Cell phones don't ring everyone's bell
But new data find 71 percent now carry them
By CINDY HORSWELL
Nov. 19, 2009, 10:23PM
Let's face it: You just can't live without a cell phone. How many times have you wondered aloud how you survived without one all those years?
But you might be surprised to learn that plenty of folks are surviving just fine without what some describe as a high-tech digital leash.
Although the number of holdouts is dwindling, U.S. Census data released Thursday indicates 29 percent of the nation's homes still do not see the advantage of having phones strapped to their belts or plugged into their ears so they can conduct business at any moment, at any place.
Yet Census data show the ubiquitous cell phone is increasingly becoming the communication tool of choice for the majority. Some are even disconnecting their landlines and using cell phones exclusively.
According to the new data, the number of households with cell phones exploded from 36 percent to 71 percent between 1998 and 2005. Landline ownership during this same period fell from 96 percent to 91 percent, with many in their 20s particularly seeing no useful purpose in having a hard-wired phone. Those age 65 and older were the most likely to still have landlines — 98 percent.
The cell phone holdouts pride themselves in being inaccessible if they want. They also have plenty of cell phone pet peeves: Rude people who text someone during a meal or interrupt a movie with annoying ringtones. And don't get them started on those who drive with their attention on a phone instead of on the road.
“Guess I'm just a little hardheaded,” said Marilyn Harrison, a secretary in Beach City on Houston's East Side. “People are too consumed with cell phones.” She got rid of her cell phone two years ago and hasn't missed it.
Harrison is unashamed, even though her parents are in their 80s and have cell phones, and four siblings no longer have landlines.
‘I'm not going for it'
“I check my messages when I get home. There's no emergency that can't wait for that,” she said. “Plus reception can be real spotty out here. Landlines worked the best during Hurricane Ike, and I have the OnStar on my car if I have trouble on the road.”
Mike Barisich, 87, of Katy, agreed: “It may be the modern way of going, but I'm not going for it.”
His daughter insisted that he take a cell phone along when he recently drove 4,000 miles on a vacation.
Barisich used it only once, though, and has since gotten rid of it. “I can't answer it while I'm driving,” he said.
A few bravehearts have also posted their objections to mobile phones on Internet sites such as the “anti-cellphone clan” on Facebook.
“I've never had a cell phone (sounds more like an introduction to an AA group). But I still have friends … participate in various activities (like making amateur films),” Ralph Zechendorf admitted on the Web site.
“I guess I may have to buy one sometime if a possible job requires it, and I don't want to starve,” he said.
But even some members of the anti-cell crowd, like Harrison, worry that it may be just a matter of time before landlines become extinct and her only choice will be a Blackberry or an iPhone.