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Close Call

by Stephen Lautens


November 30, 2001

My best kept secret is that I have a cell phone. Unlike my friends who give out their cell numbers with the wild abandon of so many desperate bachelors at closing time, mine is a closely guarded secret. People ask me for my cell number and I'm very honest about it. I say: "I'm not going to give it to you because I never turn it on."

I basically see my cell phone as something I carry for my convenience ­ not other people's. That means it gets used for outgoing calls only. All my good friends know I never turn it on, and it's pointless to try to get me on it. Often I'll find messages on it that are more than a week old.

My biggest problem is finding a pocket to carry the thing. I refuse to get one of those nerdy little holsters or belt clips that are used exclusively by techies and rent-a-cops. A friend of mine decided to solve all his carrying problems once and for all by getting a man purse for his cell and other odds and ends. I would never say anything to him ­ but that's mostly because he's six foot four and used to play college football.

Most of the time I use it when my friend Rob and I visit each other's houses. We like to stand on the porch when we arrive and call to say we're outside. It's goofy and juvenile, but that's us. And it never gets tired.

When I do carry it, I forget I even have it with me. A few weeks ago I was in a bank line and everyone started staring at me. It took a couple of seconds to for me to figure out that the annoying little tune of a cell phone ringing was coming from me.

This is in fact my second cell. I had one once before, but it ended badly. Someone stole it out of my coat pocket. And did they make exotic calls to far away lands before I could have it disconnected? No. They made three local calls, all to escort agencies.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. And bless my wife, she believes every word of it.

The worst part was trying to get my phone replaced. With the fierce competition for the cell phone market, I figured replacing my phone wouldn't be much trouble. Heck, they practically throw them at you in shopping malls. I saw that in Hong Kong they now have disposable cell phones. When the battery wears down, you just chuck them away.

That wouldn't go over well in my house, where we take Styrofoam pie plates to a dump two hundred kilometres away just so we can recycle them.

So imagine my surprise when my former cell company informed me that the cheapest phone they would sell me cost more than the rest of my entire contract. I pointed out that they weren't giving me much of an incentive to stay a loyal customer, and was basically told to like it or lump it. The nice woman actually suggested I try scrounging around in some pawn shops to see if I could pick up one that used to belong to some down-on-his-luck crack dealer.

So I ended up taking my business across the street to another company.

It's not like anyone knows my number, and I can just as easily not answer a new cell phone.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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