a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Sep, 2008

to be mobile and phoning

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|Yaktivism

I had a meeting the other day and somehow we got onto the topic of cellphones. The fellow had just finished telling me about his Blackberry woes (the details of which escape me at the moment) and that’s when I told him that I didn’t own a cellphone. He looked at me strangely.

“But what if there was an emergency?” he asked.
“Like what? What’s going to happen around here?” I said, looking around the busy coffeeshop.

Truth is, I already have a phone plan. It’s the cheapest phone plan there is. It only costs 50 cents a call. There are no monthly fees or long-term contracts. There is no fine print I need to worry about, no need to worry about changing technologies. I don’t have to worry about losing my phone or accidently dropping it or throwing it in the laundry. It’s totally commitment free, either I use it, or I don’t, but I’m never charged for not using it. Would you like to sign up for my phone plan?

It’s called a pay phone and it’s a wonderful invention. Some of you may have even heard of it! ;)

I rarely need to phone home, but when I do there is always a pay phone nearby. I was surprised that local calls are 50 cents, up from a quarter. When did that happen?

We used to have a cellphone. We got one when I was pregnant with Emma. I was afraid of my water breaking at the grocery store. (Yes, really.) Or in the parking lot at the mall. But you know what, that never actually happened. I went into labour in my own home, and as for my water breaking,  it happened under medical supervision at the hospital.

After Emma was born we used the cellphone for completely mundane and rather unnecessary purposes. I’d call Mark if I was bored while walking home from somewhere. Or I’d call him while he was at the grocery store to remind him to pick up bread. Or he’d call me while I was shopping to see when I was coming home. Stupid stuff, really, none of which was worth the paltry pay-as-you-go plan we had going at the time. The “time” we bought for the phone expired over and over again.  Having the phone was a pain in the butt. Besides, do I always need to be so reachable all the time? 

There is only one instance in which I could possibly envision owning a phone, and that’s when I’m driving over longer distances in rural Ontario i.e. en route to my mother’s place. But, given the growing prevalence of technologies such as On-Star, I wonder if our next car will have the emergency contact feature built right into it. Hmm.

Back to the fellow’s comment, what if there was an emergency? If this is the only reason I should have a phone, well, I’m not buying it. There isn’t likely to be an emergency. I don’t want to live in fear of SOMETHING HAPPENING. Marketers would certainly like you to believe it … why else would there be kiddie-sized cellphones on the market?

18 Responses to "to be mobile and phoning"

1 | Mary Lynn

September 25th, 2008 at 8:51 am


I don’t use my cellphone very much, but it has come in handy a few times during situations I would consider to be sort of emergencies.

For instance, I am one of those people who had her water break whilst she was out and about. Was nice to call hubby and hospital from my cellphone without having to hunt down a payphone.

I’ve also been reached via cellphone by our daycare to say that I needed to come and pick up one of the kids when they’ve been sick.

Oh, and there was the time we flew home from BC, and I stayed with both kids while hubby went to pick up the car. After waiting for 45 minutes for him to arrive, I checked my cellphone, to find a message from him: The car battery had died and he was waiting for CAA. It was another hour before he finally showed up and I probably would have been in quite the panic (as jetlagged as I was) if I hadn’t had the cellphone on me.

There’ve been a few other minor emergencies here and there, too. On the whole, it’s been useful to have around.

2 | andrea

September 25th, 2008 at 9:07 am


Granted. There are emergencies. But, how about calling to check the voicemail/answering machine at home? Wouldn’t that work in a lot of these emergencies as well?

3 | Rosie : )

September 25th, 2008 at 10:40 am


Our cellphone has been used more for silly things like Hubby calling from the grocery store because he lost his list *and* forgot what he was supposed to buy.

The time it was extremely useful was when he broke his finger flying off his mountain bike in the middle of nowhere. He had a slight concussion, dislocated an broke his finger and almost broke his neck. This is an instance for cell phones!

We had a basic cell phone for my hubby’s work, because he is self-employed for someone out of the country on a different time-zone, he needed to be reachable at all times. We don’t have call-waiting on our home phone {I *hate* call-waiting}, so his boss asked him to have a cell phone that is near him all the time. Technically, it is his work phone. :)

that was good enough, but I won a blackberry recently, so now we have two cell phones! lol I guess you can’t win, even if you are not a big cell phone user.

4 | Tali

September 25th, 2008 at 11:17 am


Mine is only used if I have to pick up one of the kids…I have a pay as you go phone from 7-11, and if you buy any new minutes, ALL the minutes you have roll over to the new expiry date (in one year). So, it costs about $60 a year, on average.

I don’t like the idea of it, but it does come in handy…

5 | Scatteredmom

September 25th, 2008 at 11:20 am


I’m with you on this one, Andrea. I rarely use the cell for anything significant.

However, it has come in handy for one thing. Jake gets home before I do, and so he can call me and let me know he’s home, or if he’s missed the bus, or stopped at a friend’s house. I’m usually between places driving and so he leaves a message.

Although the one time he really needed me because he missed the bus, my cell phone battery was dead.


6 | Scatteredmom

September 25th, 2008 at 11:20 am


By the way, I like your new look ! ;)

7 | The Veg Next Door

September 25th, 2008 at 12:39 pm


I’m like you. I don’t have a cellphone. Don’t need one. Don’t want one. I do use the pay phone on occassion but these days, they’re harder to find.

8 | Sharon

September 25th, 2008 at 2:15 pm


I know many people refuse to have cell phones but I like having mine just for piece of mind. Nathan has a bee allergry and IF stung I want to be the first to know after they give the epi pen and ship him off to the hospital.
PLUS I have a teenage daughter who has a cell phone. I like being able to get ahold of her when I need to. She has been lectured about not using up the minutes and NOT giving out her number to strangers in clubs. Her phone is not for scoicalizing it’s for getting in touch with us. PERIOD or we pull the phone. For anything else she has to use the land line.

My phone doesn’t ring much but when it does it is usally for an emergnecy other than “can you pick up bread dear?” LIKE I’m running late and I can’t make it home before the bus and can you hold HIM at the school. I don’t like my 7 year old here alone. In the boonies.

The few times I have forgot my phone I have had a flat tire on the side of the road. And then Ihad to flag down someone to help me. Do you know how hard that is in this day and age? But that’s a blog in itself.

BUT I am one of the few that refuses to have an anwering machine… IHATE THE DAMN THINGS AND I’m no good leaving a message. I’m one of the annyoing ones that hang up and call back later.

If you want me
Call my cell…that’s if I think you should have my number.

I’m glad you can live without it Andrea, but I find comfort in mine.

9 | Mary Lynn

September 25th, 2008 at 2:46 pm


Sometimes phoning the machine at home would work, but not always. For instance, the time the daycare called, they might have left a message for me at home, but I wouldn’t have been aware that I needed to check my messages. I do check sometimes, but not always. There’s peace of mind in knowing they can reach me immediately on my cell.

The thing that made finally get a cellphone was having a couple of occasions when I needed to make a call and all I could find were payphones that were out of order…or I just couldn’t find a payphone at all. I resisted getting a cellphone for a long time, but it got to the point that I just really felt I had to get one.

10 | Virtually There

September 25th, 2008 at 4:39 pm


I tried to go cell phone free but I found it really hard to find a pay phone when I needed one. They’re aren’t as bountiful as they once were.

the real reason we got our cell phone is because my parents disconnected the land line at the cottage so it is the only way anyone could reach us there. I do pay as you go too and it rolls over.

11 | LO

September 25th, 2008 at 5:45 pm


I dream about not having my Q but being self employed and always on the go it actually saves me time. Also, since I am always on the go I feel better knowing the schools can call me if needed. But the best is taking a serious business call from the beach or a swanky cocktail lounge somewhere and no one knows!
I would rather go the way of all my Toronto peeps. They don’t have land lines-only cells…..
That being said there is something freeing about not being available at all times. I should get rid of the answering machine…..but then we rarely answer the home phone as we all have cells….kinda pathetic……..but we are technology freaks………I feel like this is a big confessional. I’m not gonna tell you about my cable package…………..

12 | Jen_nifer

September 26th, 2008 at 7:44 am


I am also a former cell phone owner. I had one for a couple of years in my early twenties when I was still living at home. It was great when I didn’t actually spend a lot of time at home.

A couple of months after we bought our first home I cancelled my cell phone plan. The person I talked to most on it was my future hubby, at that point he could usually reach me at the office if we weren’t together.

We have an almost 3 year old now, and I am very happy to not have a cell phone. I totally agree on the emergency thing, I can’t live my life in fear. If something happens to my son at Childcare she has my office number, my husband’s office number and the numbers of both my parents. Someone is bound to be available, and even if not, I’m sure she could handle it as good as I would.

How is the coverage in rural Ontario now? It was horrible back when I had a cell. I figure if something happens to the car between Ottawa and the Algonquin park that I would either have to fix it myself, or walk up to half an hour to find someone. The same things my parents would have had to have done back when I was a kid. A very remote risk I am willing to take.

13 | andrea

September 26th, 2008 at 8:17 am


Jen_nifer: you bring up a very good point. Our parents all managed without cell phones. So we could too, right? :)

14 | Alina

September 26th, 2008 at 8:44 am


Hi Andrea, we don’t have a cell phone either. But I don’t know if things would be different if we were to have kids.
Also, our parents raised us in a very different time than the one we live in right now (that’s how it seems to me, anyway). So much crime, kidnapping etc …

15 | BeachMama

September 26th, 2008 at 11:52 am


Great post. I have had the same cell phone number since 1992. And for many years had the same clunky suitcase type phone. It was for driving emergencies only as I was a girl on the go, alone on the road (and I mean I used to drive across the country or down South alone, a lot). Now with all my freebie updates I have a cool phone, but it is still rarely used. I have it in case of emergencies and rarely use it. As I take walks through the neighbourhood, I can’t tell you how may people I see driving along talking on their phone. One guy even missed the curve in the road and ended up crashing into the neighbours two cars. Thankfully nobody was at the bus stop.

16 | andrea

September 26th, 2008 at 12:01 pm


Driving while talking on a cellphone is the worst. I’ve seen people driving with a cellphone in one hand and a Starbucks in the other. Seriously!

17 | core

September 27th, 2008 at 8:44 am


Great post!

The idea of someone reaching me while I’m in the middle of a conversation, driving, on the bus, or whatever else I may be in the middle of… feels like an invasion of privacy. If you need to reach me… leave a message.

I’ve prefer to rely on payphones too… however recently I’ve been noticing them disappearing from the usual spots I’ve depended on in the past. All part of the evolution of cell phone technology, I guess, but frustrating for those of us who don’t require a cell phone to stay afloat.

I’m not saying I’ll never have a cell phone (I’ve had a few in the past, and may choose to have one again once kidlets are in the picture), but I’m enjoying being cell-free at the moment… and as an added bonus, I won’t be contributing to a landfill once my contract is up. wooooot.

18 | Chantal

September 27th, 2008 at 10:03 pm


I had forgotten my cell phone one night out with friends and got separated from my group (it was a bachelorette party in the Market) and I tried to find a pay phone to call someone. My God, where did they all go? I walked around for a while before I finally just asked someone if I could use their phone.

If I forget my phone at home or it’s dead, I don’t panic. I like having it around, but there are other ways for someone to find me should the need arise.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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