Columnist Ron Marr prefers to keep things simple, so when faced with the necessity of getting a smartphone, he was understandably reluctant. Has technology-averse Ron learned to embrace his fancy new device or will he hang up the phone?

Artwork by Merit Myers

By Ron Marr

It’s been about a year since I grudgingly accepted that I needed to buy a smartphone. This wasn’t by choice, and it certainly wasn’t due to an epiphanous urge to dive head first into the online pond and connect with humanity via social media. I mean, have you taken a close look at humanity lately? It’s often rude, crude, and very hard to ignore … try though you might.

I was never an overly social person, but the rapid ascension of the loud, weird, angry, and distracted among us has only strengthened my resolve to commune mostly with dogs, trees, fish, rifles, guitars, and harmonicas. No, I bought a smartphone solely because the phone company let me know that my elderly burner was obsolete and would no longer be supported. 

I’d had that thing for probably 10 years, and it only darkened my doorstep when storms knocked out the power for more than a couple of days. The rest of the time it lived in my truck’s glove compartment, existing for the express purpose of calling a tow truck if I broke down in the middle of nowhere. 

My cheap burner (I think I paid $25 for it) was a source of frequent amusement for some of my friends. One of them commented, “The only people I’ve ever heard of who use burner phones are  drug dealers, low-rent spies, and you.” He told me this via landline, of course, because that’s the only phone I answer. 

But I have to admit: I don’t dislike my smartphone nearly as much as I thought I would. I still don’t make calls on it—it’s skinny and sounds funny—but it does have viable uses. It comes in handy when I’m practicing my Spanish lessons on the Duolingo app, and it does take very nice pictures. Plus, being able to download and listen to podcasts—mostly weird history stuff—makes my many hours of weekly mowing a little more pleasurable. I don’t allow it to track my location, and the all-intrusive “cloud” nonsense is turned off, but I have evolved to the point where I don’t regard it as being in the same category as an angry cottonmouth.

Only two people have the number. They know not to call it except for emergencies, and they also realize that if they send me a text, my response will be horribly slow. I can type 70 words a minute on a regular keyboard. On the phone’s teensy counterpart, I can type maybe 70 words a month, assuming I’m going downhill and the wind is at my back. I do sign up for occasional texts from places that sell guns, gear, and ammo, but only when they offer me a 10-percent discount code for doing so. (I typically delete them after using the discount.)

Having adapted to one form of enhanced technology, I can’t help but wonder if I will eventually succumb to the silicon-chip siren song and be tempted by others. Might I someday feel the need to trade in my 2002 Buick or my 1993 GMC pickup for something less than two decades old? 

Will I suddenly stop hoarding incandescent light bulbs and purchase pricey, bright, and efficient LEDs? Is it conceivable that I will wake up one morning and decide I need a coffee maker with more than one button—something that doesn’t have “Mr.” in its name? Is there a snowball’s chance that I might upgrade from a bolt-action rifle with iron sights to an AR-15 with a fancy-pants, green-dot sight, and 30-round mag? 

Probably not. . . . except for that last one. 

Change and acceptance, I’m told, is the key to enlightenment and personal growth.

Article originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Missouri Life.