Saturday, September 12, 2015

Diary of Going 96 Hours Without My Cellphone

On August 6th around 6:35 pm, I broke my fifth cell phone. It was the stupidest way I've done so yet- just a tiny bump from a heavy bottle of olive oil while I was cooking dinner. The glass didn't even break, but I must have hit a sensor in the screen. The touch capability worked long enough for me to send out one more text, and then the entire thing kind of spectacularly fell apart.

The worst thing was not the knowledge that I am still paying for this latest phone (as part of our cellphone bill every month) or the torture that came as I could still SEE incoming texts and notifications, but not swipe across to answer them. The worst thing of all was this sick, thick panic that overtook me when I realized my phone was not going to heal itself with a hard power down. As I worked through the absolutely ridiculous emotions that swelled up during the FOUR DAYS (FOUR DAYS) that I went phone-less, I took some notes.  This is the diary of 96 hours without my cellphone.

Moment of Impact: My phone just broke. It broke for good. There is nothing, nothing, nothing that I can do at home to save this phone. At the moment of impact, I had this pathetic hope that everything would clear itself up. That the phone would bounce back. With shaking hands, I restarted the phone, not letting myself be worried because being worried is admitting defeat. We all know the power of ignoring something is strong enough to fix literally any situation, so during those torturous two minutes that it took to turn off and turn back on, I was full of arrogant, blissful ignorance. Then the screen came into view, the entire bottom half wonky and broken, and a choked back a sob. I told myself it was okay- I've lived with mangled screens and come up with ways around pecularities of phones at the end of their lives.

Then it started ghost texting. Whichever part of the sensor that broke when I bumped the screen allowed the touch screen to move by itself. I tried to delete the ghost letters that kept popping up, but the sensor was not my servant anymore. It did as it pleased. I panicked as the wonky, broken coloring spread to the entire screen. My husband texted to tell me he was coming home and I watched in horror as the phone texted back "On my way! Call you later? Field pop eat the dream distance." It was autocorrecting every random letter the sensor picked. I felt like Hal had betrayed me. I turned off the phone. I turned it completely off.

Now I'm wholly disconnected (except for my home line, laptop, and Kindle, of course, but what good are they?). It's late and we have plans tomorrow and I have no clue when I can get this fixed. I'm furious because my outfit tomorrow was SO cute, and I wanted to Instagram myself and the boys at the Gloucester Baazar. I'm also not sure how to get to Gloucester without Google maps. I think Ben would agree (and especially since we're meeting his mom there) that maybe our need is greater? And let me use his phone for the day? He's only going to be at work, not that big a deal. I think I'll talk to him about it.

End of Day One: This is weird, weird, weird, weird, weird. Last night while I was watching TV with Ben, I left my completely dead brick of a phone balanced on the arm of the couch because that's where it always is. We had watched an hour of TV before I even realized I was doing it. Today I spent all my waking hours living my life without a phone, and I feel like I lost a hand or something. I am constantly drafting messages in my head: status updates and tweets (different audiences, of course) and messages to Ben and Laurel and my friends. All my brilliance is just petering out without an audience. It's depressing.

Our travel to Gloucester was canceled, which was slightly relieving because I have no clue how we would have gotten there. I could have written down MapQuest directions but I haven't done that for 15 years and it would have depressed me. Instead we met some friends at a lake in town, which is still in a direction I don't usually travel, and I wasn't able to just space out while we drove over. We stopped at a mall kiosk to ask about replacing the screen, but it was still $100 dollars (about the same as the Apple price) and I'm not even sure that will solve the problem. We got back in the car and I reached for my phone to text and see if anyone wanted a coffee from the drive thru. The boys asked for music, but all our playlists are on Spotify. This sucks.

I am still carrying the phone with me all the time. It came to the beach with us in my backpack like always. I'm not sure if this is making it better or worse.

Day Two: There is a possible solution to this madness. My mom recently upgraded to a fanciful 6 Plus, and I'm sure she would pass her old phone on to me until I can figure out what the problem is with mine. I know that mine probably just needs a new screen, but I can't spend anymore money on it in good faith. As soon as I fix it, it will just break again.  The only problem with my Mama solution is that her old phone is a 4. A 4. I can't. But I will.

I had a tattoo appointment in the afternoon and had to write down the number of the tattoo parlor so the babysitter could contact me if she needed anything. It felt indescribably weird to leave knowing that my sitter would not be shooting little "Everything's cool!" or "Can Milo have these crackers?" texts. But I did love blaring some old school tunes in the car. I found all my old CDs and brought a huge stack of them with me. I completely forgot about the mystery of putting in a mix and having no clue what is going to pop up. I also forgot how awesome I was in high school.  

Tonight when I wanted to order Chinese food, I had to look up the number and *shudder* use the landline. When my cell number pops up at our local place, they have my name, address, and card number saved in their system. I order in two sentences and my food is speeding towards me. When I called from the landline, they didn't even know who I was.  On the plus side, when it arrived, I didn't have to consciously remind myself to pay attention to my husband or the movie we were watching. The major distraction was (forcibly) removed.

I miss idly texting Ben and my sisters all day, but I don't miss that void I go into when I'm mechanically checking Facebook/Instagram/Twitter without knowing what I'm looking for. I'm talking to my kids with frightening frequency.

Day Three: Today I had to ask total strangers what time it was. We were at Davis Farmland, an outdoor adventure park and petting zoo that I have visited twice weekly this summer and never realized is completely devoid of clocks. I felt self conscious about asking and would instantly get verbal diarrhea, explaining the entire ordeal. People just took out their phones and told me. I've also been using an old digital alarm clock that I haven't physically set for YEARS. At the beginning of my teaching career, alarms and watches were must-have tools. I haven't used either forever, until now.

I felt a lot of petting zoo picture opportunities slipping me by, but instead of snapping and then heading to Afterlight, I actually hung out with the boys. We talked about the animals and had thoughtful conversations about which part of the park we wanted to head to next. While they played on the playground, I read my book without updating Goodreads or checking out the author on Twitter. After I buckled everyone in the car when it was time to leave, I didn't spend five minutes scrolling through my stuff, seeing if anyone had liked my pictures while we were walking through the parking lot. We just hit play on the CD and started to drive. Milo clapped.

I always talk to my kids. We do lots of things together and get along really well, especially each year that they get older. But I'm noticing- in a way that makes me uncomfortable- that the day is running a lot smoother and there is a lot more laughing when I'm not glued to my phone. Dinner time, especially, is a lot more interactive when no one can ask to check how far away Daddy is and we're not all perking up at the buzz of an incoming text like Pavlov's dogs. I miss the connection that I get from being able to reach out to anyone at any time- phones are not evil. But I'm definitely a better mom when I'm on mine less. I wonder if any of this will stick when I'm connected again?

My mom overnighted the 4 today. One day more.

Day Four: The phone came today at naptime. At first, I moved slowly. Getting a phone back is no big deal. I've been in the harsh world for almost four days now with no connection, there's no rush. Then, as I was casually setting it up, there were some glitches in getting my service switched over. I instantly felt that panic. Why isn't it working? What the hell is this? I NEED MY PHONE!

It's back. It's hooked up. It's small. My contacts didn't transfer, so I'm slowly reentering people. It feels weird and old fashioned. I'm downloading apps as I need them and getting used to that instant gratification of likes and notifications.  I get to use the Steve Zissou case that Ben bought me two Christmases ago. Things are good. I know it will take me much longer than four days to rewire the habits that I have around my phone, and frankly, I'm not looking to change much about them right now. I do hope, however, to remember how good it felt to get to the end of dinner time with no out-of-house interruptions. And I will keep listening to my mix cds.

This is dedicated to my mom. Thanks for the phone!
(image credit)

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