Larry Banman: Life does exist without cellphones
March 3, 2008
I recently went an entire month without my cellphone.
It turns out the little electronic devices can stand up to about anything, except a trip through the washing machine. I bought one of those slender models that slides in your pocket and is so unobtrusive that you barely know it’s there.
I kind of wish I had gotten the bulkier model. I might have noticed it when I slung my pants in the washing machine.
Due to the fact that I think I never do anything as stupid as putting my phone in the washing machine, I didn’t purchase “you’re-an-idiot” insurance. I have one of those two-year contracts that doesn’t renew until April 2009. I’m not smart enough to find a discarded phone and activate it, so I found myself in no-man’s land. Due to our somewhat isolated location in west Grand County and my busy schedule in February, I was unable to make it to the nearest phone store for the entire month of February.
At first, I suffered from withdrawal. I didn’t have the ability to quickly contact people. I have gotten into the habit of text messaging my daughters on a semi-regular basis and I missed that contact. It was a bit of an inconvenience to be without my own phone, but I soon found that practically everybody has a cellphone.
In an age of unlimited minutes, it really isn’t too difficult to bum a phone for a quick call. I did realize that I had stopped memorizing phone numbers, because most of the numbers I call were in my phone index and I always recalled them by name.
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Probably the biggest inconvenience was the trouble I caused other people who were leaving me messages. A couple of people thought I was ignoring them while others just assumed I was being lazy. However, after a week or two I had touched bases with everybody who called and all misunderstandings were ironed out. Soon, my phone’s memory could no longer store the messages and people had to find other ways to contact me ” like face-to-face.
After the initial withdrawal pains, I started to make some discoveries.
I was now pretty much in control of my personal phone conversations. In my new career, I am rarely more than 18 inches away from my work phone, so I am not hard to reach. However, people are a bit more hesitant to call with personal or casual business on a work phone. And, when engaged in a phone conversation that is winding toward nowhere, it is an easy out for me to end the conversation because it is tying up a work phone.
I no longer had to worry about keeping my phone charged, forgetting my phone or missing any calls.
It was a liberating experience.
There is something to be said about the convenience of being able to make a phone call from virtually anywhere in the United States. I found there is also something to be said about not being able to be found virtually anywhere in the United States. I would say that 99.9 percent of what has to be said does not have to be said at virtually the exact instant the thought is being formed. Sometimes, waiting to say something allows a little bit of wisdom to intrude and make that thought more salient and more appropriate.
It was interesting to me to discover that my ability to ponder had gotten somewhat rusty. In those moments when I would have used the convenience and ease of my cellphone to reach out and make conversation, I rediscovered the joys and challenges of introspection and thought. I am not saying that a monastic lifestyle should be the goal of our existence. Contact with people is vital, it is important and it is essential. That contact should not be sacrificed on the altar of self-indulgence. What I believe should be added to our lives is more time for … thought. I am more guilty than most about allowing television, entertainment and activity to creep into and saturate every portion of my life. I believe something is lost when we no longer take time to lie on our backs and watch the clouds float by. Something more is lost when we say we don’t have the time to lie on our backs and watch the clouds float by.
While watching the clouds float by, people tend to use that time for activities like meditation, like prayer, like thinking about a life bigger than our own little circles. My guess is that Newton likely pondered the theory of gravity while thinking. It probably wasn’t while he was watching a rerun of “Friends.”
Losing my cellphone cost me approximately $200. I purchased a new (bulkier) model partly because of the prepayment penalty of canceling my contract. I purchased a new model mostly for the safety of having it during emergencies. There are some very appropriate uses for a cellphone. The most important lesson I learned over the past month is not just that I can live without a cellphone, or that a cellphone can make our lives more convenient, but that it is not the key to success, fulfillment and happiness. That key is found within our own minds and within our own souls.
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