For me, living without a cell phone is just not an option. I don’t know how I’d find anything, get directions, keep up with news, or stay in touch with people. But lately I’ve been wondering if that final thing — keeping in touch — has gone too far. The phone part of my cell phone is starting to make me feel trapped!

I recently combed through my phone contacts and realized that there are five numbers in there marked “do not answer.” I never clean out my contacts so these numbers could be from as long as three years ago, but there are people out there who I have expected to call me whose voices I do not want to hear. That doesn’t seem right.

Some of the numbers I found were of people whose information I kept just so I would know not to answer when they called — an overzealous friend of a friend who wants to join forces to meddle in our mutual friends business, a guy I met at a party who described himself as an “entrepretainer” and wants to “build” with motivated black folks, ex-boyfriends and old jump offs who I wish would take long walks off of short cliffs — just general undesirables.

I’m not sure if any of them will try to contact me out of the blue — my guess is that they won’t — but it seems strange that we live on the defensive waiting for bugaboos to pop up with nowhere to run but voicemail (and even those need to be returned eventually). My cell phone is definitely a permanent and necessary part of my life, but it’s also become a form of constant monitoring. Between e-mail, text messaging, and phone calls it’s easy to feel like you’re supposed to be at the world’s beck and call 24 hours a day, and if not at that moment within the next day or so. Shouldn’t there be room to just not be interested in taking calls like the old days of land-lines when a busy signal meant the person trying to reach you is out of luck?

Is your cell phone holding you hostage?

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