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MARTHA SEZ: Cellphones, ‘It’ and Gov. Cuomo

January 30, 2014
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

If you want to ask me something, come where I am. Don't yell from one end of the house to the other.

If Berlitz were to publish a guidebook of phrases for mothers, this one would surely be included, along with clean up as you go along, don't talk with your mouth full, don't run with that stick, you'll put your eye out, and Pete and I went to the demolition derby, not me and Pete went to the demolition derby. (Oh, did you go to the demolition derby, too, Mom? Me and Pete didn't see you there.) Like all of the other oft-heard mothers' phrases, it is good advice but seldom heeded. Children and teens are apt to yell from one end of the house to the other no matter how many times they are reminded not to.

Years ago, my daughter called me from Boston with a similar complaint about her new roommate.

"Celia called me from her bedroom upstairs at 2:30 in the morning!" she said.

"What? She yelled down the stairs?"

"No, Mom. She called me on her cellphone. She asked me would I get up to make sure the front door was locked. I can't believe how spoiled she is!"

I found this scenario difficult to feature at the time, as Keene Valley still did not have an operational cell tower. Verizon finally built a so-called Frankenpine - a cell tower disguised as a pine tree - in the hamlet. Then Keene Valley residents waited another year for it to be put to use.

The popular, if apocryphal, story is that when Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to view the flood damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in September 2011, he demanded that the cell tower be "turned on," and thus it was done. Let there be cell service.

Things have changed since that time. Some people in town opposed cell service, but the tide of progress proved irresistible. Now people are talking into their phones in the store or on the street, just as they do everywhere else. I was in favor of cell service for safety's sake, but I didn't want a cellphone myself.

I am one of the last holdouts on the planet. People seem amazed to learn that I still do not have a cellphone.

All of my life I have valued those moments when I could not be found. As a child, I would lie in the tall grass in the vacant lot next door, where I could investigate interesting bugs clambering about above me and watch the clouds overhead change shape, with no one telling what to do.

People who carry cellphones are constantly accessible; carrying no phone is like being inside a snowstorm paperweight. No one can get at me or expect anything from me. There are blocks of time when I am perfectly free to sit and stare out of the window. Whoa! That cloud just turned into a dragon. Now it's gone.

Some think a cellphone gives one freedom. I say that just the opposite is true. Knowing that you can do two or more things at once puts an unnatural pressure on a person. Someone invented the word multitask to describe this phenomenon. People are proud of multitasking. They feel obligated to multitask. I suspect that it is unhealthy, and sometimes rude. Who wants to be multitasked? I have a good friend who is efficient and well organized, and I would bet money that her rule of thumb is that she call me only when she is doing something else at the same time, like eating something, preferably a carrot or apple, since she is a health-conscious individual.

What about mindfulness? What about the good old mom phrase, I've only got two hands? Or, I can only do one thing at a time?

As it turned out, my daughter called me back to explain why Celia had called her to ask her to go check the door. Celia had been reading "It" by Stephen King, and was too scared to get out of bed. We both found that explanation perfectly acceptable.

Which just shows that we shouldn't jump to conclusions, especially about our friends. So dress warm, don't text while driving and don't yell from one end of the house to the other.

I'm not saying I'm not tempted by some of those new phones with cameras, GPS and bluetooth.

Happy Chinese New Year.



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