How I Became a Luddite

I suppose it began with the Walkman.  I never actually owned one, but I borrowed them enough to know I didn’t really want my own personal soundtrack except on rare occasions, usually stationary at my desk.  So I wasn’t tempted by the iPod, though I listen to most of my music on my computer.  But my big step was in not getting a cell phone.  I still don’t have one.  As far as I can tell, it’s still a chronically unreliable technology, rather like owning an American car in the 70’s.  A favorite subject of social conversation now is cell phone woes.  Nearly all of you understand these better than I.  A nice young woman at dinner last night said she’d started receiving anonymous porn messages on her cell.  Many wish they could do without their cell phones, but they are cursed for life apparently.  Sort of like me and heart meds.  I do appreciate that cell phones have made eavesdropping on intimate conversations about damn near anything way easier, and for all that good material, I am grateful and unrepentant.

As a writer working at home during the day, I’m not crazy about The Phone.  Or, as I often call it, The Phucking Phone.  The no call list helps, but since the biggest biz in the world (American Politics) isn’t excluded, interruptions still abound.  I’m also fond of those Rat Bastards who claim to be charitable raising money for the police, orphans, et. al. and keeping 90% themselves.  There are also times, I confess, that I haven’t wanted an employer or deranged lover to be able to reach me on the phone.  So I wasn’t exactly enticed by the cellular technology that evoked images of no escape.  Hundreds of earnest pitches have been made to me by users based on Safety.  What if I Break Down?!  Like I said, just like an American Car in the 70’s.  I’ll probably die being run over by a motorist on a cell phone who ignored me in the crosswalk, and I’m sure all the witnesses will have cell phones to report the matter, take my picture, post to YouTube…

When I teach science fiction writing, I’m always advising students to remember who doesn’t use the technology they’re imagining.  A homogenous world isn’t plausible. Now I’m in a minority of non-users of what I’ve heard called “a necessity of modern life.”  Most apparently agree.  A friend sent me a NYT article with the following factoid:  Only 15% of Americans don’t have cell phones for various reasons, mostly bad coverage or can’t afford it.  I’m in a well-covered city and could afford it, making my reason “Chooses not to.”  You know how many gave that answer?  5%.  We’re talking tiny minority.  This happened very quickly.  I know there were clunkoid phones in the 80’s, but the fever’s been less than 20 years.  It’s now become a cultural study for me.  How long can I hold out?  When will I join in the fun?  When will I be safe?

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