It unfolded like a slow-motion movie scene: my phone clumsily slid out of my pocket and hurtled towards the ground like it had so many times before. Except this time it was different: a recognizable and elaborate spider web of cracks showed up on the screen; it lit up, but no amount of wiggling, swiping, cajoling, “OK Google”-ing, and attempting to remember gesture shortcuts would get me past the cracks or the lock screen.
“No big deal”, I thought. I’ll swing by the T-Mobile store on my way home (it’s conveniently right by the exit from the subway and thus doesn’t require a Google Maps lookup) to pick up any old phone for a day (while my “real” replacement phone Amazon Primes its way over). But at 8:15pm it became a slightly bigger deal since the TMo store had been closed for an hour and 15 minutes. I had an early flight in the morning and everything from checking in (Delta app) through getting to the airport (Uber and/or train tickets) to getting to my meetings (more Uber and Google Maps) required a charged phone in hand. So right around 8:16pm a rather strange and unfamiliar type of dread began to set in: what are all the things I take for granted, phone in hand, that I’ll now have to rapidly remember how to do without one?
If you’re older than 25 you’re probably laughing at this predicament and rightfully so — I, too, vividly remember life before smartphones, before mobiles, the cheerful, chirping sounds of a dial-up modem, and… yes, the days before the commercial internet altogether. On the surface this doesn’t sound like it would be much of a challenge. Yet the phone had become so ever-present in our lives that it’s the first thing I check in the morning, the last thing I switch off at night, and to date the one thing I’ve never forgotten to take with me when leaving the house (unlike, say, house keys or wallet).
So here’s what I’ve learned and observed on my short, unintentional sojourn back to the 20th century:
My new phone arrived right around the 48hr mark of phonelessness — just as I was seemingly starting to get somewhat accustomed to this involuntary technology detox and I can’t help feeling a little like Marty McFly. How different would your workday be without a phone, a tablet, or a computer? How much of your work would you be able to do?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some offline plans to make.
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