Acquiescing in Today’s “Connected” World

An image from the Slippery Brick blog. Click on the image to go to the article.Look. I don’t believe I am the only one who thinks that all this new communications technology, particularly cell phones, are necessarily a good thing. I embrace technology, and I think mankind should embrace it generally. However, I think humans ought to be able to choose what they embrace. One man’s convenient communications tool is another man’s anchor and millstone. Cell phones are the latter to me.

Let’s see. I ride to work and it is unsafe to drive and use a cell phone. I am at my teaching job where cell phones are considered a rude intrusion to one’s learning experience and disruptive to everyone else, especially when I am giving a lesson. I don’t need it at home, since there are land lines there anyway; why bother? If I am out at a nice restaurant with my wife, I hate the intrusion, and people can leave a message on my answering machine at home. I don’t see a problem, and I don’t see why I ought to waste money on a technology that seems to be a nest of contracts that differ with every provider. I have owned cell phones that are also useless while being recharged.

There was a time when owning two cell phones for my wife and I, plus a land line set us back about $200 per month or more. Am I the only one who considers this an obscene money grab on the part of the telecoms? I am not saying they’re corrupt. What I am saying is that perhaps their marketing worked too well, and they were allowed to do too much by the CRTC. I noticed for example that concomitant with the cell phones’ emergence was that outdoor payphones occurred less and less in actual phone booths, and more and more often on these outdoor posts, open to both the elements and eavesdroppers. They even disappeared altogether in some places. It definitely makes using payphones unattractive, and in comparison cell phones seem more attractive. I once read one of those “You know it’s the modern age when –” articles, which had, among its many signs:

  • you have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three
    • Sad but true for many families, although realistically it might not be that high. But it’s still sad. When I was young, we had one telephone number, and nobody died, nobody got neglected, nobody how old do you have to be to buy viagra joined a gang or got kidnapped. I know that’s hard to believe, but a normal, comfortable life was possible with one phone number. If your kid was in a friend’s house, you called his friend! Problem is nowadays, I looked at my phone bill recently and little did I know that my land line now has three phone numbers on it. I didn’t ask for the other two, and when I asked them, Bell Canada said: enjoy it! It’s on us!
  • you pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries
    • There once was a secret us older folks had to get around this limitation with only one phone number and no cell phone. It was known as “walking inside the house to see if anyone was inside to help out with the groceries.” It darn near killed us. Oh, the hardships we faced! But we must have been a clever bunch, since people don’t think of that these days.
  • leaving home without your cell phone is now a cause for panic
    • You need to think positive. What you call a time for panic, I call a time for freedom! Panic is the wrong thing to feel. But it’s a symptom of having too much riding on your cell phone number. Unless the company you work for is paying for your cell phone, I would resist the urge to use my cell phone number for work-related reasons. After all, they’re not paying for your airtime. Once you start on the slippery slope of using your own private cell phone for work, I can see why people stress themselves out.

What annoys me the most about these quotations is that they are all premised on the idea that cell phones are some kind of necessity. Their importance is way overblown. Most of us will just get back to the caller sooner or later. The immediacy of most calls is almost never a life-and-death matter, and an immediate response is usually never necessary. Personally, I much prefer talking to people face-to-face.

Oh, yeah. I guess you may be wondering about the image I used for the phone. It is a Nokia prototype back in 2008. Doesn’t look like Nokia will be around much anymore, so why not spread the humor? Click on the image to get to the originating blog.

Debt freedom is a lot of work

A while ago, I posted that I finally saw, for the first time in 5 years, $0 owing on both my credit card and my line of credit. The battle is never over, however. Unless I want to completely free myself of the luxury of a credit card and line of credit, there will always be the slow creep of regular payments, and short-term borrowing ($100 here, $200 there), which in my situation are unavoidable occurrences.

So, I will always have to pay down between $200 and $300 on any given 2-week period to maintain the zero balance. This is in stark contrast to the prospect of running up all of my credit in all of my cards (credit, store cards, etc), where I know I could be easily $25000 in debt in a week, should I be silly enough to do such a thing.

But there are other issues with money. In my opinion, credit is too damn easy to get. I really shouldn’t have access to $25000, because I know that paying back would be nearly hopeless. I would have to work past my retirement to do that.

In addition, we have grown too accustomed to people pushing product in our face. I have been working for weeks trying to cancel my cell phone contract. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to shake a salesperson off my leg from Bell, trying to push cell phones on us, both on the phone and in person. I have been alive for 45 years without the need of the ball-and-chain of a cell phone, I will live another 45 damn years without it. It is cheaper to use a pay phone. Way cheaper. Even at 50 cents a call.

The pushing of product in the form of a pressure sales job is a rising trend that I find alarming. I think we are at a point where we are buying so much stuff that we can’t pay for, that I find it hard to believe that it will be easy to come out of the recession. Pressure sales, to me, applies to any attempt to sell to you anything you were not considering buying before the sales pitch.

We all like to prioritize our spending to suit our purposes. Pressure sales is a disruption to that purpose. It throws you off-focus. The only possible answer must be “no” to these people. You have to have a steely resolve that they are wasting their time and effort on you. And so what if they think you are a jerk? To them, the only people who are not jerks are people who buy their stuff, so who needs the high regard of people with such shallow values? On the other hand, if your purchasing decisions are deliberate, then you can walk into the store, and give the salesperson the easiest payday they ever had. You get exactly what you want, and the salesman still makes money.

We live in a society utterly awash in the sales pitch, so it is easy to miss the fact that you are not anything but a wise spender if you just say “no”. Make every purchase decision a planned, deliberate one. It takes a great deal of mental discipline to do this. You need to separate yourself from the competitiveness and the materialism of society to be such a person.