In our family, the kids don’t get their own cell phone until they get their driver’s license. Sammy got his license a few weeks ago, but we decided to wait a bit before getting him his own phone. We told him he was getting one in September when Verizon rolls out a new plan. (To his credit he didn’t even blink. Not even a long sigh that he’d have to wait another several months for the phone that was promised upon passing his driver’s test. He has absolutely no sense of entitlement, which in my books is a complete win!) Just between you and me, we are giving him his phone on the 4th of July: his birthday. It’s a surprise. Anyway, we haven’t given Sammy his own phone yet, so when he needs to go places, he takes my phone.
On Monday morning I heard Sammy rattling around and gathering his gear for the day, so I woke up to say goodbye and to give him my phone.
I made some coffee and ambled out to the porch. I had my quiet time then checked email and Facebook on my laptop, then I remembered that I needed a new audiobook. I listen to books while I run, and I had a long run planned for the afternoon. I spent about two hours reading reviews and summaries on Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible. (I love summer!) I found my book and purchased it. I went to grab my phone to download the book so it would be ready for my run. My phone wasn’t plugged in, so I hollered through the house, “Has anyone seen my phone?” when I remembered that Sammy had it and I wouldn’t have it for my run. Oh, the crushing disappointment!
My first thought was to text Ken to tell him just how frustrated I was. Blast. My frustration didn’t warrant an actual phone call which would have interrupted him at work, so I weathered the disappointment alone.
When Sammy called home during his lunch break we made a plan to meet at Mod Pizza. We could eat quickly and Madeline could hop in his car so they could head to their meeting, and I could go home. But later in the day, the plan needed to change: we now needed to meet at Tokyo Joe’s, and I knew that Sammy wouldn’t check the voicemail on the phone, so I didn’t even bother. By the time he turned the phone back on after his shift, I would be on the road without access to a phone. I started sending telepathic messages to him.
It all worked out. (I don’t think he got the telepathic messages. I think he just saw me standing in the parking lot in the drizzling rain waving like a crazy person.)
On our way to meet Sammy, I stopped at the grocery store. I knew most of the ingredients I needed for my new recipe, but thought I’d double check; I’ll just Google the recipe really quickly. I hate getting home and then realizing I’ve forgotten some obscure ingredient like slivered almonds. I dug through my purse with a mild panic rising. Where is my phone? Oh my gosh, it has to be here somewhere. Oh, right. So I stood in the aisle trying to concentrate so I could conjure up the elusive ingredient. Nope, couldn’t think of what it was. (Come to find out later, it was jalapeño peppers. Oh well.)
As we were driving, Madeline asked me a question about something I couldn’t answer. I automatically said, “That’s a really great question; Google it.” She rummaged through my purse, and then remembered. We said we’d look it up later. I can’t for the life of me remember what her question was.
The next day, Kenny, Robby, and Caroline all wanted to know why I wasn’t answering FaceTime, phone calls, or my texts. Tommy arrived home in the evening wanting to know why I hadn’t responded to the text messages he’d sent. I started to say, “Sammy has…” and he suddenly remembered.
“I know, I keep forgetting, too,” I said.
I needed to call my nephew, but I realized that the only place I have his number stored is in my phone. I don’t have it written anywhere.
When I get my phone back there are text messages from my kids, coaches, and my best friend Tammy. I’m usually prompt about responding. I’m sure they all want to know why I’m suddenly being so rude.
I’m often phone-less these days and it feels strange. I’ve had several days where I run without my phone. No music. No story. Just my breathing and the crunching of the dirt beneath me. And my own thoughts churning in my head.
Today, our phones are at our fingertips 24/7. I think back… the year is 1982, and I’m sixteen years old. My best friend Tammy sits next to me with a portable radio, antenna extended, on her lap. On rainy or cold days, she also has a rag handy since the car doesn’t have defrost. She changes radio stations, adjusts the antenna, and wipes the fog from the windshield. We float off our seats if I’m going too fast when I take the bump on Dennis Avenue; the little blue Volkswagen Beetle doesn’t have seat belts. Occasionally, she’s holding a radio, a rag for wiping the windshield, and folding and refolding an unruly map of the county.
In 1982 virtually no one had a mobile phone. Cell phones weren’t commercially available in the US until 1983, and those first phones only had 30 minutes of talk time, and they cost around $4000.00 which meant only drug lords could afford them.
I also think back to 1996. My mom was visiting me in Orange Park, Florida. It was Tuesday, our regular day for the parent-run story time at the library. I introduced my mom to all my friends, and then the mom in charge of that day’s story and craft began her well-rehearsed reading while we all sat on the floor. Usually the kids sat with their full attention on the story teller, but today there was a new family with a set of twins. The new mom had to leave the room several times to answer her phone. In 1996, some moms had mobile phones which we mostly left in our cars for an emergency, but this new mom had a newfangled hip holster for her phone. She and everyone in the room was very aware of her phone. Durning the craft time, this particular hip-holster-phone-mom was engaged with her phone while her kids floundered with the activity. The story time had been a bit more chaotic than usual, and I mentioned to my mom that I felt bad for my friend who’d put in so much time preparing a fun activity for us all. We’d had fun, of course, but it was just that there was a difference. Somewhat prophetically, my mom drew a connection between the disharmony and the hip-holster-phone. I shrugged it off, but it’s stayed with me.
Being without my phone has made me aware of it in an important way.
I’ll bet that many of you will think I’m about to go into a rant about how cell phones are the cause of all the bad things.
I love my phone. I can also remember back in 1982, when I got lost in an unfamiliar part of Baltimore. It was after dark, and I was too afraid to get out of my car to use a payphone. Somehow, (because I have NO sense of direction!) I had ended up in an unsafe neighborhood. My palms were sweaty, my heart was thumping in my chest, and I was afraid. Today, when this happens, (because I still have no sense of direction) I press a button, ask for directions, and voila, I’m safely back on my route. That wasn’t the case thirty years ago. Back then, I got myself into some truly dangerous spots. Looking back nostalgically on that time is fun, but by the grace of God, I’m able to sit here and tell about it.
I love and appreciate my phone more now because I’ve had to do without it. Handing one over to my son also reminds me that it carries a measure of responsibility. The same way that driving an automobile carries with it certain responsibilities. Fire. Knives. Medicine. Guns. Sugar. Plastic. Finances. Computers. Internet. Alcohol.
Talent. Time. Relationships. Words. Children. All carry with them responsibility.
Adulthood carries with it responsibility. It all comes down to personal responsibility.
It’s not the cell phone’s fault that relationships are shallow or that twelve year olds are now in danger because of Snapchat’s new Snap Map feature.
The cell phone is a tool. If you can’t manage your phone when you have visitors in your home or when you’re at a story time, it’s not the cell phone’s fault, it’s your fault. I remember thinking even back then that the hip-holster-phone might not be the problem. It’s the people in the situation that are making choices. Sometimes those choices are selfish and irresponsible.
I’m thankful to live in this day and age. I’m thankful for the peace of mind I have knowing my boy can call me if he’s running late or needs to navigate a less familiar part of town. I’m thankful for this modern convenience and pray my young-adult son is wise enough, responsible enough, and unselfish enough to be a good steward of it.