I know I am at great risk of complete social ostracism when I say this, but I dont particularly care for cell phones. (I can hear the collective gasp now.) Well, it's not really that I don't like them, it's just that I haven't made it into a lifestyle thing like it seems everyone else in the world has. I bought my cell phone a few years ago because I had a really long commute to work and I thought it would come in handy for calling for help if my car ever stalled in some desolate place by a bridge where some weird guy was playing a banjo. But I don't use it to converse while I'm shopping or walking or driving. Since I don't have the need to always be in a conversation with someone and since national security is not dependent on my constant availability, I generally keep my cell in the bottom of my purse somewhere.
I should admit that I don't much care for talking on land lines either, unlike my teenaged nieces who may as well get telephones surgically implanted onto their faces. But I do use them a lot at work. All of this brings me, finally, to my point. Have you noticed that more and more people are getting calls on their cell phones at work? I think cell phones are a godsend for people who do IT support and are constantly running around the building all day, for managers who are often away in meetings, for people who have small children who have only the cell phone number memorized, or for people who have an ailing relative that they must stay vigilant for. I just don't understand their usage in calling someone who sits at a desk all day right beside a regular phone. Is it simply that it's not the cool thing to do anymore? And I can see the appeal of unique ring tones, but once you've heard the theme from Shaft full volume 20 to 25 times a day it loses some of its charm.
I know there's a growing need among people to be online and connected at all times, but if it's nothing more than a "Pick up some bread on your way home" emergency, why can't the caller phone the office line; especially when it's a direct dial and doesn't have to go through a switchboard?
While I'm questioning this holy technology anyway, here are a couple of more cell phone issues I just don't get:
***Camera phones. I know I'm really trodding on sacred ground here, but, man, what's with these things? Unless there's a chance you'll come across a drunken Mel Gibson at an airport lounge, is this really a required technology? I'm old enough to remember the temporary popularity of Instamatic (or Crap-o-matic) cameras. You could get your color-challenged, distorted pictures instantly! But that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Now people are all the time coming up to show off some photo they've taken with their phones. So you're squinting at this one-inch by one-inch screen picture of, say, their last family reunion.
"Oh, that's really nice. What's that greenish blur on the right there?"
"That would be my Uncle Harry."
***Hands-free cells. Ok, no. Just no. (I'm not talking about hands-free lines for people who have to key things in while they talk.) I mean, the "I'm going to Blockbuster to rent Elder Scrolls IV and I can't be hindered by the 4-ounce heft of a cell phone" kind. And it's not a driving safety step because the havoc that drivers with cell phones wreak is not caused by one hand being busy, it's caused by the brain being occupied elsewhere.
OK, so let me have it, cell phone zealots. Defend your religion!
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.