Mobile phones may not cause cancer, but they do cause something far worse: distraction. Not from driving—I presume anyone reading this is smart enough not to talk on a phone while driving—but from the moment.
The other day I was queueing for entrance to Highclere Castle. A phone rang behind me. The woman answered, gave a few polite responses, and then told the person on the line that she couldn't talk right now, and hung up. Then she told her friend it was a marketer from a bank.
First of all, I would have hung up straight away if a marketer had rung my private phone, but then I'm American and not given to excessively polite exchanges. Actually, first of all, I'd never have answered my phone if I was in a public place, unless I was expecting a call from someone I was meeting there.
Maybe I'm a technophobic curmudgeon, but the idea of preferring to talk on a phone when in public, rather than doing whatever you went there to do, perplexes me.
I've always been fascinated by the rudeness ordinarily polite people exhibit when I'm having a conversation with them, over lunch or at an event, and they answer their mobile when it rings. Whoever is calling has their complete attention, while I sit and twiddle my thumbs.
I'm not talking about emergency calls—they do exist, but are rare. Remember, billions of students made it through 12 years of school without Mom or Dad being instantly available. I'm talking about ignoring the friend you're with to talk to a friend on the phone. Even worse, talking to a telemarketer on the phone.
That's just rude, people.
I do understand people needing to take work calls or who expect an important call from some other source, but there's always voicemail. And rarely do events require an immediate response—too many calls are not important at all, yet we've trained ourselves to believe every ringtone means we stop what we're doing—even if we're doing something very important—to attend to a call.
When I'm out, whether it's shopping, working, travelling, or touring an interesting place, I have no desire to chat to anyone on the phone. That's sort of the point—I'm already doing something more important. If I'm on a train, or waiting at some event, I might be bored (if I've forgotten to bring something to read), but I woudn't want the people next to me to hear my conversation with you—if you've ever been in a semi-quiet train car and heard someone talking on a phone, you know how irritating that is. I don't want to peek in your windows, nor do I want to listen in on your phone conversations, which invariably are louder than a conversation you have with a friend sitting nearby.
Now, if you ring me while I'm at home, or if I happen to call you, I'm all ears. I can talk for hours on a landline. In fact, I'm one of those people who always thinks of one more thing to say, when you're trying to hang up. (Another kind of rudeness altogether.)
I try not to give out my mobile number, because not only do I not want to talk to anyone on it, but I rarely turn it on. I've found important messages left on my voicemail from people who somehow have my number—days after a reply was needed. As for texting, I find it less intrusive, but an almost impossible chore on my 2004-era phone. (Also, my phone is set to not ring—a setting I can't figure out how to change. Did I mention I was a technophone?)
So if you're still worried about cancer and phones, you can continue, especially if that means you don't interrupt my in-person conversation with you to answer a non-important call from your bank.
And if you ask me why I don't turn on my phone, I'll just tell you I'm worried about cancer. It's easier than explaining why I loathe mobile phones.