Guest Columnist

The cellphone and me: A mixed blessing

Iowa fans hold their cellphones up to light up the stands in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa fans hold their cellphones up to light up the stands in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

To say that I am challenged by modern technology is to say that Iowa weather is changeable. All sorts of modern devices leave me bemused and my wife amused, at my difficulties. Take the other morning, for example.

I have gotten into the habit of checking the weather on my smartphone while I eat breakfast at our kitchen island. But where did I leave the darn thing? The likely possibilities were several: my study; my car; or the basement recreation room where I lift weights. Hoping the sound wouldn’t wake my wife, I used the landline to dial it. The ring tone revealed it was at the other end of the kitchen island, buried under a mass of papers.

Though I grudgingly admit it is useful, the phone itself is an irritation to me. It is small, too small for my non-youthful eyes, and black, often blending into a camouflage, daring me to find it on either our dark kitchen countertop or the black upholstery in my car.

Later that morning my wife was on the landline and I needed to make a call to an editor. My cell was nowhere to be found. My wife’s cell was handy, but calling from her phone would only confuse the editor. So, feeling vaguely ridiculous, I used my wife’s cellphone to call my cell. I could hear a faint ring tone, but in what room? I dialed again and headed into the bedroom. The faint tone was slightly louder. I was getting warmer! On to the master bath, where the sound was louder still.

Aha, I had left it in my robe.

Later that morning, I needed to run an errand. I grabbed my billfold and car keys and headed out. A block down the road I remembered, no cellphone. Making a quick U-turn, I headed back to the house. My wife was standing in the doorway holding my phone. “Forget this?” she asked. I got back in the car, feeling both irritated and a little foolish. I drove cars for more than 30 years of my adult life without a cellphone. Now, I need one in the car to run a little errand?

Then there is texting, seemingly the only way to communicate with my oldest son (a call generates either no response or a long-delayed response). Texting gets a more immediate answer, but at the expense of my laboring over the text message. The tiny screen is a challenge, requiring my second most powerful reading glasses and dexterity of the fingers and thumbs which I have not mastered (I’m always hitting the wrong letter).

The other day I meant to text our oldest son that I was looking at several different stocks to buy, but the word “stove” mysteriously appeared instead. So, I typed a correction to him, “I meant to say “sticks,” rather “stocks.” I then added, “our stocks have done well; we had a good fourth “lqarateb.” At that point, feeling that I had confused him enough, I got off the text without typing in “quarter.” He could always call if he wanted to be enlightened.

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As I try to finish typing this article, I can hear a ring tone. I’ll answer, if I can find that darn phone!

• Gary Maydew is a retired accounting professor at Iowa State University.

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