My 36 Hours Without A Phone… Or, “Fear And Loathing In An Airport”

The white screen of death

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. While attending the Web Content Management show in Chicago where Percussion was a sponsor, my phone suddenly died.  It may have been dropped slightly (you should never say that to the warranty people BTW) it definitely had NOT been submerged in water, it just didn’t work any longer.

A solid stream of swears followed.

The good news is that I had my laptop up and connected so I first went to the ATT support center. I was able to kick off an instant chat with a support tech who, after trying a few things, confirmed my prognosis.

More swears.

I stepped out of the sessions and had a number of protracted discussions with ATT service teams, but in the end, a new phone will be delivered to my house “in either one or two business days.”

Then reality set in. ONE OR TWO BUSINESS DAYS WITHOUT A PHONE.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people who stare at their phone all day long. I learned some time ago that if you are always answering emails, people will come to expect that you will always answer emails. But that doesn’t mean I don’t check frequently. I am less apt to check Facebook or Twitter but when killing time at the airport, I am bound to rather than booting up my laptop.

I mean, I knew that I could SURVIVE, but I wasn’t sure I could you know, survive. 

So, to borrow a style popularized by “The Sports Guy” on ESPN here is my running diary of my time without a phone. All times are approximate.

Tuesday

9:30am: Phone stops working

9:31: Substantial swearing as I ponder my day with no phone, still hopeful that perhaps Support will “know a trick.”

9:39: Email my wife. Let her know my flight number and expected time of arrival and that I wouldn’t be texting her when I landed.

9:40: Email my work colleagues letting them know I was phone-less. I think they laughed a little.  One of them wasn’t sure how a phone could “crap out.” I declined to explain.

9:50 Wife replies asking me to let her know if the flight was delayed or if I miss it. I must have considered this for a solid 10 minutes. How exactly would I do that? Borrow a phone maybe? Then I remembered something called a pay phone. A Pay Phone?!!  Thankfully my wife who is infinitely smarter about these things signed onto to iChat and told me to IM her from my computer. Brilliant. Good thing she is thinking for the both of us

11:45am: Reality sets in, I am not going to have a phone.

1:00 New conference buddies show back up after lunch with Starbucks. I Tweeted that I was bummed to have missed the party. I got this devastating reply via Twitter:

@somethingwitty: “@ajdun this coffee tastes like … Heaven. And while we were there some random stranger was offering to fix BBs for free! Crazy. Missed out”

1:01: Unfollow @somethingwitty. Might have been a record for the shortest following of someone. At least she lived up to her Twitter name.

1:30: Come to grips with the fact that I don’t have a phone. Pull the battery, put it in my bag and try to forget I even have one.

1:31: Think deep thoughts about what it will be like to not have a phone. Take to Facebook to try and quell nerves.

1:33: Think that nerves seems pretty stupid, consider why I am edgy. Decide it’s too difficult to ponder, try to focus myself to the speakers.

4:45: Get on train from downtown Chicago to Airport (seemed like a better idea when the taxi driver laughed at me when I told him I wanted to go to the airport. He was right) Stare longingly at everyone on their phones. I somehow feel naked. A friend likened it to being in one of those dreams where you are in a city square naked.. not sure I would go that far, but definitely like I am missing something. Like my arm.

5:30 Wonder what I would do if the flight was in fact cancelled, or delayed… would that mean I would have to queue with everyone else? Shudder!

6:30: Sit in the airport, staring longingly at everyone’s iPhone

6:45: Realize I wont have to worry about shutting off my phone to fly.

10:30: Land in Boston, look around for my phone to text home that I landed safe and sound…uhhh.. crap.

Wednesday

6:00 am Phew, survived day one, new phone should be here today, steel myself for a day of no phone.

9:30: Yep, got the email that said phone would be delivered That was $14.95 well spent!

10:30 Share story with my CFO, explained how I avoided having to ask for the company to buy me a new phone. She was, well, appreciative. Something in her tone made it clear that I wouldn’t have gotten very far with THAT request!

12:15: Sitting in one meeting, worried I was missing another one. Verry unsettling.

6:00 Try to IM my wife to organize kid sport pick up/drop off. Don’t hear back. (Did it occur to me to use my desk phone to call her? Nope, not even for a second!)

6:30: Show up at the track to quizzical stares from the family wondering why I came. Oh right, because I didn’t have a phone to know that I didn’t have to.

7:30: New Phone is plugged in, time to settle in for the Bruins and Red Sox games.

10:30 Red Sox Win, Red Sox WIN!

11:00 Bruins win, Bruins WIN

11:30 Phone appears to be mostly operational.

So, I wish I could say that I enjoyed being phone-less for awhile. Or that I realized how liberating it was to be disconnected for 36 hours. Or that I discovered how connected to email I was and that the world wouldn’t stop without me online.

Nope.

In the end, It was just too unsettling. Not so much not having email specifically, but not being able to communicate on the go.  It really is remarkable how much has changed over the last 10 years. Now, the idea of being phone-less isn’t liberating at all, it’s is just terrifying.

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