On Saturday, December 19, I was running late for a wedding rehearsal. I rushed out of my building and hailed a cab. Whilst in transit, I set my phone on the seat next to me and started going through my notes for the ceremony.
As fate would have it, I arrived early. (Every now and then, NYC traffic cooperates).
I exited the cab and walked inside the church. Unsure of where the rehearsal was being held, I reached inside my sport coat's left-inside-pocket to fetch my phone to call the bride and groom.
My phone wasn't there.
I checked all my other pockets. I checked the stoop outside. Rushing back out onto the street, I looked in both directions.
A wave of panic washed over me.
I had left my phone in that cab and it was long gone.
Shoulders slumped, I went back inside the church. Sitting down in the entryway, I opened my laptop. Thanks to the genius of the "find my iPhone" feature on all my devices, I began tracking the phone in real-time. I used the "lock" feature and displayed a message on the home screen of the phone.
"Hi. That's my phone you're holding. I left it in a cab. Please call Andrea at (•••) ••• - •••• if you have it. Thanks."
I kept tracking the phone. 34th Street. 42nd Street. 59th Street. 63rd Street. 84th street.
An hour passed.
Another hour passed.
No one called.
I finally gave up, erased the phone remotely, and filed a claim with 311, hoping it would show up at one of the police precincts in the vicinity where I left it.
A day passed.
Another day passed.
Another day passed.
Behold, my beloved 5S was no more.
As it is for many of us, my phone is like an extension of my body. I am never without it. ABC news reports that people unlock their phones 110-150 times a day on average.
That’s 9 times an hour.
I am definitely one of those people.
Here are 5 things I learned while enduring 120 hours sans a significant part of my "anatomy."
1. Walks were more meaningful.
I noticed more around me when I was walking. Sounds, smells, trees, architecture. I realized how little I ever "looked up" in my life since I was usually staring at my phone wherever I was going.
2. I missed some meaningful connections with people.
I'm not one of those people who thinks that phones are evil. In fact, I missed some immediate connections with people. I connected with them eventually, it just took longer. Technology, when used as it should be, actually has the ability to connect us more quickly in meaningful ways.
3. I read more on one topic.
When I had my phone, most of my reading, unless confined to a "study environment" was a frenzied jump from one topic to another. Short snippets of information- a blog entry- a news article- a topic I could begin consuming, then quickly discard within seconds if it didn't hold my interest. During the 5 days I didn't have my phone, I was reminded how good a book about one topic can be when carried around throughout the day and read a chapter at a time.
4. I paid more attention to my kids
I noticed that my daughter and son were more interested in spending time with me than I thought they were. Had this always been the case? Shamefully, yes. I experienced a bit of regret when I realized that they were probably trying to get my attention all the time, but I had my head buried in my phone.
5. The world still turned.
My new phone arrives in the mail today, and you know what? The world is still spinning. Everything is okay. My life didn't collapse without having my phone for the last 120 hours.
I guess I'm not as important as I thought I was, and that is a very good thing.
Like all "tools" in our lives, they have the potential to master us or we can master them. If there was one thing I learned through this experience, it was that my phone had just a touch more control over me than I did over it.
I thought I was going to be informationally stranded for those 120 long hours, but I wasn't. I just had to be more intentional with my time, not having "the world in my pocket."
I actually learned some valuable lessons about my life and saw some things about myself that I didn't see before.
In that respect, I suppose the past 5 days were a gift.