Archived Story

Living without a cellphone

Published 2:31pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

I’ve been doing something really old-fashioned lately: waiting on the postman.

Or in my case, the postwoman.

Two weeks ago, I tried packing in the dark so I could leave a hotel room in Germany at 4:30 in the morning without waking my son Christopher. I did a really good job with one exception – I left my cell phone.

I figured it out at about 30 minutes later when sent iPad text messages to Christopher back in the hotel and my wife, Mary Lyman, who was back in Alexander City, letting them know that I would be out of touch and asking Christopher to please mail the phone back to me in Alabama.

For a brief moment, I thought about taking a taxi back to the hotel and racing back in time to make the flight, but I chickened out.

So for the better part of two weeks now, I’ve been without a cell phone.

For someone who is dependent on a smartphone, it’s been amazingly easy, even pleasant. I’ve had time to plant my garden, work in the yard, cook more … all without the constant interruption of phone calls, text messages, meeting alarms, What’s App notices (our family’s personal Facebook) and most of all, the ability to constantly check emails.

Although I’m sure some people get even more, my email volume is borderline out of control. Friday I had 86 emails before 3:15 p.m. – I counted them. And that’s without counting all those where I typed back and forth with somebody, which would probably send the number up above 100. Fridays are generally slow days. I’ve received more than 300 emails on a Tuesday.

The problem is that in the newspaper business, lots of people and companies who I don’t know send in press releases, requests, news tips, letters to the editor … as well as the normal business emails and discount offers on Victoria’s Secret miracle push-up bras. So I can’t mark nearly as many senders as “junk” as I could if I was working in another business. I guess I could mark Victoria’s Secret as junk, but I don’t really want to.

So my smartphone stays very busy.

After 12 days without a smartphone, I’ve been surprised at what I have missed the most.

- Contacts – It’s amazing how many phone numbers I don’t know by heart. It’s easy to borrow somebody’s cell phone, but if you don’t know the cell number of the person you want to call – like your son – there’s no reason to bum a phone.

-  Weather forecast – I look at this at least once a day, sometimes more.

-  Telephone – One for actually making phone calls when you’re not sitting beside a landline.

-  Calculator – I use this all the time.

-  Digital recorder – I use this all the time, too.

-  Webster’s Dictionary – It’s easier to use the phone than spell check on a computer.

-  The ability to Google for reference – I’ve been stymied a number of times when I wanted to learn something and couldn’t.

-  Alarm clock – I almost missed the BRHS senior class photo at 7:15 Friday morning because the alarm wasn’t around to wake me. Of course, I could have used another alarm clock, but I just don’t think about that anymore.

Here’s something else I’ve learned: when I’ve told folks I don’t have a cell phone, I’ve gotten two very distinct reactions. People my age and older say, “I bet that’s nice.” People in their 20s get a horrified look on their face and say something like, “Oh my God! What are you going to do?”

The answer is easy – I function just like I have for most of my life when there were no cell phones. And I keep an eye out for the postwoman’s truck to come down the street at lunchtime.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.