My wife thought my phone was hers and popped it in her purse before going to bed. I couldn’t find it. She took my phone to work, and I was without a phone for an entire day. It was a strange experiment the likes of which few dare undertake. OK: Ask me anything.
Q: What was the first hurdle that arose?
A: I use my phone as an alarm clock. Who wants those blood-red LED numbers burning through the dark like a shameful memory? Who wants to be awakened by the rote robot blerps that tell you the morning is a big garbage truck and it’s backing up your way? No, the blessed phone sings what I wish, from chiming tones that make you feel like you’re tickled by fish to “Reveille” played by kazoos.
Not that it mattered; I’d thrown away all the old alarm clocks.
But I had a fallback plan. Wife gets up before I do, so she could wake me up. A curious thought followed: A real human trumps a phone. Interesting idea. Worth pursuing. Let’s make a note of that on the phone ... Oh, right.
Q: How did you manage to walk?
A: At first it was difficult because, like everyone else in the skyway system, I find it necessary to look at my phone while I walk. We have tied invisible floss around our necks and attached it to levers at the office, and now we can find out we’re in trouble at the office on our way to the office, which is a real timesaver.
I mean, what was it like in the old days? You had to have an assistant tagging along with a sheaf of paper and a pencil in case a messenger pigeon landed on his shoulder and you had to answer an inquiry about the shipment of ambergris to the Spanish-American War or something. You’d write a reply, then slap the bird — the original version of “hit send” — and wait six weeks for a reply.
I’m used to walking around with my left hand raised, the palm toward my face, thumb flicking the screen. I tried this for a while without the phone, and it looked like I was tickling an imaginary chipmunk.
So I put both arms down and swung them back and forth slightly until a natural cadence asserted itself. It didn’t feel right at first; something was missing. Ah, yes: the occasional soft impact with some other moving object, followed by a grunt. I realized I’d been running into people. Without the phone, I could look straight ahead, and get out of the way of people looking at their hands.
Q: Did you have any downtime where a phone would’ve come in handy?
A: Lord, yes. Had to take Daughter to the orthodontist’s. Usually I connect to their Wi-Fi network and start filling my brain with digital dryer-lint. Unable to do that, I was forced to turn to the waiting room’s magazines. Gah.
There was Redbook (“The Magazine for Women Who Don’t Feel Like Getting Depressed by Vogue But Can’t Quite Bear to Think of Themselves as Woman’s Day Demographic”), Sports Illustrated (but not the bikini one) and Time (the most recent of which was only one month old, in case I wanted to catch up on the news from March). There was also a magazine about houses you can’t afford, partly because your remodeling job this year is your kid’s mouth.
I went out to the car and read the owner’s manual. At least it was the swimsuit issue.
Q: That doesn’t sound that bad. Was that the only inconvenience?
A: Not at all. When I park at a metered space downtown, I use my phone. It’s a handy app: You punch in the space number, and the phone asks if you’re in Minneapolis or Washington, D.C. Mind you, this is on a device that sends me a text alert if I switch the phone from right pocket to left.
So, I had to use a credit card on the kiosks, which meant walking alllll the way down the block while repeating the number of my parking spot over and over again so I wouldn’t forget it. The kiosk was bossy. “Remove card quickly” it said, and I bristled: Maybe I want to recapture the more civilized pace of a bygone era and remove the card with a flamboyant gesture one would associate with someone wearing a top hat, cape and monocle. Ever think of that? No?
Later I wanted to take a picture of something, but couldn’t. Before the advent of the smartphone, I never had a camera with me. Now I take 30 pictures a day. I wanted to listen to the radio, but couldn’t. Pre-phone I never carried a little radio, but now I am accustomed to hearing the BBC when the fancy strikes — or tuning into a Belgian radio station to hear the latest song from groups like, well, Fancy Strikes.
I wanted to deposit a check, but with no phone I had to go to the bank and stand in line to deal with a teller.
“How’s your day going?” she asked.
“I can’t find my phone.”
Her sympathy was immediate and boundless.
“But it’s not that bad,” I assured her. “It’s like it was in 2007.” Confused expression. “Before the iPhone? When phones hung on the wall, and it was a big deal if you got a long cord that let you walk 6 feet away and talk, but it always got tangled? When the answering machine sat on the table, and you came home from work and the light wasn’t blinking, and maybe your heart sagged a little, or maybe it felt relief? When the mail came once a day, announced by the metal clank and rattle of a chain as the mailman locked the lobby mailboxes back into the wall? Like that. It’s actually OK.”
I saw her reach under the counter and push something, and a security guard across the room put a hand to his earpiece.
“But I can’t wait to find my phone again,” I added, loudly. Everyone relaxed.
My wife brought it home later, and all was well.
“You made it a day without your phone,” she said. Indeed. A day to remember. What day was it? Call up the calendar app.