I don’t think I ever realized how easy it is to become addicted to something….and I do mean downright dependent on something…until I was suddenly faced with having to deal with the loss of it. My wife and I were headed out to dinner last night (night before last when this posts) and we had gone about seven miles up the road when she suddenly realized that she had left the house without her iPhone and had no way to look up the answer to a question my son had posed to her. As soon as she said it, I remembered that I had stuck my own iPhone in the charger at the house and I didn’t remember taking it out before we left. A quick side check and I immediately knew that I too was disconnected from the world around me.
After a moment of panic and a short discussion about whether we should turn around and go back to the house, we decided to soldier on incommunicado. I mean, after all, we had lived for years without smartphones hadn’t we? Our society functioned well for over three millennia before the cell phone and its offspring, the smartphone, invaded our world and in that time we had managed to survive the Spanish Inquisition, a Revolution, two World Wars and Watergate, not to mention a few hundred Georgia summers and still managed to send twelve men to the moon, something we can’t even do today. Surely we could survive a couple of hours without beeping, chirping and buzzing distractions and hey, we did have OnStar if something bad happened.
Easier said than done. We arrived at the Olive Garden and fortunately got seats in the bar area without having to wait which is a good thing if you don’t have a phone to read while you are waiting. We sat down and of course, the first thing I did was reach for my phone so I could check us in on Facebook and let the world know we were having Italian for dinner. An empty phone wallet was all I found, making me question why I hadn’t left it in the car since it was empty. I suppose it was something of a comfort to feel it there even if it was empty; just a slight reassurance that it wasn’t permanently absent but rather just off on a short vacation. I wrote where we were on a cocktail napkin and left it on the bar so I would feel some semblance of normalcy.
All wasn’t well with my wife either. She couldn’t Google stuff and she doesn’t like not knowing what something is and a biographical sketch to go with it. I noticed a liquor at the bar I had never seen before and asked her what it was and of course, she started for her phone and then stopped herself, remembering she couldn’t do that. I guess we could have actually asked the server what it was but I wasn’t about to admit to my dependency on the knowledge of others to answer my questions so we just made an assumption what it was and what drink it might be used in and left it at that. Our imagination slowly stirred and looked around, wondering who had awoken it from its long nap. We actually had conversation about something and speculated on it rather than going for instant gratification and more useless knowledge to cram in our already overburdened brains. The fact that I even remember the topic is proof alone that the absence of the iPhone made a difference because I likely would have never thought about it again once I learned what I wanted to know.
When it came time to pay the bill, I had to think about the tip amount before I wrote it on the receipt. There was no app to guide me through it (ok, I’m stretching a bit here; I always figure that myself but the fact that there are apps available that do that tell me that some would have been wading in deep water at this point). We paid the bill and a short time later, found ourselves in Target to pick up a few needed items….items I had put into my “To Do” list on the iPhone of course. We split up to take care of our individual shopping and I wandered around in the Gillette aisle trying to remember what the exact version of the twenty different varieties of razor blades I needed was. I finally settled on orange. Did I need toothpaste or a toothbrush? Better get both to be safe…and so this went on that way.
I found a bottle of wine that my wife had tried at dinner a few weeks earlier but wasn’t exactly sure it was the right kind. When she wheeled by with the cart, I asked her if it was the right one and she said “hold on, I took a picture of the label” as she reached for…..nothing of course. At least I remembered to pick up our son’s vitamins without help…and so did she so he has enough vitamins to last him a while now.
Our last stop was to look at patio furniture. Usually when we look for stuff like that, my wife already has several items saved in her iPhone so that she can find the items easily or ask about them if they aren’t on the floor. She also likes to read the ratings on something before she buys it to make sure it is A) easy to put together, B) easy to operate and C) will survive the rigors of family life. That would have to wait for another time as all we had to go on were the flyers she pulled off various pieces to take with her when we left. We were hopeless so we just flopped down on one set and sat there in the store watching people go by talking on their cells phones, punching buttons and stealing the occasional glance at the poor phone-less family sitting on the patio furniture in the middle of the store. I thought about firing up the grill and putting up a sign that said “Will cook for information”.
Leaving the store, we decided to run through Starbucks on our way home, an experience I dread because my wife has been feeding another addiction since discovering the Chai Tea Latte, a drink she loves which happens to be called something that I can’t remember how to say. You know how some things just cause your brain to freeze up, resulting in vocabulary snafu between what the brain thinks and what comes out of the mouth. This happens to me every time I have to order that drink. It’s bad enough that you can’t order in terms of “Small, Medium or Large” but rather, “Tall, Grande and Venti”. This is almost as stupid as Wendy’s inventing a new word by calling their large fries a “Biggie” which goes against everything my English teachers labored to teach me.
Since she discovered this drink, I have called it everything at the drive through from Tai Chi, Tai Chi Lottie, Chi Tea Laddie and a variety of other abominations. Add in the size and you might get a “Biggie Tai Chi Lotto” or something worse. For a wordsmith such as myself, these are not the best of times at all. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to the window and, for the first time ever, recited the words “Venti Chai Tea Latte” perfectly without hesitation. My family clapped to the confusion of the barista (that’s the person who makes the coffee in case you don’t have your iPhone close at hand) and I have to wonder now whether or not all that Googling, Tweeting, Facebooking, texting and emailing I usually engage in on these trips had addled my brain. Maybe having nothing for my brain to do but actually exercise itself had finally provided the neurological Liquid Plumber I needed to get the information through properly.
What I did enjoy about the evening was that I didn’t have to answer any calls or check any emails and we actually had conversation about stuff we didn’t know and a few laughs along the way. Maybe that was the message we needed to hear. We got by without them forever…maybe we need to learn how to use our brain, flex our memory, enjoy our own company and know that the information world will still be there when we get back to it. Meanwhile, my iPhone is beeping to tell me that it is time for MadMen to come on. Until next time, have a great week!