Sunday, September 30, 2012

Why cell phones are like cigarettes.


JAN BROGAN - I was at the grocery store finishing up my weekly shopping and I got to the check out line, which was about three people deep.  I scanned the tabloids for trashy headlines, then pulled out my cell phone to check for texts and email messages.

The action itself stirred a memory.  Hmmm....What was it? 

My husband and I were driving to the ferry to Martha's Vineyard.  Just over the bridge, we pulled into a gas station.  My husband filled the tank, paid, and got back behind the wheel. Before he started the car, he checked his cell phone.  "Why am I checking this?" he asked himself aloud. He tossed the phone into the back seat and answered."Because it's here. That's the only reason."  

Then, worst of all, I spent the afternoon at The  Center at Westwoods, which was having a massive festival of mindfulness classes.  I took one in "cathartic breathing," and another in Kundalini yoga.  By the time I left, I was totally relaxed - so "in the moment," that I could be breath itself. What did I do as soon as I got into the car, even though it was a Saturday, and I had no urgent demands.

I checked my cell phone.

Now, I knew exactly what the memory was.  This reminded me of when I used to ski.  After a fabulous day of exercise and terrific mountain air,  I used to go into the lodge and light a cigarette.  What did I just do?  I sabotaged  an afternoon's effort at inner peace with a compulsive  scan of spam and other email attempts to sell me something. Rather than being where I was, I was searching for somewhere else.

It's been a long time since I was a cigarette smoker - almost thirty years.  But I remember that it was a default.   As soon as you got in the car, onto the barstool, or into your friend's living room, you lit up.  Smoking a cigarette was what you did when you weren't doing anything else.  It was what you did rather than just experience a moment. 

Hmmm....what does that remind me of?

I don't think I can give up my cell phone the way I gave up cigarettes (especially since I just ordered the IPHONE 5). And they don't yet have a "patch" to help ease you off your addiction. But I'm going to try to gain a little more control over it.

Maybe leave it in the car whenever I go on errands?  Or perhaps a single cell phone-free day each week? 

How about the rest of you out there....are you finding yourself checking for messages when you aren't expecting anything important?  Anyone else inhaling their telecommunications a little too often or a little too deeply?

Gram, Liz Mugavero, and Linda Rodriguez have won copies of Killer Show, please contact me at so I can get your addresses and have a book sent to your homes.


  1. Okay, I am so opposite to this . . . My cell phone is usually in a case, attached to my purse handle, but I seldom take it out and have been known to ignore its very existence for days on end. I hardly ever even look at it, never mind check it for messages. [And, as you might surmise, I did not just order an iPhone 5 . . . .]

  2. I'm the opposite...I tend to forget my cell phone and when I do remember where I had it last, there's no power to use it. I can't get the iPhone5 until next year.

  3. Someone's going to say this, so it might as well be me:

    What about after a little romantic interlude?

  4. WRED interrupts this broadcast for a Reds Public Service Announcement... @junglereds has just enlisted 5,000th Loyal Tweep.

    Today is officially declared @KellySGamble Day throughout Redlands! She wins Red Julia novel.

    And because Miss Runner-Up RARELY gets recognized in life (#4,999) @DianthaJones wins a book too!

    You may now resume your previously scheduled activities. THANK YOU for your support! #HappyDance!

  5. I hear ya, on the cell phone bondage. Which is why I steadfastly cling to my old Droid, which almost does nothing. (I call it the stupidest Smart phone.) I have no interest in getting email 24 hours a day, and mostly use it for phone calls.

    One nice thing, though, is I can buy a couple days' worth of GPS from Verizon, so if I am traveling and need turn-by-turns with voice prompt, it is there. I just used it this weekend, and it reminded me of how useful that service is.

  6. My cell phone is an old flip phone, pay as you go Tracfone. It goes out of town with me, but that's the only time I use it.

    My camera, on the other hand, is the one thing I never leave home without.

  7. Oh Susan D -

    I was so thinking about that line....but I have to say, that would DEFINITELY RUIN a romantic interlude. Not me mention, I think my husband is already inclined to toss my IPHONE out the window.

    Joan and Dru, I used to be like you guys, I swear. I will, on occasion, not check it for a day when I'm home. It's when I bring it with me to dull places that I get into the most trouble.

  8. Kaye,

    I have noticed another thing with cell phones cameras, that I actually don't do - but younger kids in their twenties, constantly snap each other doing things. Like at the beach. It's as if they feel they haven experienced any fun unless they shoot it and post it on Facebook.

    Karen, that sounds like a healthy solution..

    REMINDER: Lisa Alber needs to contact me about winning her book!! (THE ART FORGER)

  9. I feel as though I've found my tribe here. I have a flip phone and it isn't even set up to take messages. And half the time I forget to turn it on. I hear the word "dinosaur" all the time.

    On a completely unrelated note, everyone please cross your fingers for no rain this afternoon between one and two Eastern time. I need some good karma. The Munchkin and I are doing the 5K Run for the Cure starting at one and it's raining like crazy right now.

  10. Not addicted here, either.

    My husband inherited my flip phone and pre-pay ($10/month) plan and I bought an iPhone. Love having it when I travel because there's my email and I don't have to schlep my computer or find wifi to access it!

    Otherwise I almost never use it. Takes me hours to text the simplest message. And "browsing" the internet with it is an exercise in frustration. And my truty dedicated GPS does a much clearer/better job at giving directions.

  11. Remember when you went to a restaurant or bar with another smoker, and the first thing you did was put your cigarette packs on the table, ready just in case? (Like Jan, it's been a LONG time since I was a smoker, but I still remember that.) Now the first thing most people (women, at least) do is put their smart phones out on the table.

    I have an excuse; I'm partially deaf, and I don't want to miss a call from my husband or my mom's caretaker. I resist checking email. But my daughter and lots of my friends? Constantly texting and Facebooking. And yes, my daughter checks in wherever she goes on FB, often with pictures. I don't mind--I like knowing what she's up to, but I don't like doing it. It just feels weird, like a violation of privacy.

    This was such appropriate post, Jan--it being Sunday, the first thing I thought is "I'll leave my phone on the charger--I don't have to check email.)

    They are addictive, and there's no patch. Like Jan, I try to block out phone-free time.

    One thing I do love is the camera. I have a good digital camera, but I don't carry it everywhere with me, even around the house. The smart phone camera is perfect for capturing those fleeting, instant shots--at the moment, my dog is chewing happily on her stuffed racoon's head, while the cat is pouncing on her. But my phone's in the kitchen...

  12. Oh, and hurray WRED, and welcome to our 5,000th Tweep! And our 4,999th!

  13. I am one of those people who barely remembers HOW to turn on the cell phone. I use it once or twice a month to make a long distance call (I get a certain number of free long distance minutes), and it has come in handy when my car has had a flat tire or a dead battery. It does not get turned on unless I am about to use it.

    A couple of years ago when I was visiting relatives for a special family event, I realized that I'd forgotten to take my camera with me. My teenaged niece said: "Just use your cell phone, Aunt Deb". She was shocked to the point of speechlessness to learn that not all cell phones come with cameras!

  14. My name is Joan and I'm a cell phone addict. I have my iPhone with me almost everywhere I go. I have to go to the federal courthouse in a couple weeks and found out that I can't even take the phone inside the federal building with me inside my purse and turned off. The thought immediately went through my head, "I'm not going to have my phone all day."

    I am a 47-year-old mom with two kids in their 20s. I started texting a number of years ago as a way to keep in contact with my girls. Now, I use about as many text messaging minutes as my girls do -- I know this, because they're the ones I'm sending the majority of my messages to! :)

    On the phone camera topic -- I love the camera in my phone. My grandson is three-years-old. I love the convenience of having my phone camera with me at all times to capture those sweet moments in life without a bulky camera attached at the hip.

  15. Joan, I text because my daughter (in her twenties) texts. I text with some other friends, too. Although it's not my preferred means of communication, I love the "just checking in" conversations with my daughter.

    I have a Droid, by the way, and am the only person I know, besides my husband, who doesn't have an iPhone. (But he has an iPad, which HE is addicted to, and only uses his phone for calls and texts.)

  16. Or Debs and Joan,

    Thank god I'm not the only one. And yes, it was the texting with my daughter and son, I think, that got me so addicted. I love being able to check in.

    i also think I have a low tolerance for boredom. So rather than BE at the supermarket and wait patiently, I check my cell phone reflexively. It's GOT TO STOP.

    And the real reason I'm upgrading my IPHONE, aside from the fact the battery is dying and needs to be recharged every six or seven hours, is the camera. I NEVER remember to bring either of my digital cameras ANYWHERE.

    And when I want to buy something at the store - say a new pair of boots - I take a picture of them and send them to my daughter - who is pretty much the last word in MY fashion.


  17. And great point Debs, about the pack of cigarettes on the restaurant table comparison. I hadn't thought of that but it is SO true.

    I have the excuse that my phone doesn't actually ring half the time - another reason to upgrade and sustain my addiction.

  18. Count me among the almost Luddites. I have one of the earliest smartphones with the 1 1/2" screen and keys the size of stud earrings. It's actually a tiny computer operating Windows (Explorer, Media, Outlook,My Documents). I can text, but it takes me forever, so I only reply, never initiate them. I don't use the computer part, except the Contacts.

    I basically just use it as a phone, pay-as-you-go. I know I'm going to have to step up to an Android phone pretty soon, because it can be tricky to get wifi when I travel, even if I pay extra for it. But with a real smartphone I could access email, Twitter, etc., without wifi. Still, I drag my feet.

    Needless to say, I do not check my cellphone every few minutes. When it rings or makes some notification sound only.

  19. And hurray! I won Killer Show. Thanks, John and Jan!

  20. I am ridiculously addicted to my iPhone, my Kindle and now my iPad. I take them upstairs with me when I go to bed, and carry them down with me when I get up. LOL I admit it, I love my gadgets!

  21. Conrrats Linda,

    If anyone knows Lisa Alber or Liz Mugevo , will they please tell them to contact me - so I can have books sent to them.

    And htank you Anonymous. I didn't get into my IPAD addiction, but it does go up to bed with me -- especially when i'ts my week to host this blog -- so I can make sure the post went through as soon as I wake up.


  22. What I didn't mention is that I am totally addicted to my bluetooth headset. My husband will second this. When I lose one, it panic stations until I either find it or order a new one. Again, my excuse is the fact that I'm deaf in my left ear. I'm right-handed, and cannot stand to talk on the phone holding the phone to my right ear with my right hand. It also means I can't write, take notes, or anything else while talking.

    I'm wondering if I can get a bluetooth implant....

  23. I don't drink and I don't smoke, but I am addicted to coffee, Pepsi, and my iPhone. I no longer have a land line, so I have a small excuse, but, really, I'm a junkie. Of course, I'm not as bad as the friend who will spend 15 minutes texting someone else while he and I are out to dinner (that's rationalization you are hearing!) But I confess that I was 20 minutes late to meet a friend last week because halfway to my destination I realized that I had forgot my phone and had to turn around to go back and get it. Did I mention that my eyes turned blazing green with jealousy when I found out my bestie just got the new iPhone 5, which I cannot, cannot, CANNOT afford (insert self talk here)?

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. If you're going to expand the discussion into other devices, count me as a Nook Tablet addict!

    I use it instead of a laptop now when I travel, because it has easy (actually way easier, and faster) Internet access, access to email, Netflix, and games. Not to mention music, my weekly New Yorker fix (full edition, including ads), and books. Lots and lots of books. And unlike the laptop, it fits in many handbags. Unlike the iPhone, the screen is big enough to read anything. The Nook has so streamlined my life, and it's way cheaper than an iPad!

  27. I never smoked, and am so happy that most places now are smoke-free. I have a phone; I believe it could be "smart" but I don't have that contract. I leave it in the car when I am out and about, and I often leave it at home.

    Like many others, I had to figure out texting because of people in their 20s & 30s. I don't love it.

    What I really do miss is long, interesting emails -- now that people generally use their phones for email, they seem to restrict themselves to messages that are very brief.

    I am fascinated by the role that cell phones can play now in mystery novels -- they have to be broken, left behind, out of "juice," in a dead zone, or something else has to happen so that a character can be truly stranded!

  28. Denise Ann, you are so right about the role cell phones play in mysteries. There's none of that looking for a phone booth that used to take place!

    I fall somewhere in the middle--definitely love my pre-Siri iphone, but it doesn't bother me to leave it home when I go to exercise class or the grocery story or church:). The cell bars disappear in our house half the time, so we really can't do without a land line. I do like to check emails when I'm out--and rationalize that it keeps my account from getting too clogged up:).

    It does bother me when people text when I'm having dinner with them--it would be a shame if we lost the ability to stay in the moment and enjoy the people right there with us!

  29. Elizabeth,
    I SO understand.

    Karen, I feel that way about my IPAD. Which I bought a keyboard for, so I can write on it too. So much lighter than a laptop.

    Denise, the thing I've learned about long emails - is that people don't really read them. Even me. Email someone with three questions and they respond to only one of them. I'm developing this theory the the rapid way we communicate allows for less to seep in

  30. Jan, that's the one drawback to the Nook, that it does not have the ability to accept peripherals like keyboards. I detest trying to type on virtual keyboards. I've gotten a bit better at it, but it's so ridiculously slow.

  31. I am an iPhone addict. My husband bought one of the originals for me as a Valentine's Day present 5 years ago and at the time, I thought, " Oh for goodness' sake, I am never going to use this." Well...I was wrong.

    I work in a school library so it's hard to call me so I am a big texter. (You have to be QUIET in libraries...texting is quiet) I rarely turn my ringer on; so I constantly check...

    And I sometimes get mad at stories that don't feature cell phones, because I think, "If you had your cell phone, none of this would have happened!!"

    And like cigarettes could, I think my cell phone contributed to my breast cancer. For as long as I have had a cell phone, I carried it in my bra ( after nursing for children, there was just so much room in my bra; I felt as if I had to use it for something.) So for years, I would put my cell phone in my left bra side, and the kids' paci's in my right. Right where I could access those necessary items as soon as I needed them. There were two spots of breast cancer, right where the top of my cell phone rested, and then right where the bottom rested.

    Am I still addicted? Yes, but now I carry my phone in my purse.:)

  32. I finally broke down and got a smartphone this year, I find it fails a lot of tests that I would pass.

    I text with a few friends because that is "their" means of commuication with people, my main reason for the smart phone.

    I do use it daily - I read books on it so when I crawl into bed I dont have to try to adust a book light so it's not shining in DH's face everytime I turn a page and hit the book light

    I also use it to read while waiting in doc office, dentist - waiting for DH while he runs in to Lowes for "just one thing" HA !

    I've always carried a book with me so this smartphone is nice for that, weighs a lot less and takes up much less room in my suitcase of a purse.

    unless I'm expecting a text, I'm not a habitual "gotta check and see if I have a message every 5 minutes person"

    If I had to go back to a "non" smartphone, the one thing I would miss most would be the ability to take 40 or 50 books in my purse at one time :-) Now that makes a "smart phone"


  33. Lora,
    I am so sorry about your cellphone experience and wish you good health- I will take your advise and keep my cellphone at some distance, anyway.

    Mar - I always have a book on my IPHONE for just that reason. There is nothing worse than having to wait in a doctor's or dentist office when they offer nothing decent to read.


  34. I gave up my cell phone just like I gave up cigarettes, cold turkey. I got tired of babysitting both.