left to our own devices

My iPhone is the first thing I pick up in the morning, and the last thing I put down at night. It’s become tethered to my brain, an extension of my physical self, my invisible third arm, a phantom limb that randomly vibrates my pocket or handbag–even when it’s not in my pocket or handbag.

The thought of possibly forgetting my iPhone puts me in an elevated state of panic — say, a Code Red, compared to an Orange Homeland Security alert, which is when the merely terrible happens.

you can’t text in the shower…yet (imbd.com)

Orange (high) alert is the relatively calmer state I feel when, say, I can’t find my wallet, but then I do, tucked inside a giant crevasse in my handbag (note to self: Buy smaller handbags that only fit a laptop or an infant, not both).

I’ve had some close calls with my iPhone. I’ve dropped it in the toilet (after I peed—I snatched it out of the bowl, and stuck it in some uncooked rice. It survived! Note #2 to self: don’t put phone in back pocket, until I learn to pee standing up). Besides (indirectly) peeing on my phone, I’ve also flung it, kicked it, dropped it, and dinged it.

So imagine my elevated state of severe Code Red shit-storm alert when I cracked the glass screen of my iPhone, this time so badly that I had to send it away for repairs. The repair guy told me it would take five business days, but, hearing my reaction over the phone, quickly promised it in three if I sent it off on a Monday.

I waited until the last possible moment to stick my phone in the FedEx box last Monday night, then…I felt surprisingly liberated when I saw my little package slide down the metal chute. I turned and biked home from the financial district, feeling freer than I had in a long time. For the next half hour, until I got home, no one could reach me. Any texts reminding me to please hit the store for bananas and milk floated into the ether. The text to stop and pick up the dry cleaning fluttered past, too. I was unfettered by technology, and totally unfazed about it. For a brief, blissful window of unaccounted-for time, I was really, truly free from my iPhone ball and chain.

That odd, untethered yet not entirely unfamiliar feeling continued as I floated peacefully through the next three days. I remembered how much I enjoyed my pre-smartphone lifestyle. It made me realize how addicted I’d been to my constant techno companion. I didn’t miss compulsively checking my iPhone instead of paying attention to the world unfolding around me. I remembered how I much calmer my life was before I could text, email, dial, surf, post or tweet on a whim. I didn’t butt-dial anyone. Nothing (incorrectly) autocorrected me. I stopped asking cutie Siri where to go, and just went.

Even after the FedEx guy ran the doorbell on Thursday afternoon, and I ran down the stairs to pick up my repaired phone, I left it sitting, unopened, for several more hours.

I’m still trying to hold on to that peaceful feeling, which is why I now put my phone away in a drawer for a few hours every day. Forgetting about my iPhone helps me be more fully in the present moment. And since I suck at meditation, the least I can do is shut off the electronic devices that otherwise intrude on my every waking moment. Breaking my iPhone has forced me to stop and recharge myself on a daily basis. Try shutting yours off once and awhile, and see what happens.

21st century cigarette