ANN ARBOR, MI—After calling the device "the item single-handedly responsible for the erosion of our nation's social and cultural foundation" for close to a decade, Jason Whiting gave in to social pressures this weekend and bought a cell phone.
The 34-year-old purchased the Motorola 6620 at the Maple Village Shopping Center.
"I got the simplest, most basic calling plan," Whiting said. "I sure as hell wasn't going to get one of those phones that takes pictures. To tell you the truth, I'm not even planning on giving out the number."
Whiting said he was reluctant to accept the "encroachment of technology" into his personal life, and explained that he "[does not] plan on becoming one of those people with cell phones."
"This is for emergencies only," he said. "In case my car stalls on the freeway and I need to call for help, or in the event that I absolutely must get in touch with someone but am away from home."
Whiting first used the phone Sunday night to check movie times for March Of The Penguins.
"In fact, I use it so little that, when I went to the theater, I forgot to turn off the ringer," Whiting said. "When it started ringing, right away I said, 'Who's the jerk with the cell phone?' and I didn't realize it was me. Suffice it to say, I felt very guilty."
"It was my girlfriend, though, so I had to take it," he added.
Whiting blamed the incident on the fact that he had changed his ring tone several times that morning, from "Mozart 40" to "Espionage," and then finally to "Sumba."
Anticipating what he called the inevitable "I told you so" speeches from friends and relatives, Whiting insists that his feelings about the cell phone's negative implications for society remain unchanged.
"Cell phones are a part of a terrible trend toward alienation and the breakdown of civil discourse," he said. "It's a fact I made clear when I called in to the NPR talk show I was listening to in the car."
Whiting nonetheless decries overt use of cell phones while driving. "There's nothing more annoying—and alarming—than seeing some maniac in an SUV with one hand on the steering wheel while chatting on his cell," Whiting said. "That's why I went out this afternoon and bought a hands-free headset. I think it's called Blue-something. It's pretty cool."
"I knew this was coming," said Whiting's longtime friend James Patterson, who has known Whiting since his days as a college-radio DJ. "He used to rail against digital music, saying the 'purity' of vinyl could never be reproduced. But once he bought the Velvet Underground box set for 'completism,' it wasn't long before he sold all his LPs on eBay."
Whiting said owning a cell phone doesn't mean that his attitudes about "unnecessary market-driven consumerist gadgetry" have changed.
"I am never getting an MP3 player, no matter what," Whiting said. "Although my girlfriend might buy me one for Christmas this year."
According to the Radio Shack employee who sold Whiting his phone, Whiting returned yesterday to trade his phone in for an upgrade.
Said Whiting of the upgrade: "Cell phones are thinly disguised control devices thrust upon the masses as a pseudo-necessity. But if I'm going to wear a government tracking collar, I might as well be able to play some games on it."