My phone was dead. Dead, dead, dead.

A dead phone caused a real sense of loss, if not panic. Not a big panic, but a realization of being isolated.

As I spent hours without a phone, I reached for it over and over. I needed to check the weather, my calendar, look for a phone number, text someone that I was going to be late, check for a work email. Gad. I couldn’t take a picture or call someone or check Facebook or Instagram. I couldn’t find a place on a map or play a game to kill time or check the hours a museum was open. If my tire was flat, I couldn’t call AAA. I couldn’t call for help if I was in trouble. I couldn’t see how many steps I’d walked or how many calories I’d consumed or make a note of a place to visit or add to my grocery list.

I’m 70 years old and have lived many decades without a cell phone. Last week, a friend and I were trying to remember how we found anyone when we were in college. Our dorm had a phone on each hall for incoming calls only. There was a bank of pay phones on the first floor to call home. Many a stack of nickels, dimes and quarters were used to call my boyfriend far away. You could pick it up and dial (yes, dial) the operator to have her call your parents collect. There was no direct dial in those days, although I’m sure young people today have no idea that direct dial was a big deal when it appeared. I guess we walked across campus to talk to our professors or our friends or to ask for a date or to get a ride home (not many students had cars). How did we manage? images

Omigosh – the waiting for phone calls. You couldn’t leave home if you were expecting someone to call for a date or a job interview or if a doctor was going to call. My boyfriend (later husband) had to let me know when he was going to call while he was in the Navy and I would sit there waiting for the phone to ring so that we didn’t miss each other. The waiting…waiting…waiting… waiting for the phone to ring! So much time spent waiting, waiting, waiting.

We had scant weather reporting, paper calendars, and cameras with film and flash bulbs. Very archaic, hunh?

How did we manage all those years in an emergency? Not so well, I’m sorry to say. I can remember taking my daughter and two or three of her friends to a high school student council convention on the other end of the turnpike. About 2/3 of the way there, my car’s engine died. It was summer in Oklahoma so it was hot. I had to send my future son-in-law walking down the turnpike a mile or two or three to find a phone to call my husband to come get us and call for a tow truck. We sat in the car for a couple of hours, minimum. Another time, I was driving on the expressway on the outside of town and had a flat tire. Two of my children were with me and I had to stay with the younger one while the one in high school ran across 6 lanes of busy freeway to walk a mile to a phone to call my husband for help. Bless that man’s heart. We always said the world was a better place with AAA and cell phones.

On the down side of cell phones, I’ve been caught in situations where there was no service. On a sunset jeep trip along the rim of the Grand Canyon, our tour jeep engine died, leaving a dozen of us in the forest on our guide’s off road route as it was getting dark. Not only did the jeep have no tools and no radio, but none of us could get cell service. The image of our driver climbing a tree, hoping to get service, is forever embedded in my memory in a funny way. He was desperate. Eventually, one of the passengers was able to text his son in Louisiana, who called the jeep company in Arizona to send someone looking for us. We never did see the sunset and our money was refunded and we all learned to never go on a tour without making sure they have supplied the guide with radios and tools. We also learned that sometimes texts go through when calls can’t.

But, we are all dependent on our phones these days, no matter whether we wish we were or not. If you think your world was better without it, you’re probably sitting in your house doing not much these days. In my no phone situation, I learned that I am suffering from digital amnesia, a new term which describes the fact that we don’t even try to learn phone numbers or information that we can easily access on the internet. I couldn’t even think of my children’s phone numbers to call them and there are no cell phone books to look them up. And where would I find a pay phone (do they take coins or debit/credit cards these days?) to call them? Asking to borrow someone’s cell phone is kind of personal, isn’t it?

All my critical information was also stored on my iPad and my computer, so I went home and got my iPad so I could text or FaceTime or email in an emergency. And it had all my addresses and phone numbers. I got a new phone to replace my dead one easily, went home and synced it to get all my information back and was back to slightly normal in a hour or so. I did have to keep authorizing apps as I went along. Nothing was too difficult to get me back up and running.

What I learned from this is that I need to keep a few phone numbers on a piece of paper in my purse, even though I love the fact that my phone takes so little room compared to the address book I used to carry with me. Either that or I need to memorize a lot of numbers and my brain my be digitally changed to make that more difficult if the studies are correct. That’s ok. There is plenty, too much, stuff in my old brain and it already takes me longer than it used to as I sort through my mental files. By the way, that’s legitimate. They are now proving that old people aren’t necessarily forgetful but are slower to remember because there is so much in there! I believe that and it’s sure better than the alternative theories about we elderlies (as a friend calls us).

My land line is virtually useless these days, kept only because I have had that phone number for almost 50 years and in case of loss of power or cell coverage. You have to keep a phone with a cord to plug in for emergencies as loss of power makes the new cordless phones useless too.

Would I go back to the simpler days of being away from my phone? Are you kidding? If I want to be away from it, I can turn it off for a while. Otherwise, being in touch with my family and friends, having a world of information in my pocket, knowing I can at least hopefully text in an emergency and get help, having a camera and pictures always with me, and all the other basic important and not so important things I carry is terrific. We can remember but we can’t go back. We can escape to quieter pastures for reflection and restoration, but our worlds are a little busier and we have ways to make our lives a little easier. Thank goodness!