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Peter Farrelly Headshot

The Addiction

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Alamy
Alamy

I don't have a cellphone. Never have. I'm not bragging. Fact is, I realize that to most people this makes me Dooshy McDouche.

'What the hell is wrong with you,' they say, 'what if your wife or kids need you?' 'Well, I do have an office phone and built-in car phone, I just don't have a cellphone -- you know, something I carry in my pocket.' 'But what if you're not at work or in your car and your wife wants you to pick up milk?' 'Well, milk's not really that good for you anyway.' 'And what if it's an actual emergency, what then?' 'If it's an emergency then my wife can call whoever I'm with and they'll hand me their phone.' 'But what if she doesn't know who you're with, or you're not with anyone?' 'Then she'll do what wives have done for thousands of years and she'll just have to wait until I get home.'

Half of them turn on me right there.

'Yeah,' they go, 'but this isn't a thousand years ago, Dooshy -- aren't you going to want to know where your kids are the next time there's a flippin' (sic) terrorist attack?' 'Correcto,' I state confidently, weighing whether to cave or wrack my brain for a response, 'but, um, in the 1950s and '60s weren't we constantly on the brink of atomic war and didn't daddys get by without cellphones?' 'Okay, what if someone close to you died and no one could reach you,' she says, slapping down her trump card, 'how would you feel then?' 'Well, how would it hurt to get a few extra minutes of happiness before getting the bad news?'

Look, if I just found out about 9/11 today, I'd be on my back counting my breaths. But I guarantee I would've had a better last decade than you. While everyone was on pins and needles waiting for the next blow, I was a care-free idiot.

Remember when cops used to throw drunks out of bars and then help them to their cars? They'd plop us in the driver's seat, start it up, and point me in the general direction of home. Well, that's where you guys are right now. You're completely out of control with the cellphones and nobody's taking the problem seriously. The worst drug addicts on that God-forsaken street in Vancouver have a vague recollection of sobriety. Not you. You all look at me like I'm the nutcase. People say, 'Wow, must be weird not having a cellphone,' and I tell them, 'Well, not really. It's just like how it was for you before you had a cellphone.' 'But how do you text?' 'I don't,' I say, and I get that empty look which reminds me how alone I am.

And let's admit something else -- they're not really cellphones anymore. Calling an iPhone a phone is like calling a jumbo jet an oven. Yeah, there's a phone in there somewhere but that's really a computer your kids are staring at when you're cruising past the Grand Canyon in your Odyssey. Doesn't that make you a little mad? What happened to driving in a car and just looking out the window? Your kids are giving up the entire physical world for this narcissistic/sychophantic/addictive need to follow someone or see who's following them.

I'm not a complete technophobe. I do email and got lasik surgery and I like those new, vaporizer one-hitters that you can use in restaurants, and I've even done a few tweets from my computer this year. And, like I said, I have phones at home and at work and even built in to my car, but you know when I don't have one? When I'm walking down a country road or on a beach or at a football game.

I know the arguments -- I'm just an old man, horse and carriage, etc. Until recently my kids were embarrassed by my refusal to come on board. My little daughter would say, 'You're stupid! Why won't you get a cellphone, everyone else's dad has a cellphone!'

And I'd say, 'Well, because if I had a cellphone, honey, I'd be on the phone right now instead of sitting here with you, deciding whether I want to fight your mother for custody.'

Actually, my daughter doesn't talk like that and I'm not getting a divorce, I don't think, but for a long time my kids were upset that I didn't have a phone. My wife, too. She keeps suggesting that I get one and just keep it turned it off. But everyone would know it's still with me. Isn't there an implicit understanding when you have a phone that you're going to check in periodically with the other phone-carrying people?

I admit, there would be some advantages to having a cellphone -- like being able to hound my kids any second of the day no matter where I was. But I also know myself and I'm weak. If there's a chocolate cake in my house, I eat it, and if I had a cellphone I'd be on it all the time. I'd be checking scores and injury reports and emails and stocks and I'd be Tweeting and Vextstering and Instagraming and, even when I wasn't on my phone, the anticipation of incoming information would be cluttering my brain and distracting me and keeping me from ever just sitting in a room with my kids and talking, like I do now.

I get this a lot: 'You're lucky. The rest of us have to have phones, we don't have a choice. We need it for our jobs.'

Which is another thing -- why are workers suddenly expected to have their cellphones on them pretty much all the time? And why is no one questioning that? Your lunch break isn't really a break if you're electronically tethered to your boss. Even if he doesn't call, he's there. And when you go home or out with friends, you're not really away if you're at the mercy of someone's fingertips. Remember the old reach-out-and-touch-someone phone ads? Now you're being molested!

So today, right in this newspaper or whatever you call it, I'm starting a movement. What I'm proposing is simple: Every human being should have the right to unplug. There should be laws, amendments, legislation. When you leave your place of business, you should be done. Seven o'clock should mean seven o'clock and a phone call from your boss after that should count as a pinch in the ass -- that would make them think twice. And when you're on the golf course or at the movies and your wife or husband call about nothing, that should be viewed as some form of verbal abuse that would be admissible in court later.

One night this week when you go out, try leaving your cellphone home. Pull off the information super-highway and come back to the dirt roads for a while. It'll be hard at first, like quitting drinking for the month of February, but after a while it'll get easier and quieter and you'll find a clarity that you've probably forgotten about. I don't know, maybe this movement already exists. I don't have a cellphone so I'm not up on a lot of things.