. Of course, Shane was on the phone at the time and with no call waiting, I was out of luck.

With nothing left to do, I drove the 20 minutes back home only to find Shane still on the phone (and with my ex-girlfriend at that). As he wrapped up his conversation I double-checked the address the Sarahs had sent me and discovered that I had it right after all. I tracked down one of their phone numbers and called, still convinced I had somehow eff’ed things up.

I’m happy to report that it most certainly was not my fault and that the Sarahs, happily working away in the kitchen, had simply failed to hear me ring the doorbell and bang on the door.

By this point I was already a good hour late but realizing that whatever they had cooked for me would be infinitely better than the grilled cheese sandwich I would have prepared if I stayed home, I once again hit the road.

This time I was sure to knock on the door LOUDLY. I thought about giving them a hard time about it, but they were satisfyingly sheepish when they finally opened the door.

Though getting in proved more difficult than expected, it turned into a lovely evening with delicious food and great company. I even accepted some (not much, mind you) of the blame for being a weirdo with no cell phone (I’m still not getting one).

While I admit that having a cell phone would have reduced the amount of Josh Rage that evening, the dark side of these devices also reared its ugly head as Sarah and Sarah’s Blackberries started vibrating. They were good for the most part at ignoring them and staying focused on our food and conversation. But the lure of an unread text or email is a powerful one and before long they were both typing away at the table.

They were good though and did put them away after a while. But it was a reminder to me how these things can be both a blessing and a curse at the same time. I suppose though, like so many things in life, it’s not the object in question that’s good or bad, it’s how it’s used. In the end, I think Confucius may have said it best: “Excess and deficiency are equally at fault.” And not answering your door. Excess, deficiency, and not answering your door are equally at fault.

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Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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One Response to Simple Living Tips: Cell Phones – Helpful lifeline or social menace?

  1. Dianne Martin says:

    Balance is also important in owning a cell phone. The pay as you go card helps you use the phone only in real emergencies……not for chatting but getting an answer at the door when you know the person is home but the doorbell is not heard or working….I have had to use my phone in that case a few times. Usually with a senior who can’t really hear you or may indeed need your help……

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