Saturday, March 10, 2007

Day 5 - Results - Phone

The above picture is of my designated "phone chair" I used throughout the month...I gave the old black rotary phone back to my parents, but decided to replace it with another corded phone (not rotary, of course).

Pre-project I would talk to about 8 people on the cell phone a day...ALWAYS while driving, running errands...I would use the cell phone in the house even though we have a land line. During the project, I was not only required to only use the land line, but I also did not have caller ID, call waiting, or a cordless phone. This meant sitting in that phone chair for every phone call...which was wonderful and has completely changed my perspective on talking on the phone.

I must admit - in the beginning there was some stress associated with not having access to my cell. Situations came up which would have been so easily solvable had I had my cell phone with me (such as trying to meet someone somewhere when there was a miscommunication about the location, being stuck in traffic and late for something - those type things). As these things came up, however, a couple of things happened: 1) I realized that there are always hidden solutions to "problems" just took a little creative thinking sometimes to figure them out...and my creative thinking had started to get a little bit rusty (actually a lot rusty) in the presence of all this technology that offers quick fixes, and 2) The situations I labeled as "problems" weren't problems at all...I know it sounds so cliche, but when I felt panic during those times that I couldn't contact someone immediately, the panic was quickly replaced with a sense of peace...I don't have my cell, there's nothing I can do, so why don't I just enjoy this moment of empty space that I'm in...I had lots of moments of empty space in the absence of my cell, and I believe that it's the deep peace felt in these moments that has motivated me to give up my cell permanently.

So throughout the month, I spoke with one, maybe two, people a day. I couldn't be multi-tasking while sitting in my phone chair, so I actually had to allocate time in my day for these conversations...and that was great! I would set up phone "dates" with friends and family (like "I can't talk now, but are you available to catch up tomorrow at 5PM?") and found myself looking forward to having these conversations. I also decided that "call waiting" is really obnoxious...seriously. I had it prior to the project and for the first week of the project. I would find myself in the midst of these conversations that I had looked so forward to and then "beep beep...beep beep...beep beep". The project rule, of course, was no answering the call waiting. But I caved. I was actually home for so few conversations that I couldn't stand knowing that someone was trying to get a hold of me and I was actually home to receive their phone call. How obnoxious! I think in the absence of all this technology I became hyper sensitive to how obnoxious some of it waiting about tops the list for me. I had it turned off after the first week of the project, and it's not going to be turned back on again.

Caller ID is another interesting technology. We had caller ID pre-project, and I really thought I loved it. The phone would ring, and I would stare at the caller id for a moment as I contemplated "do I really want to talk to this person at this moment?" or "hmmm...caller "unkonwn"...probably solicitor...I'm not answering it.". During the project, without caller id, my physcial/mental reaction became so different when the phone would ring. Rather than that sense of dread I would sometimes experience was looked at who was calling, during the project, I would ALWAYS feel excitement when the phone rang. YIPPY! I'm home for a phone call...I haven't talked to a lot of my friends in a while...I can't wait to find out who's on the other end! And you know what, I found myself even being more polite with the solicitors...a little more human. If there is one thing I can say that is the biggest overall result of this project, it's that I feel more human in the absence of all this technology.

Changes in phone habits post-project:

The cell phone is I write that, for some reason I start to hear "ding dong the witch is dead" in my head. However, I've decided to keep it in my glove box with the car charger for emergencies on the road....but this will start in a few weeks as I have loaned the phone to a friend who has gone out of town - first time in 4 years without physically having a cell phone. Call waiting - gone. Caller ID - some of our phones still have it, but I do find myself paying less attention to it. Answering machine - back. I missed it...I'm away from the house a lot (probably a big difference from the average 1940's woman), so connecting with business-type phone calls was difficult. I welcomed the answering machine back.

I haven't really wrote any pointed advice, but I feel an obligation to with this topic: if you find yourself feeling annoyed or stressed when your cell phone rings, just stop using it. People will adapt to you not having one. I feel free and liberated and enjoying those times in the car or grocery shopping or where ever, where I can just enjoy the moment...if it's important, the person will call my home phone and leave a message.

Tomorrow: Credit Card/ATM vs. Cash - so interesting!


sarah soebbing said...

Hello! My name is Sarah.
I am writing to you because I read an article about you in the Ann Arbor News, and at first I thought the article was describing me! I am a grad student at EMU where I also teach freshman composition, I play classical piano and live on the old west side. I don't have a cell phone or TV, and although many aspects of modern technology are a big part of my life, I am often accused of living in the stone age by others. In short, I can really relate to the kind of lifestyle you are engaging in, and I really respect and appreciate the project you are doing. Awesome! What classes do you teach at EMU? I thought it was so interesting how your project is affecting your students. If you have a second, hit me up at

Nancy said...

Have you ever noticed with in the advent of cellphones that people actually get annoyed with you for not answering your phone? They leave voicemail and when you call them back they start with, "I called your cell. Why didn't you pick up?" I used to actually feel guilty about it!

A cellphone can be great in that you can have it when you need it, but it can get in the way of your "normal" life. If you be vigilant about priorities and not picking it up every time it rings I think it's great.

For a lot of people though it's like an addiction and they don't even see the problem with picking up their phone during dinner or in the middle of a face-to-face conversation.

I laugh when someone actually says "How did we ever get along before we had cellphones?" Well, life was certainly a lot quieter when eating, shopping, watching a movie, attending classes, etc.

I applaud your efforts.

Cherice said...

Because of family issues we have caller id, but I refuse to have call waiting. I do have a cel phone that, on occaision, I remember to turn on (it's a joke in the family that I never have it with me/charged/turned on).

I grew up with a rotary phone and we shared our line with our neighbors. I don't miss that. We have cordless phones in the house, but I often prefer the corded phone because you can't misplace that. I was in high school before we 1. got our own phone line and 2. had a touch-tone phone. I think that people now rely too much on cel phones and all of the bells and whistles on their phones. I just use the phone as a phone, not a camera or a radio or any of the other stuff. I do have an answering machine which I love and still has a message from the last time my mother in law called me before she passed away.

And now I must go fire up my stove (a late 1940's O'Keefe and Merrit) and cook some dinner.

I'm am really enjoying reading your observations in my few minutes of computer time each day.

Anonymous said...

From Deborah,

I can remember when I was little, my grandfather wouldn't answer the phone when it rang - he said, "I got that phone for my convenience, not others." So I think some of feelings you have about cell phones are much like what people felt when phones first appeared.

I am an unabased technology lover. It just seems a good idea to have some balance in the use of anything. Cell phones are great - just don't answer them during dinner. Don't multitask while on the phone. Television is great - just don't watch it all the time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Christina!

I am writing because I read an article about you in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Reading your blog is a great reminder of how happy I was when I lived in China a few years ago after college with no cell phone, no personal computer, no clothes dryer, no dishwasher, no answering machine, and a one-speed bicycle to get around. I loved the time I had to spend with people, whether they were friendly or rude. I loved that I could get lost around town and feel so alive because I was so fully aware of what was around me and not distracted by a cell phone or someone trying to get a hold of me. I loved that people took the time to talk with me or to have a cup of tea. Sure, finding a photocopier to make 278 copies of a worksheet for my students was a pain, but at least I could talk with the guy who ran the machine and have good adventurous stories to tell later. Your blog reminds me that I need to pay more attention to how I spend my time back here in my home country.
This last weekend, I was at a theatre performance by the school where I work and no less than five students were text messaging continuously during the three hour performance, the glow of their cell phones lighting up the dark theatre. That made me sad. These were their peers and friends onstage. I am hoping that I can perhaps get my colleagues at school on board to have a week where the students recreate your research project because I teach a generation that does not remember a time before cell phones, computers, and washing machines. I think it would be interesting to see their observations, and while not encouraging them to get rid of their technology, maybe getting them to think and reconsider how they use it. We are so privileged here.

Thank you for your observations and sharing your revelations in your research!


Erica said...

I am thorougly enjoying reading about your retro project! You have inspired me to keep my cell phone for emeregencies only and to return to good old-fashioned letter writing - signed, sealed, and delivered.

I also really liked hearing about how you didn't mind washing dishes by hand. My husband and I don't have a dishwasher in our apartment, and I love to do the dishes - you get to have fifteen minutes or so of quiet time to yourself to relax and think. Plus, as you also mentioned, if you have a dinner party, doing the dishes after a meal becomes a fun social time (and you may burn a few calories after dessert)!