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Cell phones and teething babies

Aug 14, 2014 - By Clair McFarland

It's not a good situation for the high-tech gadget

There's something suspended in the air: a sort of cooler-morning, back-to-school, khaki-pants type of vapor, and any sudden inhalation will catch it up into our lungs -- if we're not careful.

During times of transition such as this, whereupon both the necessity of shoes and the loss of my oldest son to preschool are imminent, The Husband likes to remind me that change is good.

In the hope that change really is good, I recently set about replacing my cell phone of four years.

The old phone probably would have lasted another four years, barring the enactment of any laws against having a cell phone that old or that primitive. However, in one of those acts of technological ignorance that are so commonplace in my life, I gave the phone to one of my 6-month-old twins as a teething toy.

This I did to pacify that little baby at the library, and because I had forgotten to bring actual teething toys into that noise-hostile environment, and because I had given the same phone to the older two boys during their drooling days -- and the phone had survived.

As if to confirm my suspicions that these twin babies of mine have greater salivary production skills than my other children did at their age, the old phone became nothing more than a brick: no more pictures of the children, no more calling The Husband to let him know I'll be home in six minutes, twenty seconds, and no more text saved from the very first time I told my sister I was pregnant.

It's odd, not knowing that you rely on something until that something becomes a brick, but it was such with my ancient cell phone.

That evening, with the help of a very cooperative babysitter, a Radio Shack employee, and The Husband, I was able to get a new phone quickly -- just on the off-chance that somebody old enough to tie their shoes would be desperate to speak with me that day.

A few things struck me at the phone shop -- and I'm not talking about harmful wireless airwaves.

Firstly, I noticed the continued availability of primitive phones, like my old brick, but also that these seemed to be growing more primitive, while the smart phones (kept in a different section entirely) seemed to be growing more complex.

There used to be a middle ground of savviness in the phone market.

The conspiracy theorist in my head thought that phone-makers maintain the harsh limitations with which simple cell phones are imbued in order to promote the more expensive, more data-consumptive smartphones.

Couple that with the notion that smartphones are addictive, and you've got a genuine addiction-pushing market on your hands.

If you're reading this on your smart phone, don't push that "home" button just yet.

Your phone -- an avenue toward mass communication, a source of social media, a catalog of photos and music and any other data that's dear to you -- might be consuming parts of your life.

Furthermore, it turns out that even I -- the avowed Facebook abstainer, the scoffer of tweets, and the lover of real paper and real books -- was a little lost without my phone.

That's really sad.

Well, yes, I want The Husband to be able to reach the children and I during our daring library retreats and all the other roguish, swashbuckling things we're up to, but is it really necessary?

Is it really necessary, if we all keep our appointments, our agreements, and our schedules, for us to be in contact all the time?

The smartphone junkie has a great many advantages in this world: access to people, immediate gossip and news, and instant relief from boredom. But is this expansion of the social mind enabling us to be less accountable to those we're planning to meet in person and less available to those with whom we are conversing in person?

I have a new phone now, but I still haven't "moved on" to the world of smartphones. And as for the new cell phone, I'll keep it in the diaper bag in case The Husband or any other shoelace virtuoso needs to speak with me. But -- if only to be more aware of the good changes taking place around me -- I'll try not to rely on it so much.

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