Jan 25, 2013

The Cell Phone Rule

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day
New road trip rule: Never travel with anyone who carries a multi-function touchscreen phones.
Case One: For a decade or two my brother, Larry, and I have talked about taking a motorcycle trip together. Larry suffers from the classic Kansas "I don't care, what do you want to do?" indecision syndrome and the trip has been on-again, off-again for at least three years; as has been his motorcycle ownership decision. Our 2007-2010 trips were cancelled due to family disasters. In 2011, after a summer of missed schedules and minor miscues we began to "organize" a trip around Lake Superior in July. 
Organize is a misused word when it comes to the two of us; or just me. When I bought my WR250X, I told Larry about my plan to circle Lake Superior this summer and he asked if he could go along on my V-Strom. So, instead of prepping one bike for a trip I laid out the riding and camping gear and did the work and paid the tab for tires, chain and sprockets, and general maintenance for two motorcycles and two riders. I gave him a range of departure dates and waited to hear something for a month. I tried for the 1st week in July, no answer. I could feel the trip slipping away. I tried, again, for the 3rd week. Still quiet. I picked a day and got ready for the trip, solo. Four days before my planned departure day, Larry says it's a go. I had a motorcycle class the weekend before we would leave, so I crammed finishing up the V-Strom chores into 2 days. Larry arrived on Saturday night. We did a brief ERC to refresh his skills on Monday. We were on the road Tuesday at 6AM.
After a good start, we stopped for breakfast and the cell phone routine begins. He checked his text messages and sent a few. Then, he called his girlfriend and that's how we spent breakfast. So it went for each meal and every night's stop for a few days. We quit before dusk every day and he was on the phone until 2AM the first night. I didn't ask about his 2nd night, but I knew it went past midnight. The third day out, he was tired, slow to get moving, took long disorganized and unannounced stops, and finally got lost on the only highway going our direction. I backtracked 50 miles, looking in all the ditches, and couldn't find him. Cell phones are useless in Ontario, outside of two cities, so both of our phones were a waste of radio waves for 150 miles.
About 7PM, three hours after he disappeared, Larry called my wife and they talked about where he was, where I was, and where we could meet. What I got out of that was that he was alive and still in Canada. My wife isn't good with message translation. Luckily, Larry and I tripped over each other in Thunder Bay and got back on the path again.
Case Two: I took a couple of short road trips with a friend a few years ago. He's a proud man who believes he is in charge of all of his habits. But every time his iPhone phone rang he had to stop whatever he was doing and answer the damn thing. If we were riding, he'd pull over, take off his gear, and yak on the phone for a few minutes. All while I was stuck waiting for the phone jones to subside so we could get back on the road. The best I've seen him do is to stop to look at his phone and decide the caller wasn't as important as the task at hand and put the call off for an hour or two. He deludes himself into thinking that is a major improvement. It pains me to see a man enslaved to a crappy piece of technology and the expectations of everyone who knows his phone number.
The last couple of times my friend wanted to go somewhere, I suggested we take my car because we might be able to get there and back in my lifetime by cage. I figured if he just talked on the phone all the way to and from our destination while I drove we could save some time and hassle. Since I'd rather walk than travel by cage when the weather is even half-decent, we quit travelling together during riding season.
As I get older and grumpier, I'm generating lists of "never do that again" items. I've always hated telephones, but cell phones and the constant connection addiction took that to a new level. After the incident with my brother, I tossed my cell phone into the street and I haven't decided if I want to replace it. I might give my residual pay-as-you-go minutes to my daughter and be rid of that infernal technology for the rest of my life. Six months later, I haven't been inspired to replace the thing. This could be significant.
Part of what I love about motorcycling is the solitude, the remoteness of being on a one-person vehicle out of touch with work, responsibility, and my usual life. A mobile phone can defeat all of that, if you're not willing to turn the damn thing off. It appears to me that the fancier the phone, but more addicting the thing becomes. Once you can do more than have an unpleasant conversation on your phone, I suspect smartphoners begin to think the phone is actually more entertaining than the places and people nearby. If I'm who you're with and where we are is some place that took some effort to get to, I admit to being insulted by that slight.
The telephone is one of my least favorite modern "conveniences." I have a simple pay-as-you-go cell phone, but it's only turned on when I want to call someone. I rarely want to fool with my phone. In fact, in 2011 I bought 500 annual minutes and carried over 400 into 2012. The clanging, squawking, beeping, or tinny musical reproduction announcing a telephone call is a rude interruption to the flow of the moment. I'm a huge fan of the "no news is good news" philosophy and I can't remember the last time a telephone call brought good news. Phones are like spoiled children, shrieking "Look at me! Now!" I can decide when to receive and respond to snail mail or email. A telephone call is insistent that I respond when someone else decides to interrupt my day. Carrying a portable telephone is like spending a day with an enemy, nothing good will come from it. If you add more distracting functions to the telephone, I will only dislike it more. There is nothing "smart" that ever comes from a telephone.
So, I'm adding smartphone owning motorcyclists to my list of things to avoid; along with motorcycles previously owned by kids, Falstaff-ian motorcycles and bikers, going into debt for toys, being guilted into taking a trip with someone I don't know well, budget motorcycle riding gear,  vintage motorcycles, scooters, and all motorcycles with "personality," distracted cagers, riding cold or dehydrated, marketing people, panic reactions, and motorcycle hoarders. That list might have missed one or two other irritants I've written about or am about to write about. Call it an unwarranted prejudice, if you like. However, since I would just as soon avoid hearing one end of a two-way conversation that is as entertaining as Dick Cheney's sense of humor, I don't have a dog in this fight. It's not a hard problem to solve, either. I'll keep moving while you settle those trivial problems that come to you by cell phone and we'll talk about the trip when we get home.


Flyboy said...

Couldn't agree more about mobile(cell) phones. They are a convenience, not a master and their slaves DO seem to miss the moment that they are actually in.
Then again, your brother's girlfriend sounds waay to high maintenance....if you don't mind me saying so.

T.W. Day said...

I vote with you on, not only my brother's girlfriend, but girlfriends in general. Having been mostly-happily married for 45 years, I still don't understand guys and 2nd marriages. Seems like one experience with your hand on a red hot burner ought to be enough.

One of the kids I worked with told me, "If you ever get a cell phone, I want to be the first person to get your number." I have one (I've had one for years as an emergency backup for my MSF classes.) and gave him the number.

A few days later, he asked why I hadn't called him back after held left a message on my cell's voice mail. I told him, "Just because I have a phone doesn't mean I have to turn it on." The next time I need to call someone, I'm sure I'll see that he left me a message.

Trobairitz said...

Hear hear! Well said.

I can't see me ever joining the smart phone generation. I have a pay as you go flip phone that hardly ever rings and tops up with $20 every 3 months. I do get the occasion text from my mom or brother but that is about it.

I have to laugh (and sadly shake my head) every time we are out for a group ride and at every stop everyone seems to be checking their smart phones like crazy or have it bluetoothed into their helmets to answer when riding.

What I really find amusing is when the guys have to stop to call their girlfriends or wives when riding. I would never expect Brad to do that. I can estimate when he might arrive home and unless he is several hours late I don't worry. Maybe that is just the comfort of being together almost 20 years.

Again, great post. I think there are a lot of people that think along the same lines.

Chunk Norris said...

Just to be contrarian, I have a friend that rides LD rallys (like the MN1K) who uses a smartphone and a 7" tablet instead of a Garmin. I'm still a Garmin user but I'm exploring the phone / tablet thing. For the record, my phone BTs to my helmet via the Garmin and I have taken the occassional call enroute. Most of the time, however, I don't have the helmet BT turned on. When stopped, I only 'check' the phone if I'm bored. Fortunately, I don't have to be tied to the phone for business reasons like some.

T.W. Day said...


It's obvious that I'm in the minority. I am absolutely not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to play with their electronic toys while they ride. You never met a more strident "right to die" advocate than me. I'm just sayin' that I choose not to ride with people who are more focused on their communications than riding somewhere. That's no skin off of anyone's nose, since I pretty much ride by myself anyway.