Friday, August 01, 2008

Two If By Land, One If By Cell?

I've been meaning to write this post for quite some time, and I was finally prompted to do so by the news that, for many people, the land-line phone is going the way of the dodo:
Adults are finding that they don't need the lines in anywhere near the numbers they used to, and it can't be chalked up simply to instant messing displacing phone conversations and cell phones displacing housebound phones. The economy is playing its part, too.

[...]The percentage of homes with telephone service has held remarkably steady in recent decades, according to another FCC report. But in this first real slowdown of the wireless age, consumers seem to be saying that home-based telephones are expendable luxuries, like Starbucks lattes or Coach handbags.

And it makes sense. Confronted with high inflation, soaring energy costs and stagnant wages, millions of households are facing choices about which monthly bills to pay and which commitments to maintain. And if it comes down to one or the other, the mobile or the home-based land line, it's clear which is a necessity and which is an option.
One lets you make telephone calls only from your house. The other lets you make telephone calls from anywhere, send e-mails, surf the Internet, play music and take photographs.

Another feature of today's economic climate favors wireless over land lines: the real estate mess. According to RealtyTrac, foreclosures are booming. In the first half of 2008, there were 1.4 million foreclosures. The company is projecting at least 2 million foreclosures for 2008. When people under financial duress move out of their homes, they're likely to disconnect the land line and find some temporary arrangement (a rental, staying with friends or relatives), which makes it unlikely they'll acquire a new land line.
But it's not just the economy. It's the way our society has changed. Even without experiencing the conditions listed above, I'm pretty close to ditching my land line. I really haven't used it for years, for two resaons: One, as stated above, is that the land-line can't leave the house. The other has to do with Caller ID.

I'll admit to a love-hate relationship with this feature. When Caller ID first came out, I had a job in retail, and it annoyed me to no end that many people used it to replace their answering machines. Part of my job was to call people when their music orders came in, and often times, I'd call someone, get no answer, and figure that they weren't home and didn't have a machine. Then, a few hours later, I'd get a call from someone who would say something to the effect of, "Hi, this is So-and-So. You called me a few hours ago; what do you want?" It wasn't always quite that rude, but it was a lot more complicated than it would have been if I could have simply left them a message.

The other problem with Caller ID was that it cost extra, and it was usually bundled with a bunch of stuff I'd never use, like call forwarding and three-way calling. As a result, I resisted adding that feature...and then it came free with my cell phone service. And I'll admit it--I was hooked after that. It was great to be able to see who was calling me and then decide whether to pick up or not. (That practice continues to this day. Never mind the fact that, because of my teaching job, I rarely am able to pick up the phone to begin with; but I won't pick up for an unfamiliar number, and if they don't leave a message, I won't call them back. This stems from my annoyance with those who use Caller ID as an answering machine, as stated above, as well as from the idea that if someone doesn't have time to leave me a message, I don't have time to call them back.) The long and short of it is, I don't have that ability with my land-line, so it's pretty much fallen into disuse.

So what's the only thing keeping me from ditching the land line? Probably the "peace of mind" angle; the fact is, the house phone would wake me up in the middle of the night in case of an emergency, and the cell (which almost always stays in vibrate mode) would not. Do I trust myself to turn the cell's ringer on every night, and would I hear even that if I did?

I guess it pretty much comes down to this: Should I get rid of the land line completely, or should I simply strip it down to its barest essentials (i.e. get rid of call waiting and things like the "inside wire maintenance plan")? And if I happen to throw down for a new iPhone, this question pretty much becomes moot, as the savings from the cancellation of the house phone would counterbalance the new charges for cell service, with a little bit of pocket change left over.

This is a huge change in the way we do things over here; until now, the home line was the essential one and the cell was expendable; now, it seems to have been turned inside out.

So here are the questions of the day:
  • Do you have a land line, a cell phone, or both?

  • If you had to choose between one or the other, which would be your choice?

  • From what you've read above, do you see any reason I should keep my land line?
Please respond in the comments.

1 comment:

Eric Grubbs said...

I just have a cell phone for personal calls. My housemate and I haven't had a land line in four years, and we don't miss it. The only people that I know that still have land lines are journalists who do interviews on them (no dropped calls on land lines) and old schoolers like my parents.

My advice for you, make the land line to the barest essentials.