ON MY MIND: Dumb and dumber

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

Do you remember the movie, “Dumb and Dumber”? Well, we are living with that on a daily basis. Oh, it isn’t us. Oh, no. It’s our cell phones. His is “dumb” and mine is “dumber”.

Our kids and the rest of the world, have “smart” phones. The other day we talked about our history of phones. What’s yours? You didn’t always have smart phones. Remember?

Our first phone memories are of great big black phones hanging on the walls. My husband remembers having to crank it to make a call. As he is much, much older than me (OK, so it’s only four years, still …) I don’t remember cranking phones.

Everyone had their own individual rings. His was two long and one short. Ours was three short and one long. These were called party lines, though I don’t remember going to any parties. When it was your personal ding-a-ling, you picked up the phone. This made it easy for neighbors to pick up when you were talking and listen in on your conversation.

My husband has a fun memory of his grandpa talking on the phone. The other person said, “Is there a noise on the phone?”

Grandpa replied, “Yeah, that’s Billy Bob (the name has been changed to protect the guilty). He listens in on our conversations.”

At that point, a third voice pipes in, “No, no, tain’t me!” and hangs up.
Operators would come on the line and plug you in on a switchboard connecting you to the person you wanted to talk to.

Next came big clunky dial phones. Following that were smaller ones called princess phones. They were oval shaped with push buttons and they came in colors.

And then the word mobile, which used to describe gas or homes, began to be used for phones. This turned into cells.

The first mobiles were great big clunky things, nearly the size of a back pack with huge antenna sticking out of them.

A couple years ago, I would see people going for walks and talking to themselves. At first I felt sorry for them and thought they needed drugs, pronto. Then I realized they had an earpiece you couldn’t see and a phone somewhere in their clothes. Who would have ever believed this stuff?

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we went to hear a futurist speak. He described how phones would be in a few years. I remember he said this incredulous thing. “Right now in Japan there are people taking pictures with their phones.” No one really believed him. Who would?

Remember the first car phones with giant aerials sticking up. At the car wash everyone had to remove them. Now the phone rings and I push a button on my steering wheel to answer it.

There are also voice activated ones. My husband would just tell his to, “Call home.”

And it would.

Now, phones do it all. Even my “dumber” phone can take pictures. Of course, I don’t. One day a photo popped up and scared the life out of me. I don’t know how it got there or how it went away.

My cell has all kinds of symbols at the top of the screen. I only know what one of them means and that if it blinks, I need to charge it.

Not long ago I figured out how to text on my “dumber” phone. This isn’t easy as it has no keyboard. I gotta push the g three times to get an i. Too much work, for sure. I only text when I want to be cool. Of course, that never happens either.

Connie Borton, told me her husband, Gary, has a “dumbest” phone. It doesn’t even text. She said he told the clerk at the phone store that he only wanted a phone that would make and take calls. The guy said, “We don’t have phones like that, sir.”

A friend told me today that she hates shopping and paying full price while watching people searching their smart phones for coupons so they can pay less. She said the other day someone asked her how she made a salad she was serving. She began to list the ingredients from her memory. She couldn’t remember one, but her grandson said, “Sour cream.” While they were talking, he had looked up the recipe on his phone.

I love how a song plays in a store and my daughter points her phone in that direction and it tells her who is singing and the name of the song. I think she can buy it on the spot and have it sent to her iTunes library and it goes into her cloud and all her other stuff. I use the word stuff because I don’t know what the heck I am talking about here.

This is all beyond me, in the clouds, for sure.

Recently we got an Ipod to play our music. My friend, Stacey, said to me, “Why are you getting an Ipod? All you need is a phone. It does everything.” Of course, I had just bought the Ipod, so I was stuck with it. Now I guess I gotta make the big move and get a smart phone. I can’t live another minute without being able to get my email, Facebook, Internet, camera, GPS, weather, church and movie schedules, menus, games — oh, my, will this sentence ever end? I could write on and on and on about what my new smart phone will be able to do.

But the question that haunts me is this. If we upgrade to smart phones, will it come to pass that we realize our phones aren’t the real dumb and dumber. We are!

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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