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With every smartphone update, I become more disconnected


Mark Rutledge

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Our house has five telephones, each with a different number. Some have North Carolina area codes, some Tennessee. Ten years ago, I would have said that could never happen.

But here we are.

The digital devices that hold our phone numbers are way more than telephones, but that’s what we still call them. The landline was cut five years ago. I’m not so sure it was a good idea.

When my teenagers are at the house and I am somewhere else, for instance, I have three shots at achieving a live conversation. Fat chance.

A female voice typically will answer — it’s just not likely to be from someone I know.

“I’m sorry,” the voice most often begins, “but the person you are trying to reach does not have a voicemail box set up yet. Please try your call again later.”

That particular failure to communicate has nothing to do with the concept of setting up one’s voicemail box. It has to do with the concept of ANSWERING THE *$%# PHONE!

Teenagers do not understand this concept. What possible use, then, would they have for voicemail?

To be completely honest, I’m not using voicemail much these days either. The calling culture among friends and relatives is evolving away from voice messages. When the phone registers a missed call, the caller’s number is there for return-call convenience.

Unknown callers who do not leave a voicemail can go pound sand. (I like that part.)

I tried to resist the trend toward carrying a pocket-size computer at all times. I failed miserably. If you have teenage daughters and want to completely lose touch with them, avoiding a smartphone is the fastest way.

My daughters have dragged me into the smartphone culture, kicking and screaming. I said it could not happen, but it did.

I said a lot of things: “I will never take a phone with me everywhere I go. I will never communicate via text messages. I will not use my phone for looking at social media, watching videos or, perish the thought, playing games.”

I now do each of those things and more, all due to the corrupting influence of my daughters.

Before last week, I had been proud of having only one silly little game on my phone—a thing called Doodle Jump. Without my knowledge or consent, daughter Julia downloaded the app onto my first smartphone.

Trying to delete the app, I accidentally opened it instead. My high score is up to 45,000.

After we updated with new “phones” last week, the girls started playing a game called 8-Ball Pool. When daughter Noel asked if I’d ever played 8-Ball Pool, I said, “Of course.”

I told her that my cousins had a pool table growing up and how we started playing at such a young age we had to stand on a basketball for the hard-to-reach shots. Using a chair was considered cheating.

I said there was no way such a tactile game as billiards could be adequately replicated on a handheld digital device.

OK, I was wrong again. Billiard purists tempted to express a different opinion are welcome to call me and listen to the lady talk about missing voicemail boxes.

Eight-ball, corner pocket.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.