Life existed before cell phones

One of the best ways to annoy somebody is to answer a rhetorical question.

Why do drive-thru ATMs have Braille on the keys? First, it costs more to make two slightly different ATMs than it does to make them all with Braille. Second, blind people can be passengers in cars, so Braille lettering is an unobtrusive way to accommodate them.

I also annoy people when cell phones get discussed, and somebody asks, “What did we ever do before these things?”

Sometimes I answer, “Some things take longer to do. Just watch any TV show or movie made before 1995.”

An old “Cosby Show” episode shows Sondra with a nasty flu, and Claire taking advantage of the situation to spend the day with her grandchildren.

The conflict was that Claire didn’t get consent before she took the children. And because Claire didn’t go home, there was no way to reach her. Sondra, hopped up on cold medicine, spent the rest of the episode chasing Claire through Brooklyn over a misunderstanding. Today, Sondra would call or text Claire and the conflict is gone before the commercial break.

Other times, I answer, “We got along just fine, and I’m reminded of it every time I forget my phone at home.”

Every day, I play, “Stuff Kevin leaves home with.” The keys make the cut because I can’t leave without driving my car, and the wallet makes the cut because I need my driver’s license and money. The phone’s optional, so it competes with the other optional items. On Monday, the movie rental I had to return, the package I had to mail and the drink won, and the phone sat at home.

Here’s what I missed between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m.:

• Facebook updates about trivial matters.

• A text from a friend: “Hey, is the 3G network down on your phone too?” It might be, but it’s not an issue for me.

• A missed call from that same friend, presumably about the same thing since they left no voicemail.

• Followup text: “Apparently, an optic cable that got cut and it affected 3G in our area. Should be fixed soon.” Problem solved. You’re welcome.

• A pair of texts from friends saying hi. I reached them both the next day, and they weren’t offended at my late response.

In short, I missed nothing, and I was a little more productive at work.

I went to the movies with a friend years ago. I turned off my phone and suggested she do the same. She responded, “My mom may try to call me with an emergency.” I held back, but I wanted to respond, “Your mom lives in Albuquerque. If you’re so concerned about emergencies, you shouldn’t live three hours away from her.”

The problem is the mindset that we need our phones, and the convoluted logic we’ll adopt to make them necessary. I say that, and people get mad.

Maybe I’d be safer with, “I don’t know.”