I Am a Mom Without a Smartphone

by Josette Plank
Originally Published: 
A close-up of a mobile phones buttons

I am just a girl standing in front of you, flip phone in hand, asking you to love her.

I know what you’re thinking.

Yes, I live near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. No, I am not Amish. In fact, I know plenty of Anabaptists who are right now riding in their horse drawn buggies, on their way to buy the new Apple Watch.

Sure, the Amish keep their cell phones out in the barn instead of bringing electronics into their homes. (And, frankly, this is as good an argument as I’ve heard for raising teenagers to believe in a higher power who doesn’t have a Twitter handle.) But for plain people, they sure do have some pretty fancy phones.

Now, imagine me on my flip phone, calling an Amish-owned construction company and having this conversation:

Me: Hello, I need someone to build a shed in my backyard.

Mr. Stoltzfus: OK, we are in the middle of a job. Can you text me the dimensions of the shed you’ll be needing?

Me: I’m sorry. I’m not very good at texting. Can I send you an email?

Mr. Stoltzfus: No one here uses email anymore. Maybe my aunt in Ohio, but she’s a bit old fashioned.

My cell phone does have some texting capability. Given enough time and swearing, I can even peck out “Whem r u goimg tm be hme?” or “thnx fr te brTHDYm eSSAG!!!%%”

Although, when my phone makes that cheerful little “ding!” that means I have a return text, I break out in a sweat and start chewing the inside of my mouth. Will this text contain another question? And will that question lead to more questions? And oh-em-gee, what if the person is asking for an address and I need to type a number? WILL THIS NEVER END?

It is a real possibility that I will die old and grey and with a flip phone in my hand, still trying to figure out how to text “415 East 23rd Street.”

“So what are you?” you ask me. “Are you some kind of technological doofus?” You tell me that you mean “doofus” in the kindest way possible.

Yes, I am a doofus. No offense taken.

But, my flip phone fetish began because, holy crap, smartphones are expensive! And if the smartphone itself is free, then the service plan needed to make the thing whir is still very much not un-free. Because I have three kids who all need phones (although they’ll tell you a flip phone isn’t what they meant), I’d have to make monthly decisions between paying my smartphone bill or paying for other giddy luxuries, like heat and running water.

OK, you’re telling me about a smartphone plan that won’t cost and arm and a leg and a working flush toilet. I’ll think about it, I promise. But there are other ways I’m still a doofus.

For example, I get easily confused; I can’t keep track of all the ways people want to get in touch with me. Some people like to text. Others leave information on voice mail. A few friends only message me on Facebook.

Then there are the folks who grab me in the school lobby and proceed to recite 500 words worth of information about the upcoming fundraising event including dates, times and how many cupcakes I need to burn for the bake sale. And somewhere around word 24, I shut down and find my happy place where I never get roped in to volunteering for anything, anymore, forever and ever, amen.

I’ve learned that I need to just be honest.

“I’m a doofus and forget things easily,” I blubber. “Also, I’m not an Anabaptist. Instead of texting, could you please email me this excruciating amount of information? I promise, I’ll read it later when I’m not having a panic attack.”

Most people, I find, are good about pulling the cobwebs off their email accounts and humoring me. (Amish construction worker the overwhelming exception.)

Another reason I haven’t splurged on a smartphone is that it’s practically a tradition that at some point during the year I’ll drop my phone in a creek while out hiking. Or, I’ll run over it with my car. Or, I’ll grab my purse and somehow my phone will fling from a pocket, shoot across a parking lot, and explode like plastic confetti in a sort of impromptu celebration of my idiocy.

That’s all a lot easier to take when the phone only cost $9, new.

Mostly, though, for all my backward ways with cell phones, I am a screen junkie. Using a flip phone ensures that for at least part of the day, I look up, look out, and live in the un-cyber world. I’d be less likely to walk into walls and smash my nose, a feat I’m particularly good at already.

I definitely don’t need any technology to help me there, thank you very much.

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