Linus, blanket, technology, S. A. Young

Linus. Illustration from ‘PEANUTS: A Golden Celebration’ published by Harper Collins.

One day last week I left my phone at home – again. It was only the second time that I can remember having done it since I cut the (landline) cord about five years ago, but I panicked.

The forgetting itself made me start to question my sanity and/or my good memory. Was this the first stage of something?  Should I be worried? How could I forget my phone?! What was I going to do all day without it? How would people reach me in an emergency? If I didn’t answer, would they think something had happened to me?

Of course, I spent the day at work, in an office equipped with a telephone, fax machine, internet, etc. I could probably send smoke signals from the Catering Kitchen if I had to (note to self: Google “How to send smoke signals”).

For the next eight hours I may have felt some anxiety thinking about my phone sitting alone and unattended, but I muddled through. After work, I staggered through the door of my apartment to find the phone on the counter exactly where I’d left it.

So, the second time I forgot it , I did not panic…at least initially. As the day progressed I started to feel the pain of the phantom limb I’d left behind. “Maybe I should go home and get it at lunch”, I thought. (Yeah right. Who takes lunch in my office?)  No, that was ridiculous, I reasoned with myself. I had this. I had done it once and lived to tell the tale, I could do it again.

That night, after I got home and proceeded to spend the better part of the evening staring at the thing, I began to wonder if I had a problem. Were my phone and I co-dependent? Of course not. My phone doesn’t care if it sits alone all day. It needs nothing from me other than the occasional charge. I was the one with the problem. I’m the one reduced to clutching my phone like Linus and his blanket, like all of the other Millennials and Gen Xers out there: on the train staring at the tiny screen, incessantly checking Facebook or email, afraid to be unconnected for even an instant. I resisted getting a “smart phone” for a long time. What did I need with all of that technology at my finger tips? I need a phone. A telephone. You know, to make and receive phone calls.  I didn’t have any use for any “apps”.

It’s a slippery slope. First it’s solitaire – the gateway app – then it’s email, Facebook and Twitter. The phone suddenly requires more and more RAM. You have to upgrade…and keep upgrading. I’ve moved on to banking and shopping apps! I need more GIGS!  My current phone, which I got 2 months ago (and which is already out-of-date because a newer model has been released), has 32GB, which is more than the super duper laptop I bought a year ago. Guess which one I use more. I never thought that would happen either.

Now, I have not fallen so far as to hold loud and unnecessary conversations in public either on the train or on the street, nor do I become so engrossed in cat videos or political Twitter rants that I step into potholes, bump into people like an uncaring Weeble* or, heaven forbid, walk in to traffic without looking up until I hear the blare of a car horn or shouted profanity. I’m surrounded by these zombies. They’re everywhere and I can’t get away.

Is this my future? Can I be saved?

It was time for a test. After two days at work spent with my phone glued to my hand, using it like the walkie-talkies of old – because someone (one of my bosses) truly might need to get a hold of me in a hurry (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a grown man have a melt-down over a locked door), I put the phone down. I plugged it in and left my apartment to salvage the rest of the weekend and do some errands.

Obviously, I survived. I didn’t even get the shakes, but then again I was only gone for a few hours. Baby steps.  I will say it probably wasn’t the brightest idea to try riding the “Freak Bus”** without my invisible barrier (you know, the cone that surrounds us as we stare at our phones pretending not to notice the man shouting at the driver or arguing with other passengers about “the guvament!”), but I rolled the dice.  I actually looked at people and smiled. Some smiled back. Some looked at me as if they thought I was a tad “touched”.   From the window I could see the sailboats on the river.  I could also see the big black rain clouds moving in.  The other thing I left the house without? An umbrella.

If I’d had my phone, I could have checked the weather. There’s an app for that.

Okay, I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this, perhaps unhealthy, connection to their devices (as phones, tablets and laptops are now collectively known). I showed you mine, now show me yours.


*“Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down”

**referring to the bus line that runs the length of the city and across the river to Cambridge, from Roxbury to Harvard Square. Oh, the odd mixture of humanity!