The Accidental Unplug

Due to a billing glitch, I’ve been without a cell phone for the last several days. I had no idea how dependent on that stupid little hand-held electronic gadget I’d become.

It takes me back to, oh, 1980 or so, when microwave ovens started becoming very popular. “Who on earth needs one of those?” I said. I didn’t get one until after my son was born in 1988, and even then I was scared to heat his bottles in it because of some story I’d heard somewhere about radiation or exoplanetary death rays or something. Now, of course, it would be difficult to live without a microwave. I almost did, back when I took my kids and left the Troll, taking few kitchen implements and little money, but my mom showed up at the doorstep of my new apartment with several bags of badly needed groceries, cleaning supplies, and — ta-daah! — a microwave oven. Moms, keeping us clean, fed, and civilized, since forever.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m seeing all these cool people with their cell phones, on their hips in holsters, like six-shooters. “Good lord, no,” I said, more than once. I don’t like talking on the phone and will avoid it even when I’m stuck in the same room with one; why in hell do I want one everywhere I go? When I got my very first apartment, I didn’t have a phone, because the phone company wanted an outrageous deposit even though I worked for them. I didn’t care, but my mother was appalled. “What if a rapist breaks in? How will you call the police?” Umm right, Mom. I’m sure the rapist will stop and let me call the police, then rape me. Maybe I can hit him over the head with the phone. Whatever. Mom gave me the money for the deposit, I got a phone, and my world has seldom been entirely quiet since.

It looked exactly like this. Exactly. Even the color. It was usually unplugged. If people really wanted to talk to me, they could come over. Yes, I am an introvert. No, I never had to hit a burglar over the head with it, although I did throw it at a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend once.

Public Domain.

And eventually, like pretty much everyone I know, I gave in to the cell phone. The whole shebang, with music and the ‘net and a picture of the French raspberry tart I’m having for dessert and apps for every damn thing you can think of. I succumbed.

Just how far, I had not known.

So here I am, these last few days. No cell service. No checking email. No balance alerts from my bank. No playing Dumb Ways To Die while waiting for the bus. No Metro app, or plugging into Pandora to shut out the obnoxious drunk three rows behind me. No online Washington Post. No texting Monster when we’re both supposed to be working. No texting Dream Girl about what she wants for dinner and why she has to, for a few months more at least, consider finding x to be one of life’s most important missions. No graphing calculator website. No setting appointments and reminder alarms. No texts from the Tominator reminding me that I’m gawjuss. No writing flash fiction. No looking up microwave ovens on Google to see if they transmit radiation into baby bottles. No reserving books at the library, or putting my book down to look up an unfamiliar word or term. And if it weren’t for the small screen and my getting-old eyes, I’d read books on my phone too.

Just about the only thing I don’t do with my phone is talk. Some things don’t change.

Still. It’s a monster.

I’m maintaining well, all things considered. We switched from monthly plans for three different lines to a family plan, and the company ignored the two weeks we’d already prepaid and moved our payment due date up, but didn’t tell us any of that. Surprise, no phone! Yes, the Tominator talked to the nice woman at the local provider store (because the rep at 1-800-WE-SUCK cared not a whit) and got us the credit we deserve. But there’s all that inconvenience, all that missed communication, all that withdrawal. A credit, yes, thank you so much for the credit, but what about these days I’ve had to slog through with no phone? You can’t give that back to me!

Wait…give what back?

Well, instead of playing Zombie Highway at the Metro stop, I looked around at the trees and the morning sky and the moon, hanging low and fading. I closed my eyes and listened to the birds chirping. Instead of writing flash fiction in Google Docs, I wrote in a notebook, with a pen, and laughed because it felt like I was trying to draw hieroglyphs. I left the Tominator a note with x’s and o’s, instead of sending a text with a heart emoji. I read a real book, that smelled like binding glue and dusty paper and had that wondrous, solid, secret, book feel in my hands. OK, I do that a lot anyway, but still. It felt so 2005, you know? I checked email on my laptop at home. I didn’t read the news at all, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much. I know the world didn’t end; it’s right there, outside my window. I didn’t see one word about Kim Kardashian anywhere. I feel lighter of heart.

Tomorrow is payday, and I should have my phone back in service.


But I do need to call my mom.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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