Uneasy about life with cell phones
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado COWhile the world has rushed to embrace cell phones, I’ve viewed them with an ingrained luddite’s distrust of new technology. For some of my friends they are a Faustian bargain, providing all sorts of knowledge and power but at the cost of if not their soul, then their free will. This may be sour grapes, as hanging out at a bar with a bunch of people all talking on their cell phones to people at other bars sends a depressingly clear message on how great a conversationalist you are.They’re a great tool, allowing one to add, change and enhance your day’s plans. Unfortunately, I’d know my cell phone would become a substitute for planning my day and then instead of the cell phone adding to my life, it would become my life.They still may be worth it for those times when your plans have gone catastrophically awry. The Utah desert appears to be the nation’s show ground for backcountry survival stories: Aaron Ralston amputating his own arm, and now Sarah Ballangee surviving over two days stuck in winter with a shattered pelvis. Both stories impress us with a jaw-dropping will to survive. A cell phone (with a signal) would have deprived us of two of the more riveting stories of facing down death.I know that respecting the wild by holding only oneself responsible for one’s survival and not diminishing the risk with a cell phone or personal locator beacon is a good ethic and a great way to plan for any trip. But abstract purist ideals tend to fade away when tested by the prospect of dying.It’s not just the wilds of Utah, either. That familiar trail you’ve done many times suddenly trips you up on a cold late night jog and hmmm, perhaps the bulk of a cell phone was worth not breaking your record loop time. Remember the guy who cut the rope into the Back Bowls, ignored several “Closed! Do not load” signs, managed to avoid a motion detector to get on Chair 5 and got stranded when it stopped for the night? This happened before cell phones became prevalent. Now, he’d just phone to get his ticket pulled. Then, he jumped and crawled back to the lift hut. There are people who crash off roads into woods or hidden ditches and aren’t found for hours, or longer. Your cell phone may cause the accident. But if you hang on, it might save you, too.All new phones are E911 capable. They have a GPS chip that tells where you are. You don’t even have to call. It’s on as long as the phone is powered up, although not all networks are doing it yet. That’s pretty useful if you’re lost, but no one’s sure how private this information should be. If the emergency services can get it, then the police can too. Better be honest with those alibis. You can download software that lets you track where your cell phone is. That’s why some children in Japan do the library run with a bag full of cell phones while the others go off somewhere more fun without their phones. Get ready for phone spam: As you’re waiting in the McDonald’s drive-through, your phone rings with a special deal from the nearby Burger King.The involvement of Sarah Ballengee’s dog, Taz, made her story especially moving. Survival stories with dogs are incredibly appealing. The image of the loyal mutt comforting and keeping its master warm and/or leading rescuers to the scene is brilliant. I read these to my wife’s dog all the time, hoping she’ll be inspired and remember. These stories don’t fly with headstrong Akitas, though. She’s a stroppy, selfish cow and in reality would end up fighting and chasing off the search team’s rescue dog before stealing any emergency rations she could get hold of. She’d survive just fine in the wild, but my best bet would be to eat her and use her coat for warmth.That probably wouldn’t get me on NBC for one of those heart-warming “Lassie saves the day” segments. Perhaps it would play well in “Hardmen of the Canadian Shield” or “Korean Survival Magazine.” Either way, getting a cell phone seems a better bet, at least for the survival of my marriage.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.
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