Up in the Hollow: Cell phones, a towering fancy

All hail the things we can’t do without: the ice man, the “church key,” carbon paper, telegrams, spats, eight-track players, the outhouse, the truss, cell phones, whitewall tires and Wildroot Creme Oil. These were all things that people simply could not do without at one time or another; the latest craze, the badly needed necessity. Or at least that is what we thought at the time. Okay, I know, the cell phone isn’t quite there yet, but it won’t be long.

I don’t think anyone should use a cell phone while driving. Unless it’s me. And I’ve discovered that practically everyone feels that way. Folks who are not us can’t seem to handle dialing a phone or texting a message on a tiny instrument while driving at 70 miles per hour. Of course the people who sell those little devils think that everybody should have several of them going at all times.

As we all know, many localities have passed laws banning cell phone use while driving because of the obvious traffic danger involved. It seems that cell phone calls and texting have caught up with drunk driving as the No. 1 cause of traffic deaths in America. Come to think of it, there must be a lot of cell phone calling and texting while driving drunk out there, too. It isn’t like our little Rappahannock roads can’t be dicey to begin with. This will make our usual game of vehicular dodge ball even more exciting. (“Well, officer, I was just checking my tech stocks on the ticker of my Smart Phone, and I guess I drifted a bit, ’cause when I looked up there was a very large pulpwood truck on top of my car…Where’s my bluetooth? Well officer, I lost that tooth last week when I bit into a corn dog at the big flea market in Front Royal . . .”)

Hey, wait a minute. We all live here, right? It’s home, right? And when we are at home we have phones, right? And when we are driving it is dangerous to use cell phones, right?

And those folks just driving through can wait until they get to Warrenton or Luray, where they have more cell towers than they have lotto tickets. I know cell phones are handy for emergencies, but so is a CB radio or a satellite phone or a flare or knocking on somebody’s door for help, all of which are tried and true.

And don’t we all know that by the time we’ve put up enough of these plug-ugly towers to cover half the county that the technology will be obsolete?

And has anybody clearly explained what this has to do with improved broadband, which we certainly could use? Do I trust AT&T on that? Do you?

Ever wonder how we have survived all of these years without riding around talking on telephones?

According to some, this way of thinking makes me an “elite Luddite,” which is of course oxymoronic. Or maybe just moronic. One tower proponent quoted George Bernard Shaw as saying these concerns are the sort raised by the “idle rich.” Now ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black? Ol’ Shaw was rich, and toward the end of his long life he just poked around in his flower garden. And not only that, he was also an atheist and an apologist for Joe Stalin. How’s that for name calling? I mean, if you are going to label folks, don’t hold back.

This may be sappy, but I think everyone who gets to live in Rappahannock is an elitist, in a good way. We have something here naturally that people all over the world covet, and it is something that we tend to brag about. I mean the extraordinary quality of life that exists here because the stewards of this county (that would be all of us) have, over a long time, worked to protect Rappahannock from the obvious creeping blight that surrounds us. Our county is beautiful, peaceful, neighborly (mostly), and relatively crime free. So I figure “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Would you rather live in a rural paradise, or in the ever-sprawling D.C. suburbs? I don’t see cell phone service as a reward or as an entitlement, but as what it is. The fleas come with the dog.

I trust that the county supervisors will weigh what may be gained here by what may be lost. What will be gained will be the marginal and unreliable ability to use a cell phone on occasion, hopefully not while driving.

What would be lost is harder to measure, but it is more important, and just as real.