I’m motoring along US-202 in New Jersey, heading southwest to NAMZ Custom Cycle Products for an install project on my 2000 FXD. I’m about 45 miles into the ride, mentally checking over the parts I’ve brought with me, when I’m suddenly hit with a horrible realization. My hand comes down to touch the left pocket of my jacket where I always keep my phone… and it isn’t there. An image pops into my mind—there’s my LG G3, exactly where I left it. On the nightstand, still plugged into the charger.
I can feel the blood drain from my face and the panic bubble up to my throat. As if to match my state of mind, the weather quickly changes from a sunny 50 degrees to a cloud-covered, wind-blown 45. My instinct is to turn around and go back home to retrieve the phone. But that’s ridiculous. I’d already gotten a late start and I’m supposed to be at NAMZ at 9:00 a.m.
Panic settles into anxiety as I think about all the things that could go wrong. What if I’m really late? I can’t call Jeff to let him know. His phone numbers are stored in my phone. Do gas stations still have pay phones? Does 411 still work? I’ve not used either in years.
Meanwhile, I’m paying absolutely no attention to the splendid fall foliage that adorns the trees on either side of the road. Suddenly the sun comes out and the wind calms down and I begin to notice the brilliant reds and yellows and oranges. I realize I’ve been in my own head for nearly the entire journey. Talk about self-obsession. I try to enjoy this beautiful ride and make peace with the notion that I am not going to have access to my phone all day.
After I cross the Delaware in Pennsylvania the route gets slightly more complicated. What if I get lost? I’d already printed the route on paper and placed it in a map pocket that’s resting on the gas tank, but what if the directions are wrong? What will I do if I make a wrong turn? The GPS app I would normally use is in my phone. The anxiety starts creeping back.
Fortunately I find my way to NAMZ and there’s Jeff, waiting to let my bike and me into the shop in back. When I get off the bike I immediately reach for my phone to check for e-mails and texts and Facebook messages, but of course it isn’t there. Now the bike is up on the lift and Jeff and I enter into deep discussion about what needs to be done, how, and why. As he works, I resist the impulse to distract myself and just sit there watching him. The world slows down. I’m fully present, and stay that way for the entire six or seven hours we’re in the shop.
Project completed, I head back home. By the time I cross back over the Delaware into New Jersey, it’s the golden hour and the sun is casting a spectacular glow against the tree leaves. It’s dark when I get home, and the first thing I do is run to the bedroom to retrieve my phone. Nothing happened. No messages, no voicemails, no texts. Maybe the world can live without me after all.
I wish I could end the story here with a pithy proclamation about how I’ve learned my lesson and no longer live with my phone attached to my left hand while my right hand hunts and pecks a response to some inane Facebook post. But sad to say, by the next morning, I’m already back in full smartphone mode. I realize I’m as addicted to my phone as I’ve ever been to any drink or drug. Except the phone addiction is more insidious. With drugs and alcohol, I’ve abstained completely. How does one abstain from using the phone? Apparently moderation is not in this addict’s vocabulary.
As I’m checking Facebook, I see a post for a product that intrigues me. It’s called the NoPhone, and is a rectangular block of plastic that’s shaped like an iPhone 5, but has absolutely no features. In other words, it does nothing. It does, however, have grooves and bumps to mimic an outlet, camera, home button and volume slider, as well as a NoPhone imprint on the “case.”
The website claims that the NoPhone “works like technological methadone, satisfying a user’s addiction to the familiar shape and weight of the real thing.” Company co-founder Van Gould says that the NoPhone is a satirical comment on our device-obsessed culture. I place my order immediately. So what if it was listed #1 among the top 10 most useless inventions of 2015? It’s only $10 plus $2 shipping, a lot cheaper than therapy or rehab.
My NoPhone arrives and I immediately put it into play. I stuff it in my back pocket and occasionally sneak a hand back there for a satisfied pat. I see how well it fits in my jacket pocket. I leave it on the coffee table while I’m watching TV and during commercials, I pick it up and tap the blank plastic “screen,” pretending to check e-mails. Steve shakes his head and doesn’t say a word. Then I see another NoPhone post. The company will soon offer the NoPhone Zero, an even more stripped-down version devoid of any markings, slots or other features that would identify it as a (fake) phone.
I have to have one. I go to the website and see even more products. There’s a NoPhone Selfie which includes a NoPhone and a reflective stick-on selfie. I want one of those too. Wait! There’s a couples cure (two NoPhones). And a family plan. Brilliant.