Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Telephones- Want or Need?

Just as necessity is the mother of invention, lack is the mother of resourcefulness.

I just survived without a house phone for nearly a month, and for a large chunk of that time, I was without a cell phone as well. It was an experiment I do not care to repeat, but I definitely learned that it is possible to manage without a phone at all.

Not long ago I delved into whether cell phones were needs or wants, but that post was basing it on the supposition that you owned a house phone. The cell phone post was written a few days after I switched from a monthly plan to a prepaid cell phone in the hopes of scaling back our embarrassingly large phone bill. I bought a 10 dollar prepaid card and was hoping it would last me a while, as I was going to try to cut my communication costs by following these tips.

Then we moved to our new apartment, a brand new one that had just finished being built. We had scheduled the phone company to move our line within a day or two, but there were so many problems hooking up our phone line. The phone technicians must have come back 4 or 5 times in addition to a few visits by electricians, etc. The new apartment is pretty, but with its newness comes other issues, like unfinished telephone wiring.
We moved in on the second of May and only got a land line on the 25th.
To top it all off, because I had a prepaid cell phone with no land line, my minutes on my phone got used up very quickly, even though I was rationing them. Because of technical  issues, I still haven't been able to purchase more minutes for my cell phone. For about 2 weeks, I was without either land line or cell phone.
I managed. It got annoying. It got others annoyed at me because their phone costs were increased as a result. It was quite inconvenient, as the 21st century civilized world is built on the assumption that you have phones. But regardless of all that, I managed. No one died because I didn't have a phone. No one got hurt. It was uncomfortable, but it helped me realize that phones are luxuries. Not one I'd willingly forgo, but if I survived without it, it can't possibly be a need.

Instant Communication is Important Today

The biggest way we were able to manage without a phone in today's day and age was because we have a computer with wireless internet. While waiting for our phone and internet to arrive, we piggybacked on our neighbor's WiFi (with complete permission). Having the internet helped us out because in today's world, you do need to be able to contact people.
People today live relatively secluded lives. We don't live in little villages with our extended families surrounding us to help us out as needed. Our husbands are not just a few minutes away working in the field. We are not particularly self sufficient and need to travel to get what we need from other people and stores. Because people are traveling farther on a regular basis and we don't have our extended family nearby to lend a hand should the need arise, we do need a way of communicating.
Way back when, if it took a few days to send a message to the husband who was working in another town, then so be it. Getting a message there faster would not help at all- in an emergency, the husband would be too far away to help, even if he got a message instantaneously. Instead, people lived closer to their families who would be there for them in a time of need.
Nowadays we have people living in communities, cities, and even countries away from their family. There is no one nearby to help in an emergency if the spouse is out of the home. We need phones to be able to contact each other so that hubby can rush home if your little one needs to go to the hospital, or even for more innocuous things like asking your spouse to pick up some flour from the store. Not to mention that government officials and any other official place wants to have a number to contact you.
But I digress.
Surviving Without a Phone
With no land line and a cell phone with no outgoing calls, I sometimes was a bit stuck when I needed to contact someone. Like when I was going to be late to work and needed to give a heads up, etc.
How I managed:
Collect calls. I called collect from my cell phone to my husband or mother, they'd refuse the call, and then call me back.
Computer text messaging. Gmail offers free text messages to cell phones. (You receive a finite amount of texts though.)
By foot. If I could walk somewhere to pass on a message, I did.
Mooching off friends. When push came to shove and I needed to call someone immediately (like when my babysitting plans got canceled 15 minutes before I needed to leave for work, and I needed to either get in touch with my employer, or potential babysitters- or both), I did ask a neighboring friend if I could use her phone. Not something I did often- just one time in that whole month- but it is an option.
Emailing and Instant Messenger. If the person I needed to reach was near a computer, I'd send them instant messages or email them. Alternatively, I sent an online person a message, asking him to call someone else and ask them to call me. (Like emailing my brother to ask him to call my mom, etc.)

I was only able to do all this because I had a cell phone capable of receiving free incoming calls, understanding friends and family who were considerate of my predicament, called me on my cell phone because I couldn't call them, played messenger boy to contact people I needed to reach, and my husband has outgoing calls on his phone. (We didn't switch his phone to prepaid yet because he hadn't completed his contract.) I felt bad relying on so many people for favors during this time, and I do realize that my lack of a phone cost my family more money. I wouldn't have chosen to go phone-less and am glad that I now have a phone.

It boils down to this- telephones with outgoing calls- want or need?

 I'll definitely have to say "want", because I did survive without. Not pleasant, and hopefully I'll never be in this position again, but phones aren't essential to survival.

However, in this age there is definitely a need for a form of instant communication. Whether it is a computer, a neighbor with a telephone, or  a very accommodating family is irrelevant. You need a way to be able to get in touch with people instantly in today's world. That, my friends, is not a luxury.

Phones? "Luxury". Instant communication method? Need.
More than one phone is definitely a luxury. People do manage fine with either a house phone or a cell phone; both are not really necessary. Depending on whether people are at home or out more often changes the circumstances. One may be eliminated, but I do not suggest eliminating both. Its no fun.

Have you ever gone without a phone? How did you manage? If you ever would need to go without a phone for a length of time, what do you think you would do?

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