The other morning my husband Randy did something so unexpected, so out of the blue, so sudden, so surprising, I gasped in sputtering disbelief. “It’s for your own good,” he said as I stood there, blinking back tears. I never thought I’d see this behavior in my spouse of 37 years.
Yes, Randy snatched away my cell phone. “You’re always in your own world, Laurie. You’re addicted to screens. You don’t hear half of what I say.”
I stared in disbelief. “That’s not true. Wait…I’m sorry…what?”
He pocketed the device with an irritating knowingness. “Exactly. I dare you to go without your phone or laptop for half a day. If I’m wrong, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
I tried to appear nonchalant, but inwardly I panicked. How would I check my latest Facebook post? Or Twitter feed?
How would I know the weather forecast? News? Stocks? Mail? How would I listen to music or view the latest Eckhart Tolle video?
How would I play Words with Friends or see the latest cute puppy meme?
What would happen if — God forbid — I wanted to drive somewhere without my cell phone? What if my car broke down and I had to ring a stranger’s doorbell?
I took deep breaths. I can do this, I told myself. Since this was Saturday, I could go without writing and the laptop. But go without the phone? Good God.
Over the next few hours, I drifted around the house and wondered what we did before cell phones. How did we all exist? What did we do with our time? I honestly couldn’t remember.
But then a few more hours passed and something strange happened.
I took my daily walk. Instead of looking down constantly at my phone to put another song on my I-Pod or see how many steps I’d taken, I actually looked around. I saw how the light seemed brighter and stronger than usual. Something had shifted with the earth. I saw how beautiful the leafy tree branches looked against the blue sky.
I cleaned my house without stopping every few minutes because my cell phone “pinged” with the latest notification. I felt more focused and in the moment.
As more time passed, I realized Randy was right. I do spend too much time gazing at my phone. Without it, I felt lighter, not so tethered to the world and its problems. My ego didn’t base its worth on how many “likes” or “retweets” or “pins” I had.
Later that night, Randy and I went out to dinner. He had given me back the phone by then, but I had gotten used to it not being there. There were no furtive glances to check headlines as Randy looked at the menu. There was no diving in and reading texts and emails while he went off to use the restroom.
Out of habit, Randy had the waiter take our picture and posted it to Facebook.
A few minutes later, he picked up his phone to see if people were starting to respond. I took the device from his hand. “What’s good for me is good for you,” I told him.
He gazed in confusion. “But I need to check how many likes we have!”
I smiled. “You were right about the cell phone, but that goes for both of us. Remember in the old days, we used to just, er, talk?”
Like two scientists on an archeological dig, we tried to remember those ancient times, before children, when it was just us. Like a conversational high-wire act, we conversed back then without a safety net. We entertained each other. We didn’t have devices sitting there — distracting and diverting us with their seductive siren song. Come see what I have to show you. You can have the world at your fingertips. All you have to do is pick me up.
I looked at Randy and a strange idea dawned. “Do you think we can have a meal without any smart phone usage?”
His eyes became determined. “I believe we can.”
I felt like Thelma and Louise about to drive off the cliff. I took his hand. “We can do this.”
He squeezed back. “Let’s go for it.”
He slipped his phone back into his pocket.
Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, CT. Her blog, “Musings, Rants & Scribbles” shares thoughts on growing up, growing older, and (hopefully) growing wiser. She draws inspiration from her poor, unsuspecting husband of several decades, two grown sons, family, and friends (including the furry ones). You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.