Country Mice, City Phones and the Cellular Divide


Fred First

I want to tell you that I have found fantastic free software applications for your smart phone to help you discover and navigate to the locations and happenings near you. Which is great—if there happen to be any Starbucks or rock concerts on your rural southwest Virginia gravel road.

I have come to understand that these gee-whiz Dick Tracy communications devices cater heavily to big-city folks who live perpetually  bombarded by wireless and GPS signals (while we live in a 3G dead zone in our sheltered Floyd County valley.) Those wired city types are far busier and more urgently in need than I will ever be to stay oriented minute by minute to the location of their Twitter pals and regarding their proximity to snarled intersections.

Rural smartphone users have been marginalized, and as one of the newest among them, I am indignant. I insist there must be different categories of blinking dots on our tiny Google maps than Sushi Grills, Movie Megaplex and Parking Decks. I ask for the immediate inclusion of meaningful secondary-road cell phone destination categories, including but not limited to the following:

Flatfoot and Contra, Best in-Store Wood Stoves and Checkers, Antique Roadside Farm Equipment, Unplanted Backroad Wildflowers, Front Porch Conversations,  and Serve-Yourself Money-in-a-Jar Vegetable Stands.

For traffic navigation-mapping, we want audible alerts that warn us of and possibly route us around Cattle Auctions, Deer Suicide Areas, Washboard and Potholes, and Slow Farm Equipment in Transit.

And dear Built-in Navigational Robot Voice Lady, please reference travel to our destination with appropriate rural context and language like “turn right in one quarter mile at the old Crawford place; exit hardtop to gravel lane and cross three creeks. Continue on for a little piece after you think for sure you must be lost.” Finally the voice should tell the traveler “You have reached your destination. Honk three times and wait for signal giving permission to exit your vehicle.”

And also related: when we attempt to “Navigate” using Google speech recognition to find the home of those new acquaintances on the other side of Floyd County, recognize the input of place names “crick” and “holler.” Do not respond in your robot voice with “You have got to be kidding!” in reference to where we chose to travel to see friends. We know what we’re doing here.

And one more quick suggestion before I hang up. If Steve Jobs outfit responds to my suggestion and manufactures a Rural Smart iPhone, it could be named the Road Apple. The city folks won’t get it. All the better.

So, future Country Phone developers, can you hear me now? Design our rural phone applications to take into account the more convivial setting here, our slower pace, smaller-pond, homey, locavore, less-consumptive way of life. In a conciliatory first step in this direction: pre-install Carter Family Ring Tones, starting with Sunny Side of Life. You know where to find me when it’s ready. Honk first, then Just come on in.

By Fred First
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