The Time Without Cell Phones

In Episode 3, “Marriage of Figaro," of Mad Men Season 1, Don drove to pick up his daughter Sally’s birthday cake but did not come back until very late at night. When Don did not show up after one hour after leaving, Betty and the wives fiercely worried and called the bakery. However, they were informed that Don had picked up the cake a long time ago. Since Don was unreachable, the birthday party was almost wasted by the unpredicted absence of the cake.

Imagine what would happen today if Don did not come back on time with the cake. It would not even necessary for Betty to call the bakery. Instead, she would call Don’s cell phone with a single hit on the speed dial key on her cell phone. Even if Don did not pick up the phone, she could leave thousands of voice messages or simply find out Don’s location with some easy-to-use GPS services, for example, the AT&T FamilyMap.

How annoying all these things were going to be if they were available in Mad Men! Don was a man who had frustration in his marriage and needed some private space to think through some issues. Everyone can have personal issues or emergencies, and they usually happen in a bad time. In the case of Don, it was his daughter’s birthday, and the time he was supposed to bring back the cake. For some people, his decision of going to the railroad side to think and drink was irresponsible. Of course, whoever in the position of Betty would not accept Don’s action. However, in the perspective of somebody who needs the private time, the absence of cell phone was the best protection of the privacy and efficient meditation. A thorough meditation might be able to inspire the person to take new approaches to address his or her frustration. In Don’s case, even though there was not really anything indicating the result of his meditation, his uninterrupted private space also allowed him to somehow make up his “wrong doing”-he bought a golden retriever as the birthday gift to Sally. In the show, Don’s returning with the dog did not lead to a verbal conflict between him and Betty. However, if he were called back by cell phone, he would neither be able to finish his meditation, nor avoid a quarrel with Betty, which could be a disaster.

What Don did on her daughter’s birthday party would not be considered right by many people, but his uninterrupted private space might be something that people are jealous of. In the time of cell phone, we do miss the time without it sometimes.


  1. I think this is a very interesting point to make. I have realized that days where I need some space or even just need to focus on work, I will just turn off my phone or leave it at home all together. It is true that the cell phone has really taken over any type of privacy we used to have.

  2. I feel like today there are so many ways to get in contact with people that we are never truly alone. With cell phones, land lines, email, instant messaging, and facebook, it seems that there are so many modes of communication that it makes it either possible to always get ahold of or impossible to get ahold of at the other extreme because there are too many devices to check. It reminds me of the movie He's Just Not That Into You when Mary (Drew Barrymore) says "I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies." Personally, I find myself better able to relax when my internet and cell phone are turned off.

  3. I agree with Krissy above. It is extremely hard nowadays to ever be truly away from society.