This can be done. I promise you that even you can do it because I’m not capable of much but I did it and it works.
You’re sitting in a meeting, in church, at a ballgame, watching a movie or concert or play and your cell phone rings. Even if you remembered to put it on “vibrate” you know it’s ringing. You surreptitiously reach into your pocket or purse and cancel the call. It rings again. And again. And again.
Scenario two: some other idiot forgets to silence his phone and the play cast who have worked for six weeks to present this production will be interrupted and the audience’s attention stolen by your ring-a-ding.
Scenario three: You’re driving down the road and your phone rings. According to Illinois law you will be arrested, sentenced then hanged if you answer it. You look down anyway and see that it’s a call from someone you know. Do you pull over in three lanes of traffic? Do you steer your car into a dark alley where you might be mugged? Or do you risk your oldest child’s college fund by answering the phone and thus incurring the wrath of the Illinois penal system?
I’m telling you that I have the sure-fire answer and it’s worked for me for years: I leave the stupid phone in the car, I turn it off when I don’t want to use it, I ignore the blasted thing. And here’s the really amazing part of this scheme: My life has not ended! I’m not kidding! I walk down the street and watch other people, noticing that I’m just as happy, just as fulfilled, and still have all the promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness guaranteed me by Thomas Jefferson. . . who also ignored his cell phone.
And this may shock you, but my friends have not abandoned me. My social circle is still round. I don’t wander the streets as a lonely outcast from this plugged in society. I will, however, tell what has happened. . . .
My friends who have completely lost the ability to schedule their lives because they think they can phone someone at the last minute to ask what time the meeting starts or when the kids need to be picked up have learned to think ahead when it comes to me. They know that when I’m away from home there will be no way to reach me unless I’m sitting in my idling car waiting for a train to pass. I won’t answer it. People can be trained. I’ve seen it. Otherwise irresponsible nincompoops who live their whole lives without planning ahead have been forced to think, “Okay, I need to call Ken tonight when he’s home,” instead of putting it off. I still have a perfectly good answering machine. . . and yes, it’s an answering machine and not “voice mail,” and you can call it any time you wish.
People used to constantly send me text messages. I delete them without reading. And guess what? They stopped texting me! It’s fantastic! I recently sat in Jacksonville meeting with a group of nervous ninnies who were constantly getting text messages but knew that it wouldn’t be kosher to check them. I’d hear a buzz-buzz-buzz and the owner of the vibrating pocket would be overcome with anxiety, thinking that perhaps by not answering they’d lost a friend for life. After all, many people now subscribe to a service that tells you when the textee has read the message from the texter and thus when they’re not answering. I’m not kidding. They actually pay for an app that looses them friendships. But I will repeat: once folks learned that “There’s no need texting Bradbury. He won’t answer,” they quit texting. It’s a stinking miracle! A gift from God! Immaculate non-reception!
What’s this outrageous habit given me in return? Something that many folks have completely lost . . . the ability and the joy of being completely alone with my thoughts. I drive for hours down the road with no interruptions. I can sit calmly through a movie without missing the last half of the show worrying about what messages I’m missing. In other words: I . . miss . . out . . on . . . nothing.
It’s also given me a good deal of amusement as I’ve watched my friends squirm with angst as their I-thing has completely taken over their lives. It’s given me hours of enjoyment watching these “time saving devices” take up every bit of time in other people’s lives. It’s given me peace. It’s given me silence.
They say that for many people, who are they are depends upon who other people think they are. For many of us the cell phone is a minute-by-minute barometer of how we’re doing in the world. As stupid as I may appear sometimes I have the option of letting God and myself be my own judge and jury.