"I hate cell phones."
That has been my mantra against mobiles for many a year now. It has always been true too. Until recently at least. Until we moved to China, I had never owned a mobile phone. Truth is I never needed one. I'm not exactly a big telephone guy. I don't make many calls. Don't receive many calls. I try to stay off the phone as much as possible.
I had never seen a need to get a mobile. I've always had a house phone, and I normally have a direct line at work. I spend pretty much the majority of my time at either of those places, and those who need me have those numbers. When I am out and about, I have voice mail where I can receive messages. Do I really need to talk to anybody so badly that I have to take the call while I'm driving? Shopping? At church? No on all accounts.
I'm sure they come in useful for emergencies, or automobile problems. People survived for many years without mobile phones during emergencies and auto problems, I used to say to myself, and thus I can survive without them now.
And so, without a phone, I often found myself high and mighty. Abuses abound with cellular phones, for sure. You can constantly see people talking on their phones while driving. These same people will be swerving across lanes, driving entirely too slow, they are slow on the take off from stop lights, and often are seen cutting others off.
So many times I see cell phone users, rudely take a call while they are chatting with someone in person, or gathered at a meal. Even worse I see them constantly taking calls while they are ordering food, or at the cash register while shopping. 'How rude' I think to treat the cashier so poorly as to not acknowledge them.
In Shanghai, mobile phones are just about necessary. Traveling about the city, it is very easy to get lost, or separated from the group. Cell phones come in very handy. Often, when I am out, I have had to call someone for directions. Plentys the time I have called someone when getting into a cab so that they could tell the cab driver where to go. Shopping is an adventure all its own. The stores are often very large, and always crowded with huge amounts of people. Amy and I often call each other in the stores just to figure out where we are.
I am sure we could manage without cell phones whilst living here, but the convenience factor finally made us succumb. And now I have fallen prey to all the things I hate. The other day I was shopping for some warm clothes for Japan and just as I was coming up to the counter I got a text message. Amy got one too, at the same time. Both of us immediately got out our phones and began texting a reply.
I threw my items for purchase up on the counter. Paid no attention at all to the cashier, and tried to fish out the cash whilst still texting.
Then it dawned on me on what I was doing and I was so ashamed.
I understand now why so many people become so rude with these devices. It is so hard not to answer when the phone rings. It is crazy difficult not to read and reply to a text when I receive them. There is something so primal about the need to answer the call. In my pre-cell phone days I would often not answer my land line. Certain times of the day I knew the call was not going to be for me, or would be annoying and I'd simply ignore the ringing. I can't do that with my cell phone.
Maybe it is because I can tell who is calling now. Knowing that it is my friend Sara, or my sister makes me need to answer. Even not knowing the number makes me interested in who it could be.
And thus I have become what I have hated.