These aren’t necessarily things nobody should do. They’re things I don’t do, and I’m glad I don’t, and I’m going to explain why.
1. Cell phone. I do not own one and very rarely use one. I spend most of my time in my home or my office, both of which are equipped with landline telephones and voicemail that can be checked from any phone, so if I’m not there when the phone rings I can get your message easily. I make plans and stick to them so that there’s no need to call my friends all the time to say, “I’m here; where are you?” When I do want to call someone while I’m away from home, there are still pay phones in many places, and a lot of people/businesses will let you borrow a phone for a local call, so it’s just not necessary for me to be paying for my own portable phone and keeping it charged and not dropping it into a puddle and all that hassle! I live in a densely populated, walkable urban area where there’s usually somebody around in case of emergency.
I’m willing to borrow somebody’s cell phone when I really need to make a call and there isn’t a landline available. My partner, Daniel, has a cell phone, and I sometimes borrow it if I’m taking a road trip by myself, just in case the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. (Let me just mention how proud I am that Daniel kept the same cell phone from 2000 until Sprint forced him to get a new phone in 2008–that saved money and resources, compared to getting a new phone every year or two, and he didn’t mind having an old-fashioned clunky-looking phone that had never heard of texting!) But in general, I’m not a cell phone user, and that’s just fine!
2. Twitter. It is a total waste of time, in my opinion. For example, Andy Looney and Jennifer Fulwiler both are fascinating people who write really interesting stuff, and I know Andy in real life and can enjoy his company for days at a stretch, but the several times I’ve looked at their Twitter pages invariably have ended with my thinking, “Well, that’s two minutes of my life I’ll never get back!” if I can even read the whole page without beginning to itch.
Also, it seems painfully obvious to me that if you tweet about where you are and what you’re doing all the time, it would be really really easy to stalk you. I was once stalked by someone who found me on the Internet, and although it lasted less than two days and ended when I stopped being too polite and yelled at him, it was not an experience I care to repeat. I’m hardly obsessed with anonymity and vagueness about my location, but posting minute-by-minute minutiae about my activities in real time seems stupidly risky. Speaking of which, I don’t
3. Post a bunch of photos online. I don’t have an outright ban; there are a few pictures of me and pictures of my child floating around the Web. But I don’t have an online album full of clear facial photos of us, pix of us in swimsuits, handy shots of our house number and style of door locks, and all that sort of thing that would make it all too easy for somebody to go Red Dragon on us. I do enjoy looking at the albums of faraway friends and relatives, but I often shudder at the amount of detail revealed and the fact that, as Gandalf said to Saruman about the palantir, “We do not know who else may be watching!”
Regular readers of The Earthling’s Handbook may have noticed that I’ve never posted any photos to illustrate my articles. There’s an additional reason for that: Without pictures, I have to explain clearly in words, and that’s a challenge that I think is good for me! For example, my article about making pants into shorts could be helpfully illustrated with step-by-step photographs, but instead I tried to give written instructions so clear and complete that you don’t need pictures. (Let me know if I failed!) Again, it’s not a rule that I will never post photos, but it’s something I resist.
4. Bottled water. It’s a waste of money. It’s a waste of plastic. It’s a waste of fossil fuel transporting heavy stuff in trucks, compared to sending water through pipes. It’s actually less safe than tap water. And it isn’t even a pleasant drinking experience! Either it tastes weirdly plain and empty, or it tastes like plastic. It’s in a skidgy bottle with (usually) a sharply threaded neck that scratches your lips. If I’m going to pay for that kind of drinking experience, I want some calories! In my entire life, I have bought a grand total of 3 bottles of water, all in desperate situations where there was no tap water available and I hadn’t brought my canteen. Normally I just drink from water fountains (which, even more so than pay phones, still exist in most public places), or I wash my hands and then drink from the sink out of my cupped hands, or I get water from a restaurant or mini-mart even if I have to pay a nickel for a paper cup (I’ve noticed that such fees are less common now that they make so much money off selling bottled water!)…or if we’re going hiking and planning to bring our own water, for pete’s sake, it’s just as easy to fill our stainless-steel canteen as to buy a case of bottled water!
5. Sunglasses. I cannot stand them. The experience of having most of my field of vision dimmed but the edges still bright makes me feel disoriented and queasy and desperately misled and, if I keep it up, gives me a migraine. I know, you’re supposed to protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays, blah blah, but listen, I live in a place with a lot of cloudy days so I’m not out in bright sun all that much, and frankly I would rather have cataract surgery in my sixties than have migraines now! Also, I don’t like having stuff pressing on my nose and ears, which is why I wear contact lenses. On sunny days, I wear a floppy hat, which protects my face from sunburn in addition to shading my eyes.
6. Church offering envelopes. You know, those envelopes the exact size of a check, printed with sentimental religious slogans and images, that many churches stamp with code numbers and distribute to their “pledging units” (normally known as “families”) so that they can track who put how much money into the collection plate. The whole idea rubs me the wrong way. I want to give freely and feel that all that is mine is God’s, is ours, and the Body of Christ is all one thing with no concern for whether this $5 bill came from the left kidney or the fifth metatarsal. When I first joined my church and made an annual pledge and received a box of these envelopes, I tried to return them and was informed that the vestry needs annual pledges and needs to know who’s fulfilled her pledge so that they can write the budget knowing how much money to expect and can send Friendly Reminders of how much people still owe on their pledges. Well, the part about the budget makes sense (in a wordly, contrary-to-Matthew 6:25-34 kind of way), but I don’t want to receive automated naggings about my church stewardship, as if it were just another utility bill!
So here is my compromise: I make an annual pledge for an amount I will be able to donate in a single check in January, and I write, “NO ENVELOPES, PLEASE!!!” on the pledge form. I write that check, thus preventing parish funds from being spent on Friendly Remindering me. Then I put small amounts of cash into the collection plate anonymously, and I donate dish detergent or whatever I see that the parish needs, throughout the year.
7. Piercings. Even when I was a little girl, I couldn’t understand why all the other little girls were so eager to get their ears pierced. I mean, it’s true that earlobes are sort of plain-looking, but they’re very small; how can it be so important to decorate them that you are willing to–seriously? Are you kidding?–punch holes through your body parts?! I am freaked out by the whole thing. After 36 years of getting used to the idea, I’m mostly able to interact politely with pierced people, without flinching or staring, but it still bugs me. When I was in college, at the height of an alternative-piercing craze, I had two experiences in which someone at a party unexpectedly said, “Hey, lookit my new piercing!” and I actually shrieked, “EEWWW!!!” and jumped back. (To be fair, one of these piercings involved a body part I did not expect him to expose in a public place and a safety pin that looked extremely unsanitary.) I decided I needed to work on my Tolerance. I’ve never managed to eliminate the automatic shudder of wrongness I feel when I see a tongue piercing. Actually, the more useful lesson on Tolerance that’s come from this idiosyncrasy of mine is that, when I hear someone ranting about the wrongness of some ethnic group or sexual orientation or whatever, I can tell myself, “He feels about men kissing the way I feel about piercings.” and while I still think he’s wrong, I sympathize with his feeling the shudder of wrongness.
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