Mindfulness, Productivity

A Recount of my Terrifying Experience Accidentally Leaving my Phone at Home

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare. (#throwbackthursday to Goosebumps nostalgia)

It was a dreary Friday morning, the sun just peaking over the horizon. Through half open eyes I filled my coffee mug, threw my toothbrush in my bag and with a last quick glance around our condo, we locked the door and hit the road.

We were off on a 4 day ski trip in the interior of B.C. About an hour in to the drive, we pulled in to a gas station for a refuel. “Time for a podcast,” I eagerly thought, as I had downloaded a bunch the night before. But when I opened the back door to retrieve my phone, a horrifying realization swept over me.

I had forgotten my phone on the kitchen table.  **cue ‘The Shining” sound board.

I think I went through all seven stages of grief in a span of 20 minutes.

First it was shock, “aghh how did I forget it!?” followed shortly by pain, anger, and depression.  Then came a wave of worrying, and irrational thoughts like “what if someone texts me and I don’t get back to them in 4 days they’ll think I’m a horrible person!” and “what if there’s an emergency at work and they can’t reach me? My whole career could be in jeopardy!”

But after I came to grips with my situation, there was an upward turn into the final stages acceptance and hope. “I know this is good for me. I’m spending the weekend with friends and family, what on my phone could possibly be more important?”

This resembles the irrational panic of a 2-pack-a-day smoker running out of cigarettes, or a compulsive gambler who’s just arrived at the Casino that’s closed for repair. It’s a sure sign of a deep, persistent addiction.

The crazy thing is that I even consider myself way below average on the cell phone dependence scale. I don’t have Instagram or Facebook, I typically leave my phone in the car when I’m out for dinner, and I consider texting to be a horrendously inefficient means of having a conversation.

But there I was at a highway gas station, feeling suddenly naked, and seriously considering the pros and cons of a 2 hour round-trip back home to grab my phone.

I’m happy to report that I did in fact survive the trip.

In fact, once I hit that ‘acceptance’ stage, I was excited to have a phone-free challenge. And when we got home, my friendships and career were unsurprisingly still very much intact.

But it truly freaked me out that I had such an acute emotional response to forgetting my phone.

It falls right in line with a fear I have that our screen addiction, coupled with the not-so-distant takeover of autonomous vehicles, is collectively steering us towards a Wall-e dystopia of a severely obese population riding around in self-driving scooters with screens propped in front of our faces.

Is Wall-E actually a documentary about the future?

That’s it. I’m going on the cell phone patch.

Adam Alter, a professor of business and psychology has researched the impact of screen time on our happiness (spoiler: it’s not great). And in his 9 minute TED talk he provides some recommendations on what to do about it.

In his talk, Adam says “when I first putting my phone away I struggled. But what happens is, you get used to it. You overcome the withdrawal the same way you would from a drug, and what happens is, life becomes more colorful, richer, more interesting — you have better conversations. You really connect with the people who are there with you.”

He suggests establishing cues in your daily routine where the phone goes away. Far away. His personal rule is that he stashes his phone away any time he’s at the table. And that doesn’t mean in your pocket, or within reach. He says we’re terrible at resisting temptation.

I’m going to make my own cues. If I’m with people, the phone should be gone. If I’m outside in nature it’s in airplane mode (camera only).

And on my next vacation, it should stay on the table at home like it did last time.

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