Phone Lives

Sunday was the Woman’s World Cup Finals. Team USA played against Japan and emotions were high–just coming off July 4th weekend, everyone was out to prove the depth of their American spirit by cheering on Team US whether or not they were a fan of the game. I don’t claim to be a raging soccer ( or ‘futbol’ ) fan but I like watching the sport. It’s simple enough–you kick around a ball, score a goal until you accumulate a certain number of points within a given timeframe, and bam, game over. That may as well be the description for every sports game that ever existed, but soccer feels simpler to me than say American football or ice hockey.

So back to this game–I was having a lazy Sunday at home and after rescheduling dinner plans with a friend, I decided to get my American game-face on and check out this match. I walked over to Chocolada cafe and to my surprise they had a jumbo-tron televising the live match outside the sports bar and the cafe.

At this point I realized my phone was on 6 percent battery and was rapidly advancing towards death. I had my charger with me but the closest outlet was behind a table not within reach or else, inside the cafe. “Do I really need my phone?”, I thought. I already posted a Snapchat that I was watching the game outdoors with real people, satisfying my social media ego for the day, wasn’t that enough? I was alone and didn’t need to get in touch with someone specifically so what did I need my phone for? My apt was 1-2 mins away and I considered myself to be pretty safe. It was decided. I’d let my phone die. Who cares?

Sitting alone with a dead phone people watching forces you to pay attention. And it’s amazing what happens when you look up. When I’m busy futzing around on my phone, time goes by and my mind turns off.  It goes into dull mode (kind of like airplane mode but for your brain) or autopilot of sorts. While phone surfing, I don’t need to think about any one thing or person. My thoughts are a scattered assortment of random bits.My mind has no focus or direction and yet, I am supposedly processing the information and images I’m being fed via my phone.

What happens when you look up? You’re brain switches on again. And here’s the real kicker: As I watched the crowd of close to 30 people around me, almost EVERYONE was on their cell phone. Some of the scenes I saw included a group of teenage boys (or so they looked) waving their phones around, screaming TEAM USA as they captured a Snapchat video moment; two older women took selfies struggling to get the game’s screening in the background; one table over 4/5 members of a family were all scrolling through posts on Facebook and Instagram; more Instas, more Snaps, more posts, more scrolling, more waving. No one was even talking on their cellphones, let alone to each other.

It was like being the sober person in a room full of drunks. Not having my phone to escape to or a companion to distract me, I paid careful attention to how much people around me were absorbed in their phone lives. It was frightening. I wanted to look over to someone, give them the “Do you see this?!” stare but no one was available. Not even the waitresses– they passed time between waiting tables on their phones or being humans and speaking to one another, yes! I have younger cousins with cell phone charger cases…YOU NEED TO LET YOUR PHONE DIE SOMETIMES.

Are the days gone of chatting with your table neighbor? Befriending a stranger or casual conversation with people in your immediate environment? A real live person, not someone message box or online encounter? Can people still do this? Not to say that I don’t get absorbed in my phone, I very much do. Hell, I’m ashamed to admit my phone is the last thing I see before I go to bed and first thing I wake up to in the morning. Sad but true. But I didn’t grow up with cell phones or technology the way kids do now (shit I sound old). I got a cell phone junior year of high school. I used a pay phone to PAGE my parents to pick me up from the mall. BEEPERS! A whole new world. I can disconnect and be okay. If my phone dies the world will still turn at the same angle on its axis just like it did when my phone had battery life. I’ll still breathe, life will go on.

I tried explaining this to a colleague recently, the idea that I didn’t need my phone. That I didn’t really care if it died. Her response was, “I feel like I can’t breathe without my phone! I would die!.”

“No, no you certainly would not,” I assured her.

I’m pleased to say I sat at the cafe without my phone for close to 3 hours, maybe more. Sure, when I got home I plugged it and resumed my phone life: checking messages, emails, apps, whatnot. But it was nice to break off from it, or at least know that I still can.

My cousin recently got the Apple Watch. “I love it!”, she exclaimed. “I would miss so many messages and phone calls because my phone is in my bag and my bag isn’t always with me.” She had a point. There is an advantage but how do you know when enough is enough?

My doctor mom shared her feelings about the Apple Watch, “I think it’s going to give everyone cancer in 10 years. Wrist Cancer. Just wait and see.” To this my cousin threw her watch off. Okay, time for a break.

Author: howstrait

Inspired by William Ernest Henley, this is The Gait. "It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." After I found out I had muscular dystrophy, I've been two lives: one that exists in India where I wear kurtas and speak Hindi more than English, and the other, an American girl who says 'thank you' and 'please' more than anyone likes. I'm learning and living for the moments when my curiosity gets the best of me. Follow me on this not-so-straight path of life. Thanks for stopping by!

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