Notes from the last sentient being on
the planet without a cell phone. BY NICK ACOCELLA
DON’T OWN A CELL PHONE. I’m not
some curmudgeon who refuses to
accept any innovation since indoor
plumbing. I don’t consider cell
phones the cause of the decline of West-
ern civilization. I just don’t like them.
I hate that anybody can punch 11
numbers and interrupt whatever I’m
doing. Nothing is that important. What
I’m doing is what’s important. If it
weren’t, I’d be doing something else.
I don’t require incessant stimulation.
I don’t need to be in touch with everyone I know every minute. And I don’t
always want to be found.
I’ve experienced enough frustration
from dropped calls on the other guy’s
cell and more than enough awkward
moments in which my interlocutor
and I end up talking over one another
because of the time delays inherent in
all cell phone conversations.
I value privacy. I’m not talking about
NSA stuff. I’m talking about the volume
required to be heard on a cell phone. I
don’t care to have loud conversations
on a bus about whether I should bring
home bread or milk. And I refuse to
become one of those obnoxious types
shouting vulgarities into a cell in public
places because someone did something
I didn’t like.
Cell phones teach the wrong values.
I once stopped a couple who were
holding hands while talking on their
cell phones and asked whether they
were talking to each other—and if
not, why not. On another occasion,
when I marveled at the size and juici-
ness of the blackberries my 6-year-old
granddaughter and I were eating, she
squinted at me in that way children
have when they suspect an adult has
abandoned all reason and said, “That’s
not a blackberry. A blackberry is what
people use to send messages.”
I know the arguments, even the
ones relating to my chosen profession.
Michael Aron, NJTV’s chief political
correspondent, once asked me how I
handle breaking news stories in my
newsletter. But my newsletter is a
weekly; there are no breaking stories.
I’ve had a few meals all alone when
the other guy couldn’t reach me to cancel. (The smart ones call the restaurant;
the others assuage their consciences by
calling my office and leaving a message on what they think is my cell.) But
eating alone is hardly a disaster. It’s certainly preferable to sitting across from
someone who puts a cell phone on the
table and looks at it every
15 seconds. It’s usually
after about the third
glance when I offer
my companion a
choice between lunch with me or lunch
with the cell.
Okay, I did have second thoughts
the time my car broke down. On the
Turnpike. In the rain. Some people
might consider that a catastrophe. At
that moment, I contemplated whether
I should have purchased a throwaway,
drug-dealer phone. Just in case. But
I merely muttered, “120 over 80,” my
target blood pressure, and waited until a
very nice man stopped and called Triple
A for me. A prudent guy who anticipates the worst, I always carry a copy of
the best novel I’ve never read. So I not
only experienced a reaffirmation of the
kindness of strangers, I also got in a few
chapters of The Red and the Black.
And, hey, if you want to reach me,
call my office. If I’m not there, leave a
message. I’ll get back to you. ■
Nick Acocella lives in Hoboken and has
been the editor and publisher of Politifax
New Jersey since 1997.