I tend to use my cell phone for two things, primarily:
1) Telling my wife I’m running late, which I believe is the end goal of all new technology; and
2) Ordering pizza so it will be waiting for me when I get home.
In other words, I’m not one of those people who is constantly yakking with his friends on his cell phone at all hours of the day, for one very deliberate reason: I have no friends.
Wait, I meant to say I don’t see a need for it. I offer this background as evidence that there was no reason to believe I could ever make a good BlackBerry guy. (For the uninformed, a BlackBerry is a handheld device that allows you to read your e-mail and browse the Web from anywhere, except underwater. Boy, did I find that out the hard way.)
In fact, when I was recently assigned one at work, I had an extremely averse reaction — it struck me as a way for them to get their claws into me 24/7, as opposed to just the 50-60 hours a week they’ve got me subjugated now. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.) Still, I decided to be mature and productive about the situation and hide it in my glove compartment, never to be seen again.
Well, as it turns out I didn’t do that, and after several months of evaluation, here is my assessment of my BlackBerry: I love it. I love it in the way my 7-year-old son says he loves hot dogs, namely, he wants to marry them (which, granted, shows a 7-year-old’s fundamental misunderstanding of marriage, not to mention hot dogs).
And when I say, “I love it,” I of course mean: I hate it. Sure, it’s an amazing device, but I hate how it’s turned me into the BlackBerry guy — the guy checking his e-mail at stoplights so he doesn’t notice when the light turns green, and who would get honked at mercilessly if the people behind him weren’t also checking their e-mail.
Of course, never once have I gotten an e-mail that couldn’t have waited until I got out of the car (“Attention, your muffler is on fire,” etc.). But I’m constantly haunted by the fact that such an e-mail could be there, right on the top of my queue, beckoning me to take my eyes off the road.
What’s worse, I’m also often tempted to answer my e-mails at such inopportune times (while driving, at an anniversary dinner with my wife, during funerals). This can of course cause no shortage of bodily and/or social and emotional harm, not to mention the fact that my stubby thumbs make said replies almost unreadable anyway. (“HOIJLDJKL, KLJOI. LOYPUOI, PETE.”)
I think what disturbs me is this pathological connection we all (meaning “I”) seem to have developed to our various forms of electronic connectedness. After all, what did we do before e-mail, cell phones and GPS? Besides get a lot more paper cuts from envelopes and drive aimlessly around strange neighborhoods swearing, I mean.
It seems to me there was something to be said for the days when people would carefully compose written letters, and then mail them and wait patiently for the reply. I’m afraid if Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had e-mail, their entire collected correspondence would have consisted of them flaming each other in all caps. (“TJ: NATURL ARISTOCRACY SUX - L8R JA >=( “)
So I guess the question becomes: In some ways, would we be better off as a people without these instant connections? And the answer becomes: No. Because then we wouldn’t be able to check our friends’ Facebook statuses 47 times a day, and know that Bill’s at work, Tom’s drinking yet more coffee and Julie has a hangover.
Also, I wouldn’t be able to e-mail myself column notes while driving. Which reminds me: HOIJLDJKL, KLJOI. LOYPUOI. (And I mean that in the nicest way possible.)
Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind “The At Large Blog” (chianca-at-large.blogspot.com) and “The Shorelines Blog” (blogs.wickedlocal.com/shorelines). To receive At Large by e-mail, write to email@example.com, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”