Losing my cell phone in Dallas this week has forced me to find the answer to the oft-asked question, "What did we do before cell phones?"
Say what you like about cell phones in relation to driving, dining, and movie watching. They have greatly improved the pilot's life. We tend to spend a lot of time away from home, seldom have access to a landline for very long, and our rest periods are often at odds with our family's sleep time. Before cell phones, contact with loved ones was pretty sparse during trips. This probably contributed to as many aviation-induced divorces as layover infidelity.
Nowadays, you can talk to your spouse and kids during breaks. You can let them know if you're running late, which reduces spousal worry a lot. When I'm flying late into the night, Dawn leaves messages on my voicemail just to say she hopes I had a good day & she loves me.
Cell phones can be incredibly handy for flying itself. Theoretically, you should be able to contact ATC at uncontrolled airports with instrument approaches, either directly or via a Remote Communications Outlet (RCO). That's not always the case. I've been on airfields late at night, unable to radio anyone for our clearance. In the old days, you'd probably blast off, try to avoid going through too many clouds VFR, & get your clearance ASAP. In my case, I merely pulled out my cell phone and dialed 1-800-WX-BRIEF. I've also used my cell phone twice due to lost communications at a towered airport (while instructing, in airplanes with ratty avionics).
The biggest problem I've had in losing my cell phone is that I don't have any numbers written down or memorized. I don't know my closest friends' phone numbers. The only way to get ahold of them is by emailing the ones I have email addresses for, and then following the chain of mutual friends as far as it'll take me. Yesterday I resorted to contacting an aquaintance by driving around Vancouver until I found his house, which I'd been to once, two years ago. There are people who I'll probably never talk to again if I don't find my cell phone. I need to start keeping a little black book.
I think I left my cell phone on a railway platform near Dallas. My last hope is calling the Lost & Found when they open on Monday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
On the other hand, it is kinda nice that crew sked can't get ahold of me so easily....