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All Thumbs

I bought a new mobile phone the other day and, technically speaking, Im already behind the times. As much as I try to stay current, theres always a newer product with better features that I should have bought instead.

During a recent short vacation with my dad, younger brother, and youngest brother (just out of college), I had plenty of time to observe how the kids today use their mobile devices. There was a time when being all thumbs meant you were a clumsy mess. Nowadays, Ive come to realize that that figure of speech could be considered a compliment as you spend the better part of four hours in a car texting your fiance who is stuck at home.

While it seems natural to my younger brothers, Im all thumbs (the old way) when it comes to texting on a mobile phone. Having been a professional journalist for 15 years, and a college student before that, Ive become an excellent typist over the years. In fact, I am most comfortable when sitting directly behind a computer keyboard, fingers in the ready position. Forced to use a phone keypad for writing e-mail, Im not comfortable at all.

So when it came time to replace my very old mobile phone, part of me wanted to pick something slick to be just like the kids. Maybe it would be some version of a smart phone with a slick black face like an iPhone or flip-around keyboard perfect for texting. Maybe Id even be able to listen to my texts in voice mode, just because I can. What got in the way of this ambition, however, were my general thriftiness and my utter lack of interest in typing on a mobile phone.

You wouldnt know it by looking at me, but I grew up during the Great Depression. I had one shirt and I rewashed it every day. My 10 brothers and I shared one bed, and we walked 50 miles to school and back, every day, across broken glass, barefooted… All kidding aside, I truly hate wastefulness of any kind. I dont like leaving food on my plate, I recycle as much as I can, and I dont like driving somewhere when I could ride my bike instead. And frankly when I think of the oft-cited Rogers Bell Curve, the terms innovator and early adopter make me think of people who are all-too-willing to throw something out just because its no longer new.

On Rogers Bell Curve, I consider myself a member of the early majority group. I typically dont replace a consumer electronics product if its still in working order, even if its a little worse for the wear. In fact, I like to think of my banged-up flip phone as having character. That thing has been road-tested, and it still works. Yes, the caller ID screen on the outside may have broken the first time I dropped it, and there may be teeth marks from my toddler on the inside, but the phone is functional. Being an early majority guy, Id also rather wait for a technology to hit its stride before introducing it into my life. No iPhone for me, thank you very much. Cool idea, but theyre still looking for the sweet spot with that one. TiVo? Nah, I’ll take a stripped-down cable company DVR, instead.

Being thrifty also means that I will always go for the bargain when it eventually comes time to buy a new product. For my mobile phone, I would only consider the six options that T-Mobile offered for free with a contract renewal. And, to be honest, Id rather have six options, than 50.

In the end I went for a relatively more expensive slider phone, which seems to be a little trendier than the flip phone that I was replacing. My wife upgraded her flip phone with another flip phone (so 2006…) and immediately wanted mine instead. We both dutifully packed up our old phones and sent them back to the manufacturer for recycling. Where they ended up, I have no idea, but Im sure theyll keep working for years to come.