This is not my typical column, but anyone who knows me knows I don’t carry a cell phone. I have numerous reasons for not totally joining the 21st century. Some may not make any sense to anyone.
I used to keep a phone in my vehicle, but somebody decided he needed it more than I did. I left it charging on the seat and it sprouted wings. That made me mad, but it didn’t affect my life very much. There are phones everywhere.
Even before I lost my phone I always gave people my wife’s number. My voicemail message stated that there was no need to leave a message. I never carried my phone, so I likely would not call them back. I’m sorry if that sounds rude.
Some people are totally consumed by their electronics. They’re on their phones constantly. I think if they could have a chip implanted in them that would function as a phone they would.
I’ve watched drivers run off the road because of cell phones. In many states texting while driving is a crime, but the penalty must not be much, or the laws are rarely enforced. I see folks on their phones all the time.
A few years ago, I almost got into an altercation in a local grocery store with a man on a hands-free phone. He was walking toward me and spoke my name. Naturally, I asked him what he needed, and he got smart with me in a nasty tone of voice.
I’m glad I’ve matured or at least mellowed a little over time. Thirty years ago, things might have been different.
Another reason I choose not to carry a phone is that I don’t see particularly well up close. I’m also clumsy with touch screens. I usually hit the wrong character or maybe two characters at once.
Texting for me is agony, and I can’t bring myself to send texts that aren’t complete sentences. I refuse to send anything with misspelled words or incorrect grammar, and if I notice a minor mistake I must backspace until I correct it. If a message comes in while I’m typing, it totally messes me up. Sometimes it takes me five minutes to send a brief message.
My biggest problem with cell phones stems from what I’ve seen in my classroom. Fifteen years ago, few students had them and all the devices would do is make conventional calls. It was easy to police. All I had to do was take the phone and fuss at the person on the other end of the conversation.
Today, I’d say even with the top students a teacher has at best 70% of their attention. The rest resides with that phone. Removing the phone isn’t as simple as it sounds. Many students have two and will gladly relinquish their back-up. I’m not searching kids.
I’m afraid many school systems would have trouble initiating policies to eliminate them altogether from schools. There wouldn’t be a large enough building in town to house parents that would complain about it. I’d like to think I’m wrong.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (firstname.lastname@example.org).