I was on a road trip out to Des Moines in June of 2009 when I had one of the best wake up calls that I can remember. I was riding along in my friend’s truck and we were almost to Pittsburgh when panic had set in. I knew I had it when I left my house that morning, but where was it now? Oh well, I’d check when we stopped for lunch. Not on the back seat, not on the floor, not behind the cooler. WHERE WAS IT? Did I leave it in my car? Did I lose it at the last rest area? We wouldn’t be back for almost a week. What was I going to do?
No, it wasn’t my suitcase, my wallet or the address of the hotel where we’d be stopping that night. It was my phone. I tried calling it from my friend’s phone just in case I’d dropped it somewhere that it couldn’t be seen. Nothing. At that point I convinced myself that it was probably in my cup holder in my car back at my friend’s house in Maryland. Even if it was there, we were too far into our trip to turn around. If it wasn’t, and I had lost it at the last rest area it was an old phone and I could just replace it when I got home. I didn’t need my phone to survive, I’d be just fine. Right?
My friend had his cell phone with him so if there was a problem he could always use it to call for help so I didn’t need my phone, but now that I realized I didn’t have it I immediately felt cut off, like all of a sudden I was missing out on something. I didn’t know what, but there had to be something going on in the world that I wasn’t able to find out about. For the rest of that day and much of the next I wasn’t able to enjoy the fact that I was on vacation, or on a trip to see friends I hadn’t seen in a year, just that I was missing out on something appearing on a tiny screen that I usually kept in my pocket.
I think it only dawned on me how foolish my fussing over my phone was when we arrived in Des Moines and a few of us went over to our usual watering hole and instead of talking with friends we hadn’t seen since last year’s gathering, half of the people there had their noses buried in a screen. Sure, some were watching the game on TV, but most were fiddling with their phones. That moment of realizing how silly I was for worrying about my phone flipped a switch inside me and allowed me to enjoy the rest of the trip which ended up being one of the most memorable I’ve been on.
I see a replay of that scene from the bar in Des Moines almost every time I go anywhere. People will be out at an event, or having lunch with a friend, and instead of talking to the person right there with them, they’re checking twitter, or email, or any manner of other things. Technology is a wonderful thing, but the more tools that come out to connect us to events far and wide, the more I see people becoming disconnected with the events unfolding right in front of them. Instead of having a conversation with their friends, they’re checking in on foursquare. Instead of enjoying a beautiful wedding, they’re attempting to photograph the event, even though there’s a professional photography crew documenting the whole thing. I’m probably going to take the plunge and upgrade my ancient phone to an iPhone when the new ones come out. I hope I don’t end up becoming one of the people I’ve been talking about.
Oh, and where was my phone on that road trip? It was set to Silent and had fallen under the seat. I was less than a foot away from it the entire time.