The Number You Have Dialed

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Columnist John Moore uses his cell phone for directions. For now.

Cell phones have certainly changed our lives, but I’m not altogether convinced it’s for the better.

If my life were a TV series, this would have been a recent episode.

We now join John in the men’s room at Braum’s:

Siri: “In 800 feet, turn right at the intersection.”

(John realizes his map app is still on, but can’t get to it at the moment.)

Voice from stall: “Lady, you’re in the wrong bathroom.”

John: “Sir, that lady you’re hearing is on my phone.”

Voice from stall: “What’s wrong with you kids? You think it’s OK to use whatever bathroom you want. I don’t care what you believe, get that woman out of the men’s bathroom.”

Siri: “Your destination is ahead.”

Voice from stall: “Both of you have a destination alright.”

John: “Sir, I’m leaving now.”

Voice from stall: “Good. Take her with you.”

Siri: “Make a U-Turn.”

Younger people are often better at understanding the latest developments in technology. Us older folks either begrudgingly accept it because we have to, or for the most part just ignore it until we need it.

I’ve noticed a distinct difference between trying to reach someone who still works and someone who’s retired. If I text or call a person who still has a job, they usually text back quickly or answer their phone.

Retired people might mention to you at church on Sunday that they saw your Tuesday text on Saturday. The eat-at-4:30 p.m. crowd is easily distracted. And they don’t have to care much about anything.

I envy that.

The truth is, most folks these days seem to be in a great big hurry. Most of the time it’s not for any good reason.

When I was a kid, we didn’t get a phone until I was in third grade. It honestly didn’t seem to be an issue until we got a phone. Only then did we feel an urgency to communicate with someone else who was ringing a bell in our home.

What a long way we’ve come from then and now.

I spoke at a veteran’s event where a gentleman who had retired from the Army said, “I’m going to take a picture of this with my phone.” He was talking about one of the books I’ve written. I assumed he was going to share it with someone, so I mentioned how if someone had told us 50 years ago that they were going to, “Take a picture of something with their phone,” we’d have thought they’d lost it.

Cell phones have replaced many devices that have now gone the way of the buggy whip.

Phones can record our voices. No longer need a tape recorder.

Phones take photos. Goodbye, Kodak.

Phones shoot video. See ya, camcorder (and the guy with the bad suit at Sears who sold me mine).

Phones play music. Bye, bye, record players, vinyl, CDs, cassettes, and the independent music stores that carried the latest tunes from our favorite bands.

Likely, the most interesting thing cell phones now do for us is tell us where to go when we need directions. We no longer need a bunch of Texaco roadmaps.

Used to be, when your dad was driving the family out of a Stuckey’s and had obviously become lost, your mom would spend five minutes arguing with dad that he was lost, while he claimed he wasn’t.

After giving up on convincing him to stop and ask for directions, she would fish through the Buick’s glove box looking for the newest map. It would unfold from something the size of your forearm into a piece of paper that took up the entire front seat of the Electra 225 Limited.

As nostalgic as we now are for those days, the cell phone (usually) can give you directions. It can be done quickly, accurately, and in most cases by pressing a button on your phone and asking how to get somewhere.

That’s what I had done recently when I was trying to find a road out in the country. I’d given Siri a request to help me find this specific road, which she promptly did. But I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. Braum’s.

My sudden urge to consume ice cream had derailed my mission of finding that country road.

I parked, went inside, and had the best intentions of taking a quick pit stop, and then getting some ice cream (and maybe also some muffins and brownies) before getting back on the road.

But I was easily distracted.

My apologies to the fella in the men’s room. Sorry if I upset your day.

Siri also sends her apologies. In all fairness to her and me, it was about 4:30 p.m.

©2023 John Moore

John’s books, Puns for Groan People and Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.