Cell phones, technology “mixed blessing” for family

Categorized as 05/24/10 Goshen News column

To quote the old Virginia Slims ad, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

Isn’t that the truth? In the context of modern technology, we’ve come a long way, indeed.

Remember when cordless phones first came out? They were big and chunky with antennas that, in some cases, crossed state lines. The same was true for the first car phones. These were, in fact, heavy enough to repel would-be carjackers when wielded with a panic-fueled windmill technique. They came with cords thick enough to run a really big generator. In other words, they were a super-cool status symbol.

We were later than some to join the cell phone craze. It wasn’t until it became a job requirement for me that we broke down and bought in. Our first ones were silver flip phones with antennas, and they came equipped with cameras. Never mind that the picture quality was questionable. (Was that Grandpa or Aunt Millie? You couldn’t be sure.) We were living large, shootin’ pictures and makin’ calls.

Mr. Schrock, who was originally the holdout, began relying more and more on his phone. From that little basic model, he moved up to a smart device that could do everything but fire up the coffee pot. Its weight was roughly equivalent to a boat anchor.

He is now on his second smart phone. It holds a vast library of contacts. It holds his schedule, which he syncs with his computer at work so that it’s literally at his fingertips wherever he goes.

It has internet access. He checks the weather, the Dow, and his email from his phone. It can do everything but fire up the coffee pot. Oh, yeah. And it weighs slightly more than a boat anchor.

Did I mention, by the way, how complicated it is? Why he still asks me to look stuff up on it is beyond me.

“Can you find so-and-so?” he’ll say, handing me the anchor while he’s driving. “It’s easy.” Four clicks later, I’m looking at what appear to be schematics for a submarine. Apparently, I’ve hacked into a secret Navy website from his mobile device somewhere along U.S. 20. Don’t ask me how I got there. Simple girl, smart phone. You run the figures.

Cell phones, I’ve learned, are mixed blessings. The “blessing” part is that you can get reach the kids from anywhere. The “mixed” part is that the kids can reach you anywhere. By giving them your number, you’ve effectively extended those little arms with sticky fingers, and they can now grab at your skirts from miles away.

If they’re not calling, they’re texting. My inbox is a hotbed of family interaction.

“New Starbucks dark cherry mocha. So good!” This came from the IUSB sophomore one day as I was working at my desk.

I replied, “Boo hiss. Bring home the good kind 4 me?” This was met, not surprisingly, with silence. Which could explain my own silence when I got this from him sometime later: “Please put my stuff in the dryer.”

I can practice spotty cognition with the best of ‘em.

Many outgoing messages, I noted, ran along the lines of, “Where r u?” and, “Pick up ur brother.” These were interspersed with numerous, “Call me,” directives for Mr. IUSB.

There was a rather grim, “Big phone bill 4 u, buddy,” after I’d opened the latest Centennial bill and spotted the total. Then came a heated reply, “It’s a lie! I haven’t downloaded anything but a ringtone.” Or two, plus three games, as I told him later.

There was pain in my inbox. “I think I’m getting a toothache.”

Me: “Shoot.”

And later, “My stomach hurts.”

Me: Flurry of messages with questions about recent diet and maternal commentary about his total disregard for a little thing called sleep.

Further down, the topic of fireworks was huge. Oh, not for me, but for Kaboom Kid who urgently texted his cousin, “Did you ever find out the name of that bottle rocket,” and, “Do you remember how many came in a box?”

Then one day UPS delivered Grandma’s annual Easter package. Boy three grabbed my phone and texted Big who was at work. “Can we open the Easter box?”

He received this loving reply, “If you want your rear peppered with Air Soft pellets, go ahead.” Knowing what buttons to push, the would-be box opener texted back later, “I am sleeping in your bed.” To advance his cause, I added, “And he’ll drool on your pillow.” See? I know a thing or two about making threats from afar.

I had to laugh when I saw a string of texts I sent The Enforcer on March 30. “Come home. Save kids,” said the first one. The update that followed read, “Quieter now, but rabble rousers still present. Baby lied. Always something.” And lastly, “Now you’ll probably work late.”

If I’m lucky, he won’t change his number or go unlisted on me. If the kids are lucky, I won’t change my number or go unlisted on them. If the Navy is lucky, I’ll figure out how to use the smart phone and won’t read their blueprints anymore.

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