The Pre-cellphonial Era
So back to the question: What did we do before cell phones were so commonplace?
Before I had a cell phone, I had a purple pager clipped into the pocket of my overalls. (Which I may have sometimes worn with one strap undone, hanging down the back.) (C'mon! It was the 90's, people!)
Back then - and even before my pager days - you always kept a quarter with you for the pay phone. When you called a friend, you called a land line (although you never thought of it that way - it was just a phone) that went to their family's house. If your friend wasn't home, you might have to leave a message on the family's answering machine or with her little brother, or you might get a busy signal and have to try again later.
I left my cell phone at home went to Spain for my study abroad program in 2003, since I knew it wouldn't work in Europe. Some of my friends made the same choice, and not having a phone at the ready was definitely an adjustment.
Plans were not so fluid. None of this "just call me when you're on the way" stuff. You set a time and place in advance and had to stick to it. We made a bigger effort to be early or on time, since there was no updating a waiting friend on your status, if the bus was running late or something. And if you were the one waiting...you just waited. There was no contacting the person directly to find out where they were. You just stuck around, wondering where they were, wondering if they'd come, second guessing whether you and the meeting place right or if they could be waiting for you at that other cafe.
T-Mobile's outage at a superinconvenient time on Tuesday made me think some more about the way we use - and rely on - cell phones. I'm not saying we should stop. But maybe it's a good idea to not assume we'll be able to get in contact with someone at any moment. Think about the chaos that follows when a company's email is out of commission. Or how users of Twitter/Facebook/etc. are at a loss when their service of choice goes down.
The other night, I wanted to keep things flexible, because there were a number of unknowns - how long the train ride would take, when others would arrive, how ticketing would work, if I was going to do a contest for my unused tickets, if and when I was going to get something to eat beforehand. But I could've made a decision. I could've said I'll be in this place at this time. And here's the backup plan, if something doesn't work.
It's always good to have a backup plan.
Maybe I should be more firm in my commitments as a general rule. Maybe I should make sure that I have other contact information for the people I usually connect with via Twitter. Maybe I should double check that the important emails I sent are received.
Maybe I should do less assuming and more backup planning. Or maybe the cell phone should be the backup and not the plan. Any thoughts?
1) by sean dreilinger
2) by John Fraissinet
3) by Scott Ableman
4) by artolog