On The Grid

While I may be wildly behind the curve, I got my first smart phone this weekend.

It’s the third cell phone I’ve ever owned, having acquired the first some 13 years ago. That gives my phones an average lifespan of 6.5 years. Not bad.

Believe it or not, I actually like to be an early adopter of technology, just not, I suppose, technology you have to pay for.

I would have gotten a smart phone years ago if it was cheaper or if it was free.

But the cost of a phone plus the long-term cost of a data plan was enough to deter me. Not paying for a smart phone was part of my retirement plan, I used to say.

But now I’m on the grid. And while it’s creepy that my phone knows where it is at all times, and while it’s creepy that Siri refuses to tell me if she’s self-aware or alive, it’s also pretty cool.

But before I start to live off my phone – as I inevitably will – I thought I’d record here, for posterity, some of the non-smart phone habits I’ve developed over the years. I hope to hang on to some of these, but it will certainly be interesting to look back in a couple of years.

When I’m going somewhere, I look up all the directions in advance. I write down address, bus times, turn-by-turn directions, and sometimes print maps. When I really don’t know where I’m going, I Google-street view my destination before leaving the house.

If I leave the house having neglected to do any of the above steps, I just figure it out. This happens quite frequently, actually. I may have given a quick glance at a map or vaguely thought about how to get somewhere, but a lot of the time I’m just wandering around thinking, “Meh, this looks right?”

It’s quite the adventure.

I bring a book with me everywhere. I developed this habit as a child since my father always aimed to arrive somewhere 30 minutes early. That lead to a lot of down time. Better bring a book.

If, for some reason, I’ve neglected to bring a book with me, I am content to just sit and stare off into the distance, listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, or watch passers-by.

If I’m feeling a particular anxious need to be productive, I might make a to-do list. After all, I always carry a small note book as well.

Those quiet moments can also be a good opportunity to call my family in other time zones. It wasn’t smart, but my phone still worked as a phone, you know.

And finally, before I had a smart phone I was generally unreachable if I wasn’t at my desk. People could always call me, of course, but that’s not the medium for most of my social interactions.

It’s all email and Facebook and Twitter, it’s through social media that I am most connected with the world. And I didn’t have those things when I was out in the world.

Whether it was during my 30 minute walk to work or during an afternoon running errands around town, I had time to myself. Time alone and unbombarded by the the information all around me.

I spend such little time away from a computer that down time can be precious.

Sometimes it’s nice to not have what you need at your finger tips.

I wonder if I’ll remember that.

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