One morning not too long ago, I was standing in the kitchen of the Folger Guest House in Washington, DC, speaking to one of the founders of the Folger Consort about technology. He was lamenting about how we were all tethered to our electronic devices.
“I do like to play on my iPhone, but I can manage without it,” I bragged. I was old enough to remember the days when we weren’t connected to one another 24/7, after all. “I do enjoy the convenience of technology, but I do actually have the real world skills to get around without it.”
He chuckled. “You can quit any time you want, right?”
“Kind of.” I gave him a wry smile. I never considered myself an addict, but I sure was using an addict’s vocabulary.
Loki must have heard me, because not one week later, my phone fell out of my back pocket as I was pulling my pants down in the bathroom and landed with a loud pllllunk! in the toilet.
I stared at the underwater phone for a second or two in disbelief. Did I just…? That can’t be…but I didn’t…aaaaghhhh! My preciousssss!
With only a cursory look to make sure the toilet was relatively clean — the water was clean, at least — I plunged my hand into the toilet and fished the phone out. It was still on! I turned it off and wiped it off as best I could.
I knew the first thing I should do was to put the phone in some sort of desiccant (the Internet told me rice or silica gel works well). Unfortunately, I was in the theater getting ready to go on stage, so I had to wait for two whole hours before obtaining a bag of rice and dumping the still-damp device inside.
I then rushed off to Facebook to bemoan my fate. I couldn’t have gotten more sympathy from my friends if I had gotten into a celebrity fender bender…although, to be fair, the iPhone is probably a bigger celebrity than any human I might have bumped into on the street.
So there I was, phoneless in a strange city, and I still had a couple days before I was to head back home. My room did have a land line, but when my husband tried to call me on it, the phone never rang, going straight to voicemail. And I wasn’t planning on returning straight home after my last concert either; I was supposed to go to a friend’s house in Baltimore for dinner, spend the night, then continue back to New Jersey the next morning.
I had already boasted that I could survive without my phone; now was my chance to prove it. So I didn’t have a GPS device or a map of DC or Maryland, or directions on how to get to my friend’s house; what I did have was the Internet (at least before I got on the road) and my brain. I grew up in a time before cell phones or GPS, and I had learned how to navigate on my own. Besides, humans have been navigating the globe without electronics for millennia. I could do this.
After my final concert, I packed up my bags, wrote out all the turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps, studied the maps carefully, then got in my car and started driving. I managed to get onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway just fine, but I missed the first exit on the direction, having stayed in the left lane instead of the right. I had to turn around, but once I turned around, it was almost impossible to get onto the road I wanted. My handwritten directions said “MD-201” but didn’t indicate north or south, and I was given a choice of two exits. Baltimore is north of DC, I reasoned, so I should go on 201 North.
Boy, was I wrong.
Because I had turned around, I had accidentally gotten onto a different interchange. I was on MD-201 North, for sure, but where my directions told me that it would quickly turn into MD-295 North, that junction had happened a few miles south of where I had gotten onto 201. So I traveled north on 201 for about 40 minutes, driving further and further into a rural area, until 201 abruptly disappeared and the road turned sharply into a residential community. I turned around.
Frantically, I began coming up with solutions to my problem. I was lost, for sure, and the sun had just set. Should I go back the way I came, or go all the way to the beginning? No, I had driven too far. Maybe if I could call — no, I had no phone.
No payphones in sight either. It’s been a long time since there were public payphones around.
What I did have was my laptop. If I could find a place that had a wireless connection, I could log on, figure out where I was, and contact my friend, who I am sure was wondering where I was. What were good places to find wifi? My mind ticked off the well-known internet hangouts: Starbucks. Dunkin Donuts. McDonald’s. I kept my eyes peeled for any of those, as well as any other chains that might look promising.
Ahead on the horizon rose the Golden Arches like a shining beacon. “Thank God for McDonald’s!” I shouted triumphantly, all the while wondering if I would ever utter those words again in my life. I entered the restaurant, ordered a coffee (which, by the way, took five minutes for the clearly confused and apathetic workers to pour for me), and sat down with my laptop. My friend had emailed me directions from I-95, but no matter what I did Google Maps could not figure out my location based on the IP address I was using. It was only when I logged on to FourSquare that I was able to figure out which McDonald’s I had stumbled into.
I knew where I-95 was, since I had passed it twice: once on my way north, and again when I had turned around. Success! Using the simple directions my friend had given me, I was able to make it to her house, where she had a nice glass of wine and delicious dinner waiting for me.
It’s been four days now, and my iPhone still has not responded to any of the treatments I’ve administered. Sadly, I think it is time to give up hope, especially since I feel so disconnected without a phone at my side. Have people called me? Have I been getting texts? I have no idea.
It is also time for me to eat a little crow here. I did manage to get around without my iPhone, but only because I happened to have a laptop. So electronics saved the day, rather than merely my brain. And strangely enough, I’m okay with that.
I also know that when the machines take over the world, I will be one of the first in line to serve my robot overlords. Heck, sign me up for a transplant.
I gave kgwaite this prompt: A crack in the wall.
Although I usually use the Prompt Exchange to write fiction, the only story that came to my mind was what happened to me in real life this week. Plus, I haven’t written any bloggy-type posts for a while, so I decided to switch it up. For those of you who follow my fiction, I hope you take a look at some of my other memoir pieces. For those of you who follow my nonfiction, peruse some of my fantastical stories.