An Incredibly Awesome Day Without My Cell Phone

Sounds scary — but great, right? A day without that ringing, dinging, glowing handful of raging technology about the size of a pack of cigarettes, that I can’t seem to go without. In fact, I used to return home for my Merits when I smoked, back in the day. Now, it’s my cell phone I will drive miles home to retrieve.

Why? Do I really need information, communication — validation — that much? Why have our cell phones become an appendage we can’t live without?

Our cell phones cure FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. Our cell phones give us security, with breaking news available on our tiny glowing screens. Our cell phones bring us friends — just scroll Facebook and there are hundreds of them, waiting to “Like” your every brain blurt. Emojis are a lightening-fast way to tell others how we are, without all that “conversation” nonsense that can be so draining. Our cell phones ensure we are never bored, never alone — never dreaming.

So I left mine at home, on purpose. Yes, it felt weird; like I was leaving an arm behind. My first thought was: What If I need something? What if I have an emergency? I was only going ten miles — to Barnes and Noble to browse — so the probability I would be abducted in the Foreign Languages aisle was low. But our cell phones ensure our self-sufficiency, which in a way, is weird. We are totally sufficient on them.

I turned the radio up — loud. I don’t do that normally — I need to be able to hear my phone. All of a sudden I was singing along with “The Year of the Cat,” by Al Stewart. I was lighter; it reminded me of the late 70’s, when you left the house and you were gone — off the grid, baby. No boyfriend, mom, or friend could get to you, to tell you the latest news or see where you were and what you were doing. It was just you and your rambling thoughts — and a little Al Stewart, singing a magical (if confusing) song.

As the afternoon went on, clarity began layering itself on my exhausted brain. I didn’t have that little subconscious area of my mind listening for a ding, a ring, a beep or a chirp. There was no Facebook to scroll in line, waiting to purchase my book — I had to stand there and deal with my boredom. But I wasn’t bored; I watched the people in line, I wondered lazily what to make for dinner, I hummed. When was the last time I hummed happily?

It’s the small, incremental losses that should sadden, with technology. Our dreamy parts are replaced by our uber-connected parts. We don’t give our whole brain to anything, anymore. With cell phones we are never vulnerable — we can look at our phone if we seem out of place, or just lonely. Because I didn’t have a phone, I didn’t have anyone trying to pull me home, so I took a drive into the country. I looked at some cows. I wanted to hug them — for being real, and quiet, and offering nothing to me but their peaceful presence.

I kept reaching into my purse, out of habit. Nope — that cell phone wasn’t there, just like when I quit smoking. But like dieting, you have to eat food to live, and a cell phone is a reality for most, in modern life. And let’s face it, folks — changing behavior is hard. Especially behavior that gratifies as much as being connected to our cell phones does.

I didn’t learn any real lessons, even though today, we are supposed to learn something big with every action (and then share it on Facebook). I won’t carry my cell phone less, on average. I will, however, take whole days off, every now and again, away from it. I will return to myself, and who I was before I was so reachable.

I hope that includes a lot more Al Stewart.

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