On October 21 my cell phone died. At first I thought it was just sick and I tried to repair it. I’ll spare you all the gory details. Suffice it to say I spent way too much time on the internet diagnosing the ailment, on my landline phone with 3 different tech support people, and one trip to Best Buy before the illness was confirmed as fatal.

Too bad, but not a deal breaker. I knew I had some old phones around the house which I was ready to resurrect. I am embarrassed to say that I found 6 phones which I had intended to recycle but had not gotten around to it. Of the 6 phones:

  • 4 had no chargers that fit. Since a cell phone is pretty useless without a charger, I dismissed those.
  • 1 could be charged but only with a USB cord which had to be connected to a computer
  • 1 had a charger that worked in a household outlet. Yea! It was an old prepaid TRACFONE. No problem. I figured I’d just call up TRACFONE, reactivate it, and pay for a couple months which would get me to Christmas when I hoped I would be given a new phone. Unfortunately, I was told that TRACFONE had upgraded and my phone would no longer work but they would send me a free new one in 10 days. Since I was leaving town in 4 days and wanted my phone at the airport that wouldn’t work.

Everyone I knew well enough to borrow a phone from couldn’t spare theirs for a week. In the spirit of letting go, I decided to try a Phone Fast. I didn’t expect this to be permanent but I was intrigued to see what it would feel like to be phone-free. After all I survived for over 50 years without a cell phone. (Granted most of those years cell phones were not yet invented.) I wondered what I would learn.

Even though my experience might not be transferable to many people, I wanted to try. For example, my husband and I both have home offices with two landlines. I don’t need to go out much. Also, I would be spending 10 days at a meeting in Rome during which I wouldn’t need a phone plus six day on trips with Jim who had a cell phone. Still that left one work trip and 34 cell phone less days to contend with.

What I learned:

  1. It’s possible, but not easy – Although I had had a smartphone, I’m not a heavy phone user. All I really needed it for was phone calls. I had a small camera to take photos in Rome. I had a travel alarm to wake me up. I had my laptop computer when traveling to get email as long as I could get wifi. The lack of a phone at the airport, however, was a challenge because my arrival flight was delayed and I couldn’t reach my pick-up person. My return flight ended up being cancelled. These incidents caused me some stress, but…
  2. Generosity of strangers – I also relearned to depend on other people. I found fellow travelers to be gracious in letting me make several calls on their cell phones to the people who were meeting me.
  3. Expectations have changed – Once upon a time a missed flight might have meant hours of wandering around an airport looking for someone; or possibly never making the connection. People used to have to make very specific plans about where to meet for dinner, a party, etc. Now we just call when we get near and somebody tells us if the group has moved to a new venue. We don’t have to plan as carefully. But, people also expect you to be reachable.
  4. Inconvenience – I was at the grocery and needed some additional information about a product I planned to get. I couldn’t just call home and ask Jim the details. Another time I was in the car, running late. I couldn’t call my host to explain.
  5. Insecurity – I was surprised that I found myself feeling a little insecure driving to gatherings 30-60 minutes away, especially at night. What if I had car trouble? I’m sure eventually someone would stop and help, but I was used to feeling more secure knowing that I could call for help if needed. 10 years ago I seldom felt this insecurity because I didn’t know there was an option.
  6. Cell phones are more than just for phone calls – Although I could get by with a pocket camera and travel alarm, I forgot that I had come to rely on my phone as a GPS. Back to printing out MapQuest before a trip, or, heaven forbid, actually pulling out a paper map and planning my route. It’s nice to have all these functions in one device rather than carrying around multiple gadgets. I don’t text much but sometimes that’s the least disruptive way to communicate short messages. I like to listen to podcasts on my walks.

Bottom line, I got my Christmas gift early (December 8) since I had learned enough from my Phone Fast and I think the kids were tired of my limited communication and hinting that I was ready for an early Christmas gift. If a Luddite like me has come to depend on a smart phone, I guess the times they are a changin’.

How long could you go without a phone? What electronic device would you least like to break, lose, or fast from for awhile? Why?