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Trapped in a cell of my own device

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“Soon, I shall have at my disposal the sort of portable “smart” technology that has succeeded only in making society dumber by morphing the majority of its owners into Ingsocian ideologues unable to flex the muscles in their brain to think things out for themselves.“ — Sept 26, 2020

Okay, it appears that “soon” was relatively premature.

Still, a shade more than a week ago … it arrived.

A few days after that, the box it came in was opened.

Presently, the damn thing is in my pocket.

It is turned off.

Back in September, I had admitted defeat — conceded that the circumstances surrounding the Almeda and Obenchain fires had instilled within the need to be able to maintain contact with she who shares our home.

No … not the cat.

The die cast, resistance rendered futile, the purchase of a cellphone approached with the inevitability of time.

Dammit … this thing has a clock. Not only have I been assimilated into the collective consciousness of cellphone users, I also now carry on my person a way to tell time.

I’ll never make a deadline now.

Having skimmed what appeared to be directions for operating the offending object, I waved the white flag in what seemed the appropriate manner: I reached out to the two people who had given me the most grief over the years for no longer being far from the maddening crowd.

First, I texted a co-worker … for it was too late back east to call my brother.

Explaining that, no, I hadn’t taken part in an actual call yet, she proceeded to initiate first contact.

The phone made a metallic buzzing sound — ring tones are a long way off — and I put the device on the coffee table until the infernal thing stopped.

Nowhere in the directions that I had skimmed through was to be found instructions on how to answer a phone call.

The phone buzzed again and this time I noticed an indication that she was trying again. I tapped (is that the proper word?) the notice and somehow a connection was made.

She might still be laughing.

We chatted a bit about how much I would have to learn … when I interrupted to ask what seemed to me a pertinent question.

“How did you know my phone number?’

She might still be laughing.

So, it seems that when I had texted her, she then had the number to my cellphone at her disposal. I followed-up with what seemed to another pertinent question.

“What is my phone number?”

I knew back in September that this, even though made with the best of intentions, was bad idea.

The next morning, I called my brother. He is a Vice President of Information Technology for a rather large corporation.

He might still be laughing.

He asked if I had downloaded any apps yet, offering to show me when we visit in August a way to turn my phone into a golf course range finder — to show me how far I needed to hit my next shot.

He’s always been the devious sort, since playing golf is difficult enough without enticing me to make it “easier” by employing an app on a phone on which I had yet to determine how to answer a call.

I did notice, at least in the two phone conversations that I figured out how to take part in, that the clarity of the voices on the other end came through with a clarity that was surprising.

Where was the ambient sound of ocean waves in the background? Where was the constant crackle — as though the call was being made in a warehouse filled with technicians product-testing the ease with which customers could open bags of potato chips (not that I would be familiar with that particular sound)?

Could it be that, after years of thinking that my ears were starting to malfunction, there actually is nothing wrong with my hearing? If so, let’s not tell she who shares my home.

No … not the cat.

This thing has added even more annoyances to my life. Instant messaging from my laptop the other night, each response received was accompanied by a far-too-cheerful “PING!” from the phone on the other side of the room.

It was easier to end the chat than to figure out how to stop the PING-ing.

In my own befuddled way, I realized, I actually might have stumbled on a positive to owning a cellphone.

By making myself even more available, fewer people could actually get in touch with me.

After all, if they don’t know my phone number, why should I?

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can still be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com