I love my phone. How much do I love my phone? If I were to drop my firstborn son into a toilet, I'd wave him goodbye -- but if my phone dropped, I'd dive in like Michael Phelps.
At the same time, there's no denying that my life has more pressure and anxiety than it did back in the days of answering machines, payphones, dialup internet, *69 and 1-800-COLLECT. So, for seven whole days -- in an attempt to see whether mobile technology (or just simply being an adult) is stressing me out -- I forced myself to live a landline life once again.
A few self-imposed rules:
#1. My smartphone stays on my desk; I can only check e-mail, Instagram, Twitter, etc. at home.
#2. I can't use other people's smartphones. At all.
#3. No cheating.
I immediately realize that leaving the house now takes extra preparation. I can't just waltz right out; I have to carefully research and plot out my day, scribbling down addresses, directions and phone numbers like Rust Cohle.
I finally head out untethered for a doctor's appointment, and within minutes I'm tapping my pockets and getting phantom vibrations. My brain is already freaking out. Smartphone withdrawal symptoms come fast and hard, people.
I don't know which subway station exit to take (also, I have no clue if I'm running late or not, because I forgot to wear a watch, and have to ask a random dude for the time). I search around like Indiana Jones tracking a hieroglyphic. Eventually I find the relic I was looking for: A map of the neighborhood from 1999.
At the doctor's office I don't have Spotify or games to occupy myself, so I brought along a book. Wow, there's something still so satisfying about flipping a page.
I get back to my house more excited than I am Christmas morning. WHO TEXTED? WHO EMAILED? WHO CALLED?! Oh, joyous day.
Texts: 3 (...from Mom and Dad)
Emails: 5 (...from the Gap)
Calls: 1 (...from a director friend who needs an actor this afternoon and it pays; I call back, but it's too late and he's already recast it. One day without my phone and I'm already losing money.)
I'm riding the subway to my 10 a.m. therapy session (I see a lot of doctors) when I realize I forgot to write down the address of where I'm meeting my friend for lunch. This is bad.
I forgot to write down his number, too. Crap, he's gonna sit there for an hour, wondering where the hell I am, and then leave pissed off at me.
Then I remember: He's always on Facebook. If I can find a computer, maybe I can message him!
Is it cheating to use somebody's computer if I won't let myself use their mobile device? No, because internet cafes existed before smartphones.
"Hi," I say to a woman sitting at Starbucks. "I know this is weird, and I'm so sorry to ask, but could I borrow your laptop to Facebook message my friend real quick?"
She's skeptical and takes a moment, but closes whatever windows she's looking at and turns the computer to face me.
"THANK YOU THANK YOU," I say, logging in to chat my friend.
I get the address and bolt out the door. Did I even log out? No time to go back; I'm late for therapy (I think, I forgot my watch again).
After a very existential therapy session ("who am I if I don't have my phone?!"), I meet my friend for lunch and tell him about the Starbucks incident, a story that's completely uninterrupted due to the fact that I don't have a phone sitting by my sandwich.
While waiting for an audition in the city, I think of a really awesome tweet. Instead of posting it to Twitter, the thought goes in my notebook (which isn't a big difference in favs anyway).
And then I realize my wallet is gone. Like GONE gone. Panic crashes over me like a tidal wave; I wrote my phone number inside it for situations like this, but I don't have my phone or the cash to get home.
I'm asking strangers if they can give me a free swipe through the subway turnstile. (With no phone and no wallet, if I fell onto the tracks it would take them weeks to identify the body, I morbidly think.) I'm not proud of begging, but I finally get home and rush to my phone.
There's a voicemail: "Hey, this is Pete. I found your wallet on the street. I'm at [posh restaurant]. Come get it." Holy crap! I call Pete to make sure he's still there, and then race out the door. (Without my phone.)
Now that I can't rely on mobile technology, I must rely on my instincts and the kindness of strangers. Smartphones are supposed to make us feel more connected, but without it, I'm actually connecting with people.
Thursday goes off without a hitch. I'm nailing the "write everything down" thing; I'm almost done with my book, and I overall feel more productive. My concentration has skyrocketed. I'm in the zone and beginning to wonder why I ever needed my phone in the first place.
I leave New York at 10 a.m. by bus for a performance in Virginia. Traveling without a cell phone brings on whole new anxieties. I know my way around the city, but how the hell am I supposed to find my way around another state?
(Also, what if there's a fight on the bus and I need to take a viral video of it? Can I afford to miss those potential YouTube dollars?)
Anyway, I manage. At dinner after the show, I'm chatting with a friend. The conversation turns to that old relationship advice show hosted by Adam Corolla and Dr. Drew, but neither one of us recalls its name. "'Love List'? 'Sex Talk'?" Why has my memory atrophied so much over the years?
My first impulse is to ask my friend to look it up, but sticking to rule #2 (I can't use other people's smartphones), I just sit there. And it eats at my brain.
"LOVELINE," I shout 10 minutes later.
See, I knew it all along; I just needed to trust myself to remember.
At a bar in Williamsburg, I ask a girl for her phone number, but since I don't have a phone, I ask her to write it on a napkin. Let's just say that she declines. I'm not sure the rest of the world appreciates my experiment as much as I do.
Here it is. The last day of my self-denial... and I barely even notice. I do some errands, and the digital messages I'm missing don't even cross my mind. I've found that I enjoy the time away from my phone; I feel adventurous and free and focused. Besides, it's satisfying to handle problems on my own, without Google's help.
Am I giving my phone up forever? Nope, and honestly, when Sunday's over, it feels good to have her back in public with me. (I've already checked instragram like 100 times.)
In the back of my head, though, I now know that I could live without her, which really means believing in myself. We all love our phones -- why else would we keep them on us 24/7? -- but like with any good relationship, we also need some alone time.