Six days sans cell phone: A tale of survival


I had made it through the awkward tap dance that is airport security. Laptop out, shoes off, jacket off, body scan, what’s that metal showing up on your head? Security guard pat down, oh it’s just a bunch of bobby pins holding up my messy travel topknot.

Grab shoes, laptop and carry on, grip boarding pass in teeth, walk with awkward bare feet to bench, try not to think about germs getting on bottom of feet, sit down to put on shoes and reorganize disheveled backpack. Dig for boarding pass before realizing it’s in my mouth and grab phone to check for time.

Oh hell, where is my phone? Cue vivid memory of the phone falling between the seats in my sister’s car as she drove me to the airport. Cue second memory of me completely forgetting to dig out the phone at the drop off.


I’m on the secured side of airport security, and my phone is on the other in a black Infinity cruising away from me at 65 mph. (Well, like 78 mph–my sister is a speed demon.)

My first instinct is to call my sister and tell her to turn around, so I dug around again for my cell phone. (I’m so smart!) Call her on what, exactly? How about a nice stranger’s phone?

So, I speed walk to my gate, trying to keep the panic-induced pit stains from showing, and look around for a friendly face. I select a mid-30s man with a lot of leg tattoos who is playing a game on his phone, figuring he will understand the importance of my missing device. He does and is very kind and accommodating.

But, as I’m about to dial her number I realize I in no way have it memorized. Not even close. In fact, the only two numbers I know are my husband’s and my mom’s. I know my husband won’t answer the phone for a strange number, and I have no time to be screened. But my mom is certain that every strange number is a life-threatening emergency. She’s the better bet.

After a back and forth with my mother, my sister and this kind stranger’s cell phone, we arrive at the reality that there is no way to get my phone back to me before boarding begins.

So, with reality setting in and many thanks and offers to buy coffee for the stranger, I begin to come to terms with a 5-day trip cut off from all technology.

Aside from my laptop . . .
And my iPad . . .
And my friend’s phone once I land in Seattle.

Yeah, I was panicking, and I had my iPad with me. But it’s wifi only! What was I to do when I was outside of a wifi zone? And the iPad is big and cumbersome. It doesn’t fit in my cute purse. And it doesn’t receive all my phone calls or let me text people with out of date phones (like my mom). I really hate the term “first world problems,” but yeah, I was in the middle of a bunch of first world problems.

I was able to text my friend picking me up in Seattle from my iPad. I told her my situation, and that I may not be able to text her immediately when I land due to having to wait to connect to wifi once I get off the plane. In all reality, this set us back, maybe two minutes. Guess what she did? She circled until she saw me waiting for her. I believe this is what our ancestors did at airports in the 1640s.

So, the majority of this post was spent on the first 30 minutes of me realizing I wouldn’t have my phone for five days. Why? Because it turned out to not be a big freaking deal. I enjoyed being detached from the screen. I found myself more tuned in to my conversations with my friend. I only checked my email and Facebook and Twitter twice a day instead of 437. I went five days without talking to my mom and got a break from hearing about family drama. I face timed with my husband in the evenings from the iPad. I used the screen less at night, because the iPad is too heavy to hold in front of my face in bed.

And if you are a careful reader, you will notice the title of this piece says six days sans cell phone, but I mentioned it was a five-day trip. These are both accurate. I was so tired from a four-hour delay in the Denver airport on the way home that I decided to wait for the next day to go get my phone from my sister. Yep. I actively waited an extra day to get the phone back. Sleep trumped my need to get the phone back in my hand.

To be fair, there were drawbacks to a phoneless vacation. I didn’t take all the photos I would have wanted. I had to remember to ask my friend to take some photos on her phone. Also, when we were shopping we had to pay attention to each other and not get separated. I have a terrible sense of direction, and getting lost in a huge Tacoma farmers market was not on my list of tourist accomplishments. I couldn’t send my husband snarky texts all day about hipster beards and the pun-intensive names of all the legal weed stores in the Seattle area.

I can’t say I spent nearly a week outside the digital bubble. I did not. But I spent six days less plugged in than I have been in about 10 years. I lived. I lived well, and I think it was a slightly better version of my life.

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