Disposable phones
by Patricia Draznin

Since my cell phone quit working, I am the only human I know who doesn’t frisk herself whenever a phone rings. Free of cellular devices, I am suspended in a peaceful state of disconnect where no provider owns my sorry white battery charger.

In order to replace my phone, I would be forced to sign a contract whose fine print demands that Cingular Wireless is my Airtime Daddy for the next two years. And should I be caught in possession of Verizon literature, Cingular will be entitled to a hefty fee that exceeds even their roaming charges, along with my first-born male. Fair enough.

But since my previous cell phone contract had expired, there was no reason to rush into signing a new one. I was positioned in that rare demographic of eleven un-tethered Americans who are allowed to switch providers without penalty, and even date Sprint subscribers. I had achieved the coveted state of free agency—until my two-year-old Motorola died of old age. And why? Because, according to a customer service rep stationed somewhere in Guatemala, any device older than six months in cell phone years becomes eligible for Assisted Living. Apparently, the digital technology that once powered my Motorola v-BFD, which was highly touted back in 2003, has been replaced by the GSM worldwide intergalactic network—always helpful when calling my husband out in the garage—and is therefore, like, so eighteen months ago.

The problem with the wireless industry, besides polluting our public spaces with second-hand conversation, is that it forces consumers to dispose of our phones like Kleenex every time we change phone plans or blow our noses. Or when the phone battery dies, like my husband’s did… because (sorry) that particular battery has been discontinued, along with the model and the whole damn company. But why moan about last year’s ancient technology when you can buy a brand new model that takes pictures, checks your email, and folds your neighbor’s laundry, and whose robust technology will remain up-to-date at least until you ring up at the register.

Cell phones are disposable. This is a bad idea, not just environmentally and economically, but because every time we activate a new phone, our two-year sentence starts all over again. Which means that the average cell phone user never makes parole. Maybe that’s why they call them cell phones.

This arrangement wouldn’t be so bad if we accrued perks with longevity. But as every cell talker knows, the continuing customer is the lowest life form known to the airwaves, a disregarded creature who can only watch in envy as new patrons snag zesty promotions, such as three camera phones for the price of one Motorola v-BFD.

Once we sign on the dotted line there’s no turning back and we can never afford to escape. HA-HA-HA-HA-HA. So why do we even agree to sign contracts? Hello? Otherwise our $30 mobile apparatus will cost us $627 after manufacturer rebate, earphone included, but not the kind that work. Those are sold separately for $99.95. They’re disposable too.

Copyright 2005 Patricia Draznin


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