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By Ron Scopelliti
Recently I decided to ditch my home phone, and even though I had no logical reason to keep it, it was still tough to cut the proverbial cord. Because I moved back into the house where I grew up, it meant abandoning a phone number that I first memorized more than 50 years ago. And even though the number is now useless, I’ll probably never be able to forget it, meaning it will join the ranks of other useless information taking up space in my brain, like the first 14 lines of The Canterbury Tales (in Middle English, of course) and Jim Rockford’s license plate.
If I were the sentimental sort, I’d probably be thinking about how many interesting conversations I’ve had over the years using that phone number, and how many pivotal moments in my early development were linked to it. Or I might fondly recall the time I tried to get a guy from “Windows Technical Support,” to join my fictitious church, accept Jesus as his personal savior, and sign up for our monthly newsletter. I never could get him to give me his credit card number, though.
Instead, dropping the old phone number just got me thinking about change, and how, even though I think of myself as someone who’s open to change, I still tend to resist it. For instance, I bought my first vehicle with an automatic transmission more than four years ago, but I still periodically slam my left foot into the floor looking for the clutch. And I still miss the old-school voting machines we used to have, with the enormous lever you pulled at the end to open the curtain with a hearty ca-thunk.
But I don’t really think I’ll miss my home phone. Apart from annoying telemarketers and robo-calls, it’s been a distantly peripheral part of my life, much unlike my cellphone.
The advent of the smartphone may be the greatest change in the way I live my life since I got my driver’s license, yet I’ve felt no resistance to it at all. It’s fundamentally changing the way my mind works, and I’m not even putting up a fight. I no longer remember phone numbers, because my phone remembers them for me. Likewise with directions. And I’ve got a calculator, a compass, a translator, a tape measure, a level, and however many other apps I want to download helping me live my life.
And let’s not forget the ever-present camera, which I now use significantly more than my real camera. My much-beloved Nikon digital SLR often spends months inside its camera bag, never seeing the light of day.
A professor I had at UMass Dartmouth used to like to quote the Greek philosopher Heraclitus as saying, “The only constant is change.” These days, if I want to refresh myself on the works of Heraclitus I can simply use my iPhone to look up a page dedicated to him. Or I could get into a discussion about him on Reddit, or start a meme about him on Facebook, or give him a hashtag if he hasn’t already got one.
My cellphone, apart from any intention on my part, has wormed its way into my life in ways I never would have thought. For instance, my phone remembers where I parked my car, though I never actually asked it to. It’s just that they’ve become such good friends via Bluetooth that they feel the need to keep tabs on one another. I fear they’re getting a bit co-dependent, and may need to seek couples counseling.
Then again, you could say the same thing about my cellphone and me. I’m at the point where, if I drive away from my house without my cellphone, I generally notice its absence from my pocket within five minutes, and drive back home to get it.
As for my home phone, there’s only one thing I can foresee that might make me miss its presence: What am I going to use to dial my cellphone number when I can’t remember which room I left it in?