tfw: You Leave Your Phone At Home

tfw is a mini personal essay series I’m try to do on Tuesdays to recount second-person experiences of feelings and experiences we all have. Or maybe I’m the only one who has them?

You’re halfway to your destination. Be it work or dinner or a friend’s house, you’re halfway and you notice that you don’t have your phone. How did that happen? You’re too close to turn around and risk being late so you charge forward, with your laptop, knowing that any message you get on your phone, you will get on your computer. Will you be okay without your phone? You probably will.

You’re initially stressed. You feel like an interloper, like an outsider posing as an insider. You’re malformed but posing as normal. You are the phoneless. You see people around you taking out their mobiles and checking things and you, with paper and pen, doodle. How quaint. People call you into rooms—coworkers, friends, relatives—and you oblige but have an underlying fear that they’ll need you to summon your device to do something. Why would they need you to do that if they have their phone? This shouldn’t be a problem but you feel defenseless. There’s a knee shaking jitter of listlessness too: how do you occupy yourself without your phone? What are you even doing with yourself?

But there’s also an underline of relief. You feel unencumbered and liberated: that small steel pocket square is gone. You can text or not text, email or not email, Instagram or not Instagram as much as you like (or don’t like). You are without that which binds you—and that is usually a phone. The little warden has taken the day off. Yes, you lose track of emails and are not as timely as you “need” to be but there is a sense that you gamed the system, that your leaving your phone at home was a form of therapy that will make others coo, jealously. It’s like a snow day or a power outage: there is nothing you can do about it unless you were to start your day all over gain.

If this were a futuristic science fiction movie, you would be the rebellious spiritualist in robes who comes with a message of relief. “You don’t have to take your phone everywhere,” you finish with a stamp of your staff. “Back—ten, fifteen years ago—people left their phones at home. Even mobile phones: they were left in bags and cars and rooms, for hours and days. No one had them on them at all times. You can do that again. You can leave your phone at home. You don’t have to take a week long unplugging sabbatical, basking in your ridiculous assholery, but you can forget your phone at home. The effects are similarly enriching.”

The thing with leaving your phone at home is that you are both enlightened and endarkened: in some ways, the fog of information has lifted and, in some ways, a different fog has rolled in, leaving you behind. Do you need to always have that little computer on your person? Yes and no. Maybe leave it in the bag? Maybe leave it on that table? Maybe leave it at home? Maybe leave it off for a day? You are not that important that you have to be sitting aside, waiting for “that call.” Don’t humor yourself.

Instead, indulge in that release, that letting go, that nothingness: leave your phone at home.

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