One day last week I walked out of the house without my cell phone. I remembered it when I was only a little way down the road. I was meeting a friend for coffee before our writing group, as is our usual routine. There was no reason for me to have my phone right then. It wasn’t a big deal, I could live without it for a couple hours, I told myself.
When I got into Covington, I started worrying she might text me and if I didn’t reply she may not show up. She’d know I forgot my phone, right? Everything would go fine, I didn’t need it. I didn’t have a cell phone connecting me to reality for the first 30 or so years of my life, I could manage a few hours without it, I told myself.
I arrived at the coffee shop and my friend wasn’t there. It was fine, she was probably running late. She had little kids and I understood how difficult it was sometimes to get little ones out the door. Everything would work out, I told myself.
I ordered my coffee and claimed our table by the window. Then I remembered my friend was fighting a cold. She could have texted me to tell me she wasn’t going to coffee or writing group. There I sat, kind of stood up, though, not really because I would have understood. It wasn’t like a bad blind date or anything. I was fine not knowing where she was, things happen. She’d fill me in later or when I returned to my cell phone after writing group I would see her text. The mystery would be solved eventually, I told myself.
As the minutes ticked by, I was kicking myself for being too lazy to turn around when I first realized I didn’t have my phone. I was less than a quarter mile from my house. It would have taken me less than the ten minutes I figured she was already late. I didn’t really even know what time it was because there are no clocks in coffee shops. They either assume you have your phone with you, are wearing a watch, or they want you to relax and enjoy your coffee without watching the clock. I had none of those, my phone, a watch nor peace of mind.
I would like to think it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure many people wouldn’t be any more successful than I was at sitting still and patiently waiting without their phone. The trees were brilliant oranges, reds and yellows. The sky was clear and blue. Why couldn’t I just sit and be and enjoy the wonder of the world?
I finally decided that she either wasn’t coming and I had time to fetch my phone and unload the dishwasher before writing group, or she was running late, and I would just be late for coffee if left right then. I zipped home, picked up my phone, and there it was, “I’m running late” and “I’m here.” I quickly texted back to tell her I was on my way that I had forgotten my phone.
Technology won that day. I felt disconcerted by my unequivocal reliance on it. I couldn’t even sit for fifteen minutes without being connected to a person’s every move. Remember the days when a telephone call was enough? Or even better when smoke signals were high technology? I just hope our social, technological infrastructure never collapses, how would anyone ever find anyone else? I could’ve held out if the circumstances were different, is what I told myself.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. You can read more of her writing and her blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com, follow her on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh”or on Twitter @livewithgleigh. Her column is also available at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Life section.