I cannot say that I set out to do this, so this isn't really a treatise on the wonders and joys of living phoneless. I would be a phoney if I sat here, in this lovely hotel room in New York City, and told you that my life is infinitely improved without my handheld electronic device. But I will tell you this, and it might give you hope: I haven't had a cell phone for a little over a week now and I'm still alive.
As far as I can tell, everyone I know and love is just fine, too. My parents, who don't use cell phones anyway, are in California right now celebrating my brother, Steve's, 40th birthday. Happy birthday to one of the great loves of my life! Steven Paul O'Brien! I still recall vividly being allowed, on the day Steve was born, to leave my sixth grade classroom and walk to the office to talk to Dad, who let me know that Mom had had a boy. I was a little glum about that, but got over it quickly and have adored my little brother ever since.
Mom and Dad are fine, in California. Sam, as far as I can tell, will be going to classes later today, in Lake Tahoe. Then skiing, no doubt. Dad and Steve and Zippy, as I call my little nephew, will all be heading there to ski with him tomorrow. Boy I wish I could see that — three generations of O'Brien boys, skiing together. That's a dream, for me. Sam will send me photos, not to the phone I no longer have, but to my email, which I can access on either the tablet I have to use for work or my laptop, or to the iMessage app I can use on my laptop.
Mom and Dad: doing well.
Sam: a good student and poetry in motion on skis.
Nate: ditto. Alive and well in Montana.
And so on down the line. I've been in touch with everyone I need to be in touch with in the past 24 hours because, as I mentioned, I have a laptop and a tablet and, also, a landline. I am not, by any means, out of touch. Not much has changed, other than I am no longer compulsively checking my phone all day long.
And that's, actually, pretty great.
Here's the backstory: in November I got the long-awaited...dun dun dun...upgrade! And became the proud carrier of a new and improved (debatable) iPhone. I've had iPhones for years. I've always been one to explore new technology, but I've also always been the one to ask critical questions: is this thing making our lives better? I will admit, though, that I've gotten a little lazy since I had that first Apple Macintosh Classic back in...argh! 1991? Is that even possible? Year after year I watched as teachers everywhere jumped on the technology bandwagon, swallowing without debate the notion that kids HAD to have computers in order to learn.
They don't. Kids learn best by doing. Kids learn best by using their hands, by exploring their world, by reading books and taking things apart and creating things and talking to experts. Kids learn best by doing what kids do best: being curious and then following the trail of their curiosity.
Another digression! It must be this city energy.
So...I upgraded and then a few weeks later that little phone reached a premature demise in a tragic backseat of the car/pair of skis incident. We won't name any names. I will say, however, that the skis were made by my son Nate, with our friend Cyrus Schenck, who is doing one of the coolest things I know and you can read about it here. I love those skis; I watched Nate build them from the bottom up. I didn't love my phone, which made l'accident a little easier to swallow.
I reactivated my old iPhone and that lasted for a few days until I woke up one morning and it simply would not power on. I know the feeling.
For a few days I debated what to do. I checked all of our old and battered phones and none were usable. I spoke with Verizon about my options and they, too, were useless. I wondered if I was missing any important calls or texts.
I wondered what it would be like to be in New York for four days without a phone. The city, as it turns out, doesn't seem to care. The kind gentleman at the front desk printed directions to the restaurant we wanted to try. Paper! I've always been a fan. The person we have to meet today has stayed in touch, via email. When we had a question, we picked up the phone and called the concierge. It's the funniest thing, how helpful humans are.
Here is another thing that happened: a few days ago there was some confusion between me and one of the women who works in the office for the hospice organization I serve. So I drove a few minutes out of the way and stopped in to talk with her. Face to face. We got it all straightened out and I got to see the great shirt she was wearing and her beautiful smile.
Also, a woman I had never met reached out to me, via Facebook, to ask what it was like to publish a book. She had a project simmering and wanted some advice. We got together on Sunday afternoon and we laughed and we swore and we told secrets and we talked about our kids and grandkids and our accomplishments and our projects. She makes some of the most beautiful jewelry I have ever seen. And now we are friends. Real friends, actual friends. I can't wait to go to her studio to design the ring of my dreams and I will keep prodding her until she makes the book she needs to make.
I live in a place where there is no cell reception, and so a landline has been a necessity. This is not a soapbox moment for me; I am not a wailing Luddite imploring the world to return to a simpler, less-technology-drenched existence. I will tell you this though: it's really nice to be with people. To be together, to come together, to talk in person, to touch. I love the sound of peoples' voices, I love the human face. I love being hugged.
I don't know. It's nice not having a phone. I'm going to leave it like this for as long as I can. If you need me, you can find me here, just click on the Holler link. I'll be at 132 W. 27th Street in New York, until Thursday, then I'll be back home in Vermont and the door is always open there. You can find me at the Pawlet Community Church on Sunday mornings. My landline is the greatest number in town and you can find me in the Manchester And The Mountains phone book. Stay in touch. If I'm not returning your texts, it's not because I don't love you, they're in the Cloud and I can't see them. Maybe they will rain down on me while I'm out walking today!
Have a beautiful day. Amen.