I don’t need no stinking cell phone! Do I?
I had just started on my way to work last Saturday when I decided to listen to a book on audio. I began digging through my monstrosity of a purse to find my phone, but… but… no phone.
No phone? But this can not be. It can not…be. I always have my phone – always. I never leave home without it – never. Well, apparently I do now.
My first (and perfectly natural) instinct is to turn around and go back to get it. I mean…I need it, I want it, I will go get it. If you left your kid at home by accident, wouldn’t you turn around and go back for her? Okay, okay – I concede that this is slightly less urgent.
I’m only about two miles from home, so it’s feasible, but annoying. No place to turn around; I wonder how far I’ll have to go to the next driveway? The thought crosses my mind that my attachment to this phone is ridiculous. Why do I “need” it? Is it merely that I’m used to having it with me? Is it akin to my purse, or my underwear, in that I feel naked without it? It bothers me that I’m giving serious consideration to turning around. It bothers me that not having the phone truly bothers me.
I decide to do an experiment on myself, so I keep going (yearning backward mental glances). I keep driving. Driving, driving. Not gonna stop. I don’t need no stinking cell phone. I want it, sure. I really, really want it. But I don’t need it! Do I?
So I’ve chosen to leave my phone behind and see how it affects my night. Mostly what I felt in the beginning was vulnerable. I got my first cell phone in 2002 when the so-called Beltway Snipers were terrorizing my area. I was headed home after work and suddenly the traffic on 95 came to a standstill. I thought, “He’s hit someone down here.” (At that point, they didn’t know it was two guys.) Of course I was right; a man had been shot in the Ponderosa parking lot in Ashland. (Fortunately, he survived.) I was working in Richmond at the time, which meant an hour drive, both ways. This was the first time they had come this far south, and it was scarily close to home. As I sat in that sniper-induced traffic, I thought, “Maybe I should get a cell phone. For emergencies.” I bought one the next day.
What causes my anxiety is that my phone has become a kind of security blanket. What if I break down? What if I’m in an accident? What if something bad happens? I don’t like the idea of not being able to call for help. I guess it’s knowing that I am never alone. Even when I’m physically alone, there will always be someone a dial away. I remember driving to work when I was 17 or so and the car just giving out on the highway. I remember sitting there in the excruciating heat, waiting for I don’t know what. Someone eventually stopped, so… It’s not the end of the world to be phoneless, to be disconnected. I suppose.
I have to remind myself that over four billion years passed by, somewhat successfully, without the aid of cell phones. T-Rex didn’t need no stinking cell phone. (Of course his little arms wouldn’t reach) He survived without it. Well, no, he’s extinct. They didn’t exist when my mother was coming up. (She has little arms, but they reach.) We didn’t have them when I was a kid and I did just fine. We had something called a pay phone, but I think they’re extinct as well. I’m sure it’s hard for my nephews to imagine living so long without a cell phone: “What, you didn’t have cell phones when you were a kid? Did you have cars?”
I have an android now and I use it more for entertainment than for a phone. It’s basically my connection to the world – to the internet, to information, to Facebook , my email, my blog, twitter. I don’t make or receive very many calls, which is fine by me. It’s more like a I’m carrying around my laptop in my pocket.
I’m sometimes surprised by how much I carry it with me around the house. I don’t realize I’m doing it until I set it down somewhere and can’t find it. Obviously at some point I was conscious of the fact that I was holding the phone. But I’m so used to it that it becomes like an extension of my hand, and I’m carrying this thing around without really being aware of it. Consequently, I set it down to free up my hand without paying the slightest attention to what I’m doing. Then it’s, “Where’s the phone?” I have no home phone, so I can’t call it. At that point, it’s basically a search and rescue mission.
So, getting back to the experiment at hand, How does it go?
- I pretty much think about my phone the whole way to work. I initially felt unprotected, but I was able to talk myself out of that.
- When I get to work, I remember my boss sent me a text with the information I need to pay someone. No problem, I can do that tomorrow.
- While driving to the bank, I realize I’ve done something ironic. I will tweet it. No phone to tweet with. How ironic.
- I’m fine at work, because I’m working. Actually, that’s the truth 😉 .
- Leading up to my break, I think, “I’ll listen to my audio book while on break.” No, I won’t.
- When my break starts, I have the vague idea in the back of my mind that I can’t listen to my book, so I think, “I’ll just read instead.” No, I won’t.
- Five minutes into my break, I think, “I’ll check my emails.” No. I won’t.
- I have mentally reached for my phone 3 times in a 15 minute span. It’s less about forgetting the phone is not there, and more about everything I want to do is on the phone.
- I get in my car to go home and my first thought is, “How’s the battery, do I need to plug it in?”
As I’m sitting at the light, I wonder if this should be an android free weekend. “It was fine today, maybe I should try this again tomorrow. I can break this attachment if I want to.” Almost immediately, I start to feel a bit anxious. Come on! I’m already feeling separation anxiety for Sunday? I don’t yet have the phone back in my possession, and I’m worrying about not having it tomorrow. It’s almost comical.
Driving home, I was happily anticipating what would be waiting for me. Maybe that’s part of it too, the AOL, “You’ve Got Mail” mentality. It’s the exhilaration of knowing that something good is coming right through the air, right to me. It’s the thrill of opening little presents all day long: email, a new blog post, a new comment, a funny tweet.
So is wanting my phone with me at all times purely habit? Have I gotten too used to having the world at my fingertips? Is it my need to have a lifeline in case of emergency? Is it the pleasure I get from staying constantly connected to the fun stuff? All of the above?
PS: It was not an android free weekend. But you knew that.
Skip on over:
How lazy is too lazy? In which I say, “I hate retracing my steps. I hate it. Sure, I’d go back for my cell phone, but I can’t buy another one of those at work.”
Items of interest:
Seeking Simplicity on the Rim of the Grand Canyon, by atomsofthought: “I want the freedom of isolation, the freedom to constrain myself and disconnect from the noise of the twenty-first century.”