NDN Geek: Why I Hated Cell Phones—and Then Bought One

Jeffrey Veregge
August 21, 2013

I am about to say something you may find hard to believe. I do not own a cell phone. As a registered Native, and like many of you, I have always been considered part of the U.S. minority. But according to a recent poll I am in the extreme techno minority. Ninety-one percent of adults in the US have a cell phone. Ninety-one percent! That means there are little old grandmas and grandpas sitting at a bingo parlor somewhere who are more adept at mobile tech than this NDN Geek.

It’s not like I am anti-technology or some backwoods survivalist living off of grubs, homemade beef jerky and reading by candlelight. I own 3 Mac computers, and as a professional marketing designer, I am forced to keep up with all the latest trends that industry creates.

The truth is I never felt compelled to own, till this last weekend.

But before I go into the why. I’ll give you a little history on my choice to not join the rest of society in this golden age of communications. Back in 1995 my tribe got a contract and made available to every tribal employee these mini-monster sized cell phones. We all took the bait. Here I was barely 22 and I owned my own phone in an era where only doctors, lawyers and high rollers possessed them. It was awesome; I would call my wife from work, from art school, from the store, the car, everywhere I could. I loved pulling it out for the entire world to see until I got my first bill. It was over $150; I was on casino wages at the time and that was bulk of my paycheck.  I don’t think I need to tell you what happened to that phone after that.

The second and third phones I owned were a little less costly and controlled by those pay-for-each-month programs they sell out of Walmart. It was now 14 years since my last phone fiasco and my wife was pregnant with our daughter. We both felt I needed a way to be contacted in case of any unforeseen emergencies. This phone was much smaller than my last, and it had games, but the best part was that the number was unlisted, so I got to do what I do best. Cause mischief.

I would prank call people I worked with using bad accents, and tell fantastic tales of incompetence and blind ignorance. It was beautiful. Since the invention of Caller ID, I had to find many workarounds to make these kind of calls. One thing I have done (and would still do, if I wasn't copping to it in this article) is call my Tribal Center and use an Arnold Schwarzenegger soundboard. I would put the phone on speaker put it up next to my computer and make and ask a series of questions and comments using the Governator’s voice.  But much like his Conan movies that is a tale for another time.

As for the fate of the second and third phone? I lost them both. Which is why I label them together. It maybe due to my bad short term memory or a general lack of care, but the fact that they were never found or replaced never made me feel too bad.

So what changed for me?

This past weekend as I was selling my artistic wares at the In The Spirit Native Arts Festival.  I realized that I was missing out on a very important, useful tool that phones allow. Social media. I could have been tweeting, I could have been posting to my Facebook, I could have had an Instagram account where I could have taken photos with my fans. I lost what could have been an even better day for me business wise, had I had a phone.

With this realization I have to wonder, how many Native art venders out there selling at the pow-wows, the arts festivals, county fairs that like me are missing the boat?  Something to think about. This Native Geek, he’s getting a phone, I am not a follower but also don’t like falling behind in the times.  

Jeffrey Veregge, Port Gamble S'Klallam, is a graphic designer and lifelong comic book fan based in Seattle. To see examples of his Native/superhero art, read the ICTMN story "Superheroes Meet Native Design in Jeffrey Veregge's Work" or visit his personal site, jeffreyveregge.com.