Keeping your ‘ear to the ground’ without a cell phone

I was in Denver on business for several months in 2000 and I bought a cell phone. I had a three-month lease on an apartment and I correctly thought it would be easier to get a cell phone than to have a landline installed for just three months.

And I like the idea of the portability.

After we started the Tulsa Beacon in 2001, I stopped carrying a cell phone and I still don’t to this day. There are a number of reasons that I don’t have a cell phone.

First, I don’t like to talk on the phone while I am driving. I like to concentrate on my driving by driving defensively and anticipating bad moves by other drivers. When I am in the car, I listen to talk radio or Christian music (on the radio or on a CD or Walkman).

I have a little bit of Libertarian in me but I was glad to see a law against texting while driving. If you come up on a car going 10 mph in a 40-mph zone, it means they are either texting or calling someone. Some drivers have a cell phone in one hand pressed up against their ear and a cup of coffee in the other. This is very dangerous.

I get a lot phone calls at my office and many times people (usually subscribers) want to talk about politics or religion. I enjoy that but I don’t want to have those conversations in the car. We have three land lines in our office and I spend a lot of time in front of my computer and accessible to phone calls. We have caller ID, and I screen after-hour calls because I don’t want to work 24/7. Everyone needs a little down time but that is difficult sometimes with a cell phone.

Another reason is that people will ask me for my cell phone number. I would gladly give the number to some but there are others that I would not want to give out a cell phone number because they would call at odd hours or want to talk at length outside of regular business hours. I can avoid offending them by telling them truthfully that I don’t carry a cell phone. Some people actually admire the fact that I can operate without being on a cell phone all the time.

(Susan and I actually own a tracphone, a cell phone that you buy minutes instead of a monthly service charge. We take this when we go out of town and we only give the number out to family members.)

Another reason I don’t carry a cell phone is the expense. The phones cost hundreds of dollars for more services than anyone really needs and sometimes you get trapped into long-term contracts. And if you drop your phone and break it, they are expensive to replace.

Another big reason is for health concerns. Recent studies with mice show that radiation from cell phones contributed to brain cancer. A friend who is a medical doctor carries a cell phone but he keeps it in his pants pocket and uses an earbud to keep the phone away from his head.

Here’s a big problem with cell phones. They captivate people. We had to make a rule in our house that you couldn’t use your cell phone at the dinner table. When our kids were younger, we had to ask one to not text during church. Is there anything more irritating that someone’s cell phone ringing during a prayer at church? Or during a key scene in a movie theater? Or how about during a funeral? Several times, while taping my radio show on KCFO AM970, the cell phone of my guest has rung because he or she forgot to turn it off.

I can’t tell you how many times I have had a lunch or breakfast meeting with someone and they took a phone call. Really?

I have a couple of games I play on my computer (Pro Yukon Solitaire and Scrabble Blast). I might spend 10 minutes a day playing games – usually just to relax. So many people – especially teens and young adults – live to play video games on their cell phones. This is such a problem that my chiropractor, Dr. Matt Hunt, said there is now a condition called “text necks.” People are ruining their posture by bending over for hour after hour playing video games on their cell phones.

I really don’t care if other people carry cell phones. That’s their business. There are some occupations – like real estate agents, delivery drivers, politicians, school bus drivers, policemen, firemen, obstetricians and others – who really benefit from having cell phones.

I run a weekly newspaper. Unlike TV, radio or daily newspapers, I have plenty of time to cover a story. We don’t have to be the first one to report it (I’d rather get it right than first, anyway).

I am concerned about the health risks for my family and friends. There is no way I would be able to pry those cell phones away from them but maybe they might try an ear bud.

I drive more safely, save money, protect my brain and interact with real people more without a cell phone.

Maybe I will start a new trend…