How I Killed Mine (Or: My Life Beyond Cellphones)

Today, let us talk about cell phones.

I don’t own a cellphone. Can anyone else claim as much?

A Brief History of Cellphones

The only truly unbreakable cell phone that I have ever had was a Samsung Galaxy S-II.

1

Look how it just stares at you

Now, I want to be very clear about something: I hate this fucking phone. There is no love lost between us. I hated it for the three years that I had it, but during that time, I developed a mentality, which while I think it is responsible led to our mutually assured destruction.

When it came to electronics: until it is broke, I don’t fix it. Meaning if the screen is cracked, but usable, I just keep trucking. So I used that piece of shit every day. It didn’t matter to me that it:

  1. Overheated like a son of a bitch
  2. Died repeatedly throughout the day if I called one person for 15 minutes
  3. Had no data plan
  4. When I got a data plan it couldn’t keep up with the network traffic
  5. And on and on and on….

Every day I got angry at that phone. And every day I hummed it at the ground hoping against hope that it would smash. But, not only wouldn’t the screen crack, but the casing wouldn’t dent or even scratch. I turned it in to a T-Mobile store years later and they were amazed.

Them: “How long have you had this?

Me: “A few years.”

Them: “This looks amazing.”

Me: “I know.”

Them: “You took really good care of this.”

Me: “I really didn’t.”

So one day my phone would turn on to a blank screen. I thought, “OH GOOD. What fresh hell is this?”

I brought it in to a T-Mobile store. They told me that the SIM reader was busted. Somehow it had fried itself. They said it should have outlasted the phone. They asked if I wanted it replaced. I said how much. They said about the cost of the phone.

I started laughing. Maniacally. In a T-Mobile store. The employees looked back and forth at each other worriedly. I laughed. Told them I would like a new phone.

So I got a Galaxy Galaxy Core Prime:

2

You beautiful bastard

And that little guy lasted all of three months. Before the screen shattered. And then I kept using it because…well the screen still worked. Didn’t matter that I was cutting my fingers on it. I could still use it, so I kept using it.

Finally, when it got too severe I did get it fixed. But, that pattern repeated itself probably two or three times. It would shatter within a month and then I would continue to use it until it “broke” and then I would get it replaced.

One time it broke when I was playing PokemonGo. I was walking on cement trying to get a signal. It fell. I blamed myself. One time I tried filming myself hula hooping because I wanted to look cool for social media. I knocked the phone clean out of my hand. It shattered on the concrete. I blamed myself for not asking other people.

The point is: there were many things that were completely out of my control for why I now had a broken phone (gravity). I didn’t need to blame myself, but I did.

Anyway, fast forward to about March of this year. The screen is cracked, but still usable. A cat who shall remain nameless decided to knock my phone off of my top floor of my loft to the ground below. I discovered this after my shower at about 5am. I look at it and half the screen is completely black. I freaked out, my partner freaked out. I said gimme a minute and went upstairs to meditate.

After half an hour I let the scared voices go quiet and started asking myself really reasonable questions like:

  • Why is this so important?
  • Do I really need a phone?
  • If it is just going to cause me anxiety and distress why bother getting it replaced?

So even when my partner suggested that she pay for the cost of replacing it (it was her cat) I said no. I would try living without it. And so I have for six months now.

My Life Now

I feel very free walking down the street. It is very freeing to throw away a piece of tech that people take for granted. It is kind of like walking around without underwear. Nobody needs to know you’re doing it, but you feel kind of cool anyway.

Google Voice

You see, I had already transitioned to a digital number while I still had my cellphone. I decided a plan of $600 annually where basically all I used my phone for was a mobile computer was highly unrealistic. So I cancelled it and transitioned to a Google Voice number. I highly recommend it to everyone. Having it as an international option if nothing else (it works wherever there is google).

So my phone went from a mobile social media center to something I could only use on wifi anyway. Once the screen broke for good, I just got rid of it and instead started relying on my tablet and desk computer.

Google Voice Features

  1. I can use any of my devices now as a calling and video messaging service so long as I have a strong enough connection.
  2. If the program is open, people can call me like they would any phone
  3. If the program is closed or I am unavailable, the call goes to voice mail, which I can access at my leisure
  4. Google will transcribe it for me into a text file
  5. Depending on your settings you can have your notifications sent to you through text (if you still have a phone), email, or through media.
  6. If you have a cell service and someone calls your Google Number, the phone call will not only be forwarded to you, but you will have the option to take the call or send it to voicemail after you hear the person say their name

I cannot emphasize how cool all of this is, especially if you still have a phone and a cell service. It is like having your own personal secretary! She will even field your calls for you. 

Regrets

Here is the thing that I wasn’t expecting: I couldn’t keep my same number.

That really was very, very sad. I have had my cellphone since I was 14, which means I have had the same personal phone number since I was 14. It had more significance than my home phone number did. My home number is how you reach my parents. MY number is how you reach ME.

And I lost it, guys. I lost it when I gave up my plan.

So my number changed.

Which meant that nobody had it. I am still sending texts and calling people reintroducing my number. People are still calling my old number, which has since been given to a very irate middle aged man as I understand it. I’ve considered calling him to apologize about the confusion, but figure it’s probably best to leave him well enough alone.

So those are some of my biggest regrets:

  • Losing my original number
  • Losing my contacts for a lot of people with that
  • People not knowing how to get in contact with me

If I were to do something again, I’d probably find a way to get in touch with all the people in my contacts just to make sure that I could stay in touch with everyone.

Setbacks

What I was most surprised about was the vitriol that I would receive for making this personal choice, which if I could remind you was:

To not replace my phone.

It wasn’t like one day I decided to trade it in or burn it or anything. My phone broke, I decided I didn’t need the hassle and anxiety of replacing it particularly with where my financial situation was.

That being said, I have lived and worked in a number of industries. A lot of them ask for a reliable way to get in touch with you, which is reasonable.

Now, keep in mind that my employers have that. I have provided all of them with my

  • new digital number &
  • they have my email.

The only thing I did not do was I did not inform them that I had broken my cellphone because I figured that that would discourage people from using my new number.

 

In most instances my not having a cellphone caused a lot of animosity or distancing between me and my work contacts (even after I told them it was now broken). I was astounded and when I asked why it came down to one thing:

We need to be able to get in contact with you all of the time.

This staggered me.  It wasn’t even subtle; I have had that literally said in a directive tone of voice by employers or managers. Some asked what it would take for me to get a new phone. This was the root of all of the problems I had had with every organization over the last few months.

I was made to feel crazy, but the more I thought about it the more crazy the notion seemed to me.

There is an idea that we all need access to each other all of the time. And I’m seeing it more and more:

  • Work places use Facebook to befriend and open private group messages between employees
  • Through Facebook and other social media tools private files are shared, work related events are planned totally through the social networking platform
  • Employers have their own private form of social media, a private messaging service, that is required by their employees to be open all of the time for “emergencies” but they can shut off when they go home

It is this mad-brained idea that we, as employees, need to be in contact or able to be contacted 24/7. Think about it and think about it in your own lives. Why should we do that?

Why should I, an artist, be treated like I am on-call like a doctor or a nurse? People aren’t going to die if I get stuck in traffic. People aren’t going to die if I get into an accident and have to be rushed to the hospital.

I’ll give you an example. I was working on a show. I also use public transit. Sometimes it is on time, sometimes it is late. Because I don’t have access to a cellphone, I cannot call ahead. So there I am, sitting on the bus, approaching the rehearsal hall. I get there just a few minutes late. The stage manager pulls me aside and asks why I didn’t call ahead. I inform them that I don’t have a cell phone and that I take public transit, that this might be a thing moving forward. They tell me they need me to call ahead if I am going to be late.

Now, I appreciate their position. They need to know if they need to move on or not. But, seriously, what is the best solution? What did people do in times of yore? Because I only have so many resources. It’s not like there are payphones everywhere. Not everyone has a cellphone and not everyone is willing to let a stranger use theirs. I cannot predict when I am going to be late based on traffic and once I’m out of my house, I have no way to do it.

But, here is the kicker for me: I was five minutes late. It wasn’t the only time, and I am no angel, but I was five minutes late. It was a first offense and I warned there could be others. But, FIVE minutes late. There was just this implicit assumption that I had access to a phone and that I should have called ahead. That I was in dereliction of my duty to inform my manager. And they would be correct, but how could I possibly have done that? I ask you. These things can keep a person up at night.

The Nitty Gritty

I am discovering in the midst of everyone else’s inter connectivity what an island I live on.

If anyone has any suggestions on how they have lived without cellphones in the past, I’d be happy to learn because I was not even working when I got my first one.

I do want to end with this though: I find it absolutely liberating.

  • I cannot call ahead so I don’t worry about it.
  • The only times I get mad are when people are in the room with me.
  • Arguments don’t last longer than they need to.
  • I can’t storm off and then type out my staircase wit (l’esprit de l’escalier).

There is a certain freedom to that. I have to tell people my stories while I’m there. I don’t get to just walk away. It makes for a lovely organization to my life of which I have grown fond.

I have to tell people I love or hate them to their faces a lot and very quickly before we part.

That is just the nicest thing.

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Day 14/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. muffins
  2.  my brain
  3.  making it through the day

3) Muffins.

It’s a funny little thing. Comfort food.

Do we eat it to feel good or do we eat it because we feel bad? I have noticed a trend with comfort food that I get for myself. It tends to be always a bad idea. Taco Bell, muffins, too much popcorn. Anytime I make comfort food for myself, it tends to be an excuse to wallow in my own sorrow. This may not be true for everyone, but I have noticed time and again that things get really rough whenever I get it for me.

Taco Bell was something I had as a kid. My father would always take me after one of my matches. I couldn’t eat before weighing in or during the meet, but I could eat after. It was quick, it was the only place open after 10pm when I got off, it was the solution. Oh, and I also always lost. So the Taco Bell helped gloss over that.

I didn’t mind losing. I minded losing all the time, but I didn’t mind losing. I was upset because my training montages never looked like what I saw from the movies and television. I was upset that I never looked like them or knew how to even begin. My sensei always said: he never skips push ups. I really hated push ups. Like a lot.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Muffins.

So I never buy comfort food for myself anymore. I try to get it for other people. Or I make it. That way it isn’t for me. It is for other people. I can’t do comfort food for me anymore. The last half dozen times I got Taco Bell I almost put the car through the median. They were really bad days and I don’t think the Taco Bell made them better. Instead, it felt like an acknowledgement that I had been beaten that day. That I wouldn’t get around this funk.

But, when people make or get comfort food for you? That shows somebody cares. I think that is the key to comfort food. It can’t come from you because what we find comforting is the acknowledgement from somebody that another person cares about our well being. This may be just because I am built to hate myself so effing much, but I think there is a kernel of truth there. Comfort can and does come from others taking care of us.

We can build and do that for ourselves, but very rarely is that going to come from consuming unhealth and that very much is what comfort food is. Show me the nut whose comfort food is a kale vegan protein smoothie and I’ll give them my firstborn.

Point being somebody got me muffins and that’s great. Today might even warrant eating them. Who knows? It’s still early where I am when I’m writing this. Things could always change.

Day 13/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. good ideas
  2. an abundance of good ideas
  3. time to write

2) Ever since I was a kid I have loved Tolkien.

Like really loved Tolkien. My father had his first editions that I have worn down to the spine. He has a 10 year anniversary edition that is absolutely stunning. So the family love of Tolkien runs deep.

Tolkien spent his entire life crafting a single story. That story is remarkable.

Growing up, I always wanted to write. I was, shall we say, dissuaded. I blame a number of things: teachers, friends, family, idols 

Really it was me. I dissuaded me. I led me to think I had a single story in me. One that was not nearly as good as Tolkien’s.

So I worked on it. I crafted the hell out of my  story. I worked so long that I never wrote it. I never wrote anything. Part of it was the fear–the very real fear that if I emptied out that story, I would be hollow. There wouldn’t be another story.

I had a new idea the other day.

It wasn’t the second idea I’ve ever had. Or the third. I’ve had dozens of new ideas. The fear still lives in me: what if that is it? What if I never have a new idea again? What if instead of one it’s a limit of five or six or eight?

So I fight the fear with new ideas. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

Day 12/21

Today, 

I am grateful for. ..

  1. Friends coming over
  2. Fun at work
  3. Space to breathe

3) The problem with bad days is that they make transience hard to come by. 

Every single thing feeds into your present state of mind. 

Last night the heat cut out. The heat cut out and I saw no way out. No where to go. 

I’ve been trying to fix it, but with the weather refusing to break, I felt abandoned. It felt I had nowhere to go. It felt like all of my problems were wrapped up in it and if I could only fix it. 

So I kept trying. Because I fix things. But, some things cannot be fixed. Not right away or not at all. 

Accepting that, getting out of whatever situation is triggering you, and getting on with your life is the most important thing. 

I am really happy that I have space to forget about it, even for a little while. 

Day 11/21

Today, 

I am grateful for…

  1. Having somewhere to go
  2. Having a way to get there
  3. Having down time

1) I have a need to flee. 

It is very real and can be deeply upsetting. 

When I’m healthy it translates into wanderlust. When I’m unhealthy it translates into running away. 

When I feel trapped, when it feels like there is nowhere to go and nothing to do: public places, libraries, events, parks (because this is the land of perpetual winter), then there are very few places that I feel I can go. 

When I have nowhere to go: friends, family, etc. I almost always switch to running away. 

Today, I woke up upset, which seems so unfair. 

Fortunately, I had to head into work, spend time with people I like, and then get paid. 

It was a good day. 

Day 10/21

Today, 

I am grateful for…

  1. A vocal email
  2. Dinner with my work people
  3. Bedding down for a night in

1) Today, I received a, shall we say, strongly worded email. 

It was among the first I’ve received. It was based on my blog here. I was very surprised. 

Words, man. Words can send people over the moon or straight into hell. This was leaning toward the latter. 

I was ashamed. I was angry. But, I remembered all of my lessons of the last few weeks:

  • Christopher Hitchens
  • Milo Yiannopolous
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Sam Harris
  • Neil degrasse Tyson
  • Noam Chomsky

How they comport themselves, how they work with words against unimaginable blow back.

I decided to engage. 

I said them you to the vinegar, treating it like spice instead of poison. 

I asked why they felt the way that they did and was genuinely surprised at what they said. 

In the end, I won’t say we were friendly, but we were more neutral. 

It was a place that no one in my support group that we could achieve. It just n means that at this time if polarization we can still find a middle. 

Day 9/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. my endlessly inexhaustible typewriter ribbon
  2. invitations to lunch parties
  3. how easy it is to change a room layout

1) I feel like I don’t talk enough about the weird ones on my list, so I will start to include them a bit more and let’s just talk about the weird one on the list:

My inexhaustible typewriter ribbon!

Guys, guys, …..GUYS!

I bought this ribbon back in March of last year. I have worked through it at least three times now. I have written dozens of letters and it is still going strong.

And…and…AND!!! I still have a back up.

That’s right. There is another roll in its entirety just sitting in my work desk waiting to fill up that bad boy whenever it chooses to lay down and die.

As a guy who is constantly afraid that things are too expensive, won’t last, or of impulse buys that just will not live up to they hype, let me just say…whatever they are charging for typewriter ribbons these days–

It isn’t enough.

Day 8/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. poetry
  2. producing fast, dirty, & cheap
  3. content creators

2) Money. That is what I hear about more than anything else with regards to art. I want to burn it all.

That is what the kids talk about and I hate it. The first thing out of young artists’ mouths is almost always about the budget. It comes out of my colleagues, my peers, my friends, my mentors. I hate it.

Think about ideas, think about your message: Do you need money to tell your story? Would your people have money? What do you need to convey?

The money will follow. Trust that.

I have been producing with almost no budget for years, I’m doing…well I’m not dead and people like my art, so there’s that.

My friend Kira has no budget and doesn’t pay anybody and she is beloved in her market. Shoe-string innovation she calls it. Like Detroit, it is an aesthetic, not poverty.

I write blog posts super fast. I always have, but now I’m consistent. Now, I have a schedule and I try to stick to it. That’s cool. That feels very officious. Some have called it slip shod. Some have called it unpolished.

I don’t mind.

Anyone who produces anything is making ripples. It is better to have made than to wish to produce. So whenever I make a think, it is very important to me. It adds to my body of work. I can look back and say: I made a thing. Look at it. There it is.

I am happy that I have produced as much as I have in my relatively short artistic career. I am happy for the ideas that I continue to produce and the amount of work and goals that I set for myself.

I am happy that I work so hard on so many projects and am fortunate in what I do.

Day 7/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. three hour conversations
  2. new story ideas
  3. late night physics talks

3) Ever since forever I have loved physics.

I try to stay abreast of the newest theoretical physicists and their contributions: String Theory, Super Symmetry, M-Theory.

It causes me a lot of grief.

How you might ask? Well, I get stopped on the bus a lot. People will say: “You’re reading a science book!?”

I’ll say, “Yeah…”

They’ll say, “I have this fascinating theory.”

I’ll go: “Do you want to share it?”

They do. And then when I point out the inconsistencies with prevailing theoretical physics, they get mad. For example: “I think the concept of god is analogous to the concept of zero in mathematics.” An interesting idea and not necessarily the realm of science, but invariably someone wants to talk about time travel or superluminal travel or whatever. I tell them what the science suggests.

They get pouty.

Because nobody likes to hear that they are wrong.

But, every so often you’re at a party or at a function or in your living room and someone wants to learn exactly what is going on in the universe.

They want to hear about the similarities between anti-matter and tachyons or how the Conservation of Energy only works if you are speaking about the macro-cosmos, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Newton’s Calculus.

Some days are good days. Some talks are fruitful.

Day 6/21

Today, April Fool’s

I am grateful for…

  1. excellent journalism
  2. sunshine on hard wood floors
  3. being able to delete social media

3) This one might seem strange, but this link is from one of my favorite Youtubers: Nerdwriter. “The Right to be Forgotten”

I feel that way very strongly. The right to be forgotten, not just a single instance, but an entire life, particularly when it comes to people after their deaths. We have a right to be forgotten. Look at the Marquis de Sade:

Here was a man who was accused of some of the most horrific sexual abuse of any era. The truth is almost impossible to divorce from the myth of the historical man, but what almost everyone agrees is that he

  1. hated the Christian church
  2. had a fascination with sexual intercourse
  3. was non-discriminating with his partners with regards to body type and gender
  4. was probably a coprophiliac (don’t look it up)

Regardless, he is responsible for some of the most widely contested literature of all time including his 120 days of sodom, which systematically examines the sexual abuse that can happen to a person, Justine, an infamous novel about the rape and murder of a young woman, etc.

Some of the charges leveled against him included kidnapping female servants and keeping them as sexual playthings, sodomizing himself or them with a cross, defecating or ejaculating on said crosses, and on and on into the ludicrous like summoning devils and so on.

The point is, such a controversial figure in history, with almost absolute certainty would be remembered for his deeds (whether real or imagined) had this to say in his last will & testament dated 1806:

The ditch once covered over, above it acorns shall be strewn, in order that the spot become green again, and the copse grown back thick over it, the traces of my grave may disappear from the face of the earth as I trust the memory of me shall fade out of the minds of all men save nevertheless for those few who in their goodness have loved me until the last and of whom I carry away a sweet remembrance with me to the grave.

It is my favorite passage from all his prose. Unarguably beautiful, almost lyrical in its poetry. The right to be forgotten. What a beautiful idea. Of course it didn’t work that way, his works went on being published, de Sade was spoken of with infamy for centuries.

The right to be forgotten.

When I was a kid, you couldn’t delete your Facebook, you could only deactivate it.That isn’t actually true, but it was convincing enough to my compatriots that none of us ever really tried.

I have deactivated my account in the past: I spent a very satisfying three months in college without, but my friend Sambo begged me to get back on the blue bandwagon and because I love him I did get back on.

I have not been very happy since. I don’t know that those are related, but to give an idea:

I think I got mad–not at Sam–but at how easy it was to get back on. It clarified how pointless it was: the deactivation process. You get off and then back on. So all those months that I spent in blissful ignorance without knowledge of how to get on were just that: ignorant. I could get back on any time I wanted. Instead, what I should have been doing/looking for was a way to delete my account.

 Well, I finally looked into deletion and I realized that you can actually delete your Facebook!!

It felt like breathing for the first time in a long time. I am going through all of my social medias and deleting them. It is very exciting to me. For me? I am excited.

I don’t need to spend any time on it and there is no chance to reclaim the whole thing.

That is just great.