Leaving my phone on the bathroom counter turns me into some kind of gawking weirdo.
I’m definitely blaming the fact that I left the most essential thing I take out of the house with me every day on the bathroom counter on my eight week old kitten. He has taken up residence in our bathroom since we brought him home on Friday and what started out as an adorable experience tacked on to late night bathroom trips and a convenient place to put anxious people who need a break has quickly turned into yet another slapstick comedy element to our morning get-out-the-door routine. Puck has realized that, if he has the element of surprise, he’s faster than me, and can bolt out the door before anyone who doesn’t have Olympic-athlete reflexes can close him back in. So it was this way, chasing the kitten in and out of his area of confinement while brushing my teeth, attempting to maintain a barely-there streak of washing and moisturizing my face in the morning like a real person, and listening to Konner try not to forget anything for his four day trip to Florida for the AWP conference, that I left the phone on the bathroom counter. Shit.
The first and most important thing you have to do to successfully navigate a day without your smartphone, is to realize it’s not a phone you’re pining for. Honestly, if all the thing could do was make calls, I’d probably be glad not to have it today. Compulsive checking is my M.O. and I’d inevitably spend any free second I had leaving voicemails for Konner while he was on an airplane and couldn’t talk anyway, just to make sure he’s ok. The only people I talk to are my mother, my therapist, and Konner. A day of not being able to audibly irritate them would probably be great. Cell phones aren’t even just text-based communication devices at this point. I can still chat with my roommate, the DnD group, and random friends who happen to be on Konner’s flight even when my phone is hanging out with Puck for the day. I just have to wait until my lunch break. The problem here is that my phone has become everything else other than it’s ability to communicate with people. It tracks my calories so I feel some kind of obligation to not wolf down a whole chicken roll-up for lunch, it reminds me when rehearsals are, let’s me obsessively google whether jumping off a human’s shoulder is likely to damage a small cat, and let’s me know what kind of horrible things journalists have to write about today. Most importantly, it gives me something to look at.
Without the phone, standing on the train platform this morning as Konner checked his flight information one more time, I was left staring into the abyss and, acutely, noticing that everyone had a phone to look at. See, that person’s on Facebook — don’t look at their phone screen, oh my god. Squashed in an Orange Line seat, no room to drag out the knitting, I get to reread advertisements I see every day and, a bit, think about the kind of things I want to do tonight. I might feel slightly more productive today, or I might just not have Facebook to think about while I walk to the sandwich shop. It’s a place that takes a long time to make a sandwich and I wonder whether the reason folks of a certain age get so much more upset about slow-ish service is, in some tiny way, because they more clearly remember the weirdness that is trying not to be in the way while you wait for your food. A woman is dealing (over the phone) with the fallout of a bullied child who threatened his tormentor. The kid called him a lumberjack who watches Sesame Street. I simultaneously feel the second-hand anxiety of a kid being scolded and some kind of weird adult admiration for the way the mom is handling the situation. She talks to her kid in full, mature sentences and makes reasonable arguments. I’m also trying so hard not to eavesdrop.
Just when I’m starting to wonder if not having a smartphone and all its multitude of capabilities on demand could give me the answers to all of life’s challenges, I spend the walk back to the office thinking this is a terrible idea for a blog post. Without six podcasts to catch up on what’s to stop me from spending my free moments deciding every idea for a creative project I’ve ever add is bullshit no one wants to read or look it? I know myself well enough to know I’m more likely to do that than solve every millennial’s feeling of futility. I get more done at work than usual, my mom has to call me an Uber home in a Nor’easter, I let the kitten and my phone out of the bathroom, I do some dishes, and I cry about not being a real writer. I text Konner. I think I have other things to detox from before I worry about my phone.