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.

Advertisements

Drawing in the Sand (OR 13 Lessons from Writing Haikus)

Today, we discuss haikus.

Just five syllables, 

Then,  followed by seven more

And another five. 
That is the bare bone structure and an attempt at poetic humor. I am not very good. 

Yet.

I am not very good yet. But, the important thing is that I try. 

  1. It is more important to try than to succeed. 

I have been a bad poet for decades. I know this because I haven’t written a lick of poetry since I was a wee lass. It has been a while. 

You are not a bad poet for writing, you are a bad poet if you simply don’t. And that is hard to define, but I think many of us know it when we hit it. 

ANECDOTE: I had a teacher tell me an art story. Some painter…Rembrandt? He never let anyone watch him paint til his friend begged him. He brought him out and he stared at apples for six hours. After six hours of boredom, his friend asked,  “When will you paint apples?” He responded, “Fuck you, I am painting”

-Actual Quote from Acting Teacher

So there is a level of gray we must sift through as artists. If part of your process is do nothing, then that is your process. But the point is to do it is to art. 

I started doing again.  I got back into it. But, I had no idea where to begin. See, writing was always for the English majors, the professors, the academics. I had no place in it. 

And then, I challenged myself to get into it and threw myself in head first. Only problem was I didn’t know what or how to write. So I wrote like a child: long absurd angst ridden diatribes about my clear and present depression. I look at them and cringe, but they were the best I could do. 

It felt totally hopeless. 

And then I remembered haiku. Five. Seven. Five syllable structure. No rhyme necessary, no metre, just syllable counting. I COULD DO THAT! 

Which brings me to my next point:

2. Tackle the toughest thing you can handle and then back off. 

You don’t need to break your pen, burn your books, or tear your hair, but challenge is where the art is, so find that and make it sing. 

After writing ten of these I started discovering theme. 

After one hundred I started discovering rhyme. 

Now, I am exploring stress and emphasis. Some rhymes rhyme better depending on the stress or intonation and can even be forced depending on how hard you lean on a syllable. 

I am still new and very much learning, but everything I know about poetry stems from my own experience. No amount of beating my head against a desk in English 400 could have prepared me for actually writing my own poetry. 

3. You can only ever really learn anything by doing. 

4. You’re going to suck for a long time. 

5. Like a really long time. 

6. But if you stick with it, you will be able to look back and see your progress. 

7. If you quit before the suck process is over, you deny the world a poet. 

8. You are a poet. 

9. No one can say you are not. 

10. You can always come back. 

You know those stories where people quit and never come back? They are lies. 

Nobody quits for real. Everyone is a come back story waiting to happen. I know. I am one. 

Fight for your art. Because no one else will. 

11. No one else will fight for your art. 

That is hard to write, but it is also okay. No one else will, but also:

12. No one else can fight for your art. 

They can support you and if you get that, then hold onto it. But it is so rare, I wouldn’t count on it. 

That seems bleak to end on. 

13. Sometimes art is bleak and that is okay.