Thursday, December 10, 2009

Once Upon a Time

This past Monday, I went to work - a common, if not always consistent, occurrence for me. But nothing about Monday's trip was common. For you see, on Monday I forgot my cell phone.

It was such a silly mistake. I left it sitting on my dresser instead of tucking it safely inside my purse or a pocket, as I usually do as soon as I wake up. And I, absent-minded goof that I am, never grabbed it. It's such an appendage to my being these days that I realized it was missing before I even got on the highway. I was just barely going to be on time for my class as it was, though, and could not turn around to retrieve it.

I was on my own. And this is a brief summary of the events that followed, complete with my thoughts at the time:

I got onto 495W at approximately 2:50 p.m., and immediately encountered a little bit of back-up from afternoon traffic. Oh shit, what if traffic is bad the whole way there? What if I'm running late and I can't call the school to let them know? The slowness soon eased, and I was cruising down the highway on my way to Travilah Elementary School in North Potomac. I arrived with just enough time to set up my classroom before my students started arriving. Is that clock correct? I wish I had my cell to tell me the exact time. I hope I'm not late bringing them out to their parents. Class lasted for an hour, and by 4:45, I was out of work and on my way to my friend Jescie's house, to meet up with her and go for Cold Stone.

Now here's where things got sticky. I was supposed to call Jescie once I left work and was on my way to her place. I had gotten directions from google maps, and was to let her know exactly what time I'd be getting there. Obviously, this was no longer an option, and I was just going to have to show up unannounced.

I hit the road, encountered no traffic, and was making good time. What if Jescie tried to change plans? What if she's not at her house when I get there, because I never called her? Well I can just get in touch with my roommate and ask her if I have any messages! Oh... wait. No I can't - I don't have my phone. Anyways, stop being silly. Of course she'll be home, she got your facebook message saying you'd be there between 5:15 and 5:30. Upon getting off 370, I discovered that google maps hadn't prepared me for the fork at Shady Grove Road, so I picked the most logical direction and kept driving. Oh geez, what if I get lost and can't call her for directions? My logic was rewarded when I easily found my next turn What if she's not home? What am I going to do? Oh my gosh, calm yourself, OF COURSE she'll be home, and I was at her house even earlier than I expected.

I walked up the sidewalk to the front door. The house looks awfully dark. Maybe she's not home from school yet. I did get here a few minutes before I said I would. I rang the doorbell, but no one answered. I knocked on the garage door. Nothing. I walked around to the back of the house, but the snow was undisturbed. Oh this figures. What do I do now? So I returned to my car to wait for her. Luckily, I had a book with me, and I read for 10 minutes before getting out and repeating my knocking and ringing. This is the right house, isn't it? Still nothing. Surely she'll drive up any minute now, and I'll feel foolish for worrying so much. I returned to my car and read for another 20 minutes. She's going to think I ditched out on our plans! The house was still dark. No new cars had pulled up. I was cold, getting hungry, and I couldn't call Jescie to let her know that I was at her house. Oh hey! I'm not far from Olney, and David is still at work. I can use their phone to... crap, I don't know Jescie's number! Dammit! I felt terrible about it, but I didn't know what else to do. I left.

I drove to Olney Theatre, but David didn't have Jescie's cell number. I still had an hour before I had to leave for my rehearsal, so we got a bite to eat and some hot chocolate. I was stewing in my own guilt, but the night had to go on, and so I started driving toward Bowie. Oh shoot, did I leave too late? I won't be able to call our stage manager and let him know! I arrived just in time, rehearsed, and finally, after 7 cellphone-less hours, headed home.

As soon as I got in, I called Jescie and apologized profusely. As it turns out, she had been home the whole time. She and her boyfriend live in the basement of the house, and have a separate entrance. She had wondered if I'd forgotten my phone, and even considered driving out to Cold Stone to see if I'd gone there. Had she come out to her car, she would have seen me sitting out front. We both laughed and apologized and made the same plans for next Monday.

Here's the thing though. In case you didn't catch on to the frenzied tone in my thoughts above, I was absolutely panicked for the majority of my time without my phone. My plans hinged on making a phone call. Without it, I was at a loss. But once upon a time (even 10 years ago), here's how our outing would have happened:

I would have picked up the landline at my house and called the landline at Jescie's.

Me: Hey Jescie, I'll be near your house next Monday! Want to meet up and get that Cold Stone?
J: Sure, sounds great! What time do you think you'll be there?
Me: Sometime between 5:15 and 5:30 depending on traffic.
J: Okay, do you need directions?
Me: Yeah, can you tell me the best way to get there from North Potomac?
J: (Gives directions) And so you know, the entrance to our place is on the left side of the house. You know what, I'll just be waiting outside for you at 5:15 so I can show you in.
Me: Great, thanks! See you then!

And I would have seen her then.

Easy. Simple. Direct. Complete.

Because once upon a time, we made complete plans before hitting the road. Once upon a time, we memorized our friends' phone numbers. Once upon a time, I didn't need total contact with everyone I know in order to function.

Sure, cell phones are great. In an emergency I feel much more secure and taken care of. But my gosh, I remember a time when I didn't have to rely on one. And sometimes I think that wasn't such a bad thing.


B.Graham said...

The amount that I rely on (and am tied up with) my cell phone makes me hate it sometimes. Actually a lot of times.

Last year, when we were driving across the country, none of us had cell phone reception from Arizona until around Tennessee. It was actually amazing and so insular, forcing us to live in the moment right where we were with each other, rather than far away with other people on the other end of the line. I kind of loved it.

David Pratt said...

You have to wonder when the technology will become so advanced as to render this post irrelevent. There will be a time, likely within our lifespans, when cellular communication is simply wired into us. Imagine the drunk dialing stories when THAT happens.

Jason Heat said...

Jordan: I feel naked without my phone.
Alex: You are naked.
Jordan: But I don't feel naked.

Jstone said...

ah but without the cell phone you cannot make on the fly plans as is often the case (for me at least). Like Monday, I was working in Cleveland Park all day and I texted my brother to see if he would be working at his bar in Cleveland Park and then I called my buddy who lives not 10 minutes away by bike if he wanted to grab a drink and maybe dinner. And it all happened, thanks to my cell phone.

David Pratt said...

No one is arguing the utility of the cell phone Jstone, just our growing inability to function without it.

Jescie said...

First, I love that our unfortunate experience on Monday turned into a blog post. I hate that we have been trying for what like two years now to go to coldstone and it hasn't worked. I think the universe is trying to tell us something.

Secondly, I hate cell phones. When I have studied abroad in Morocco without a cell phone it sucks at first but then is so great. And nobody cares about time or concrete plans. Life just works.

On the flip side. I am attached to my cell phone here. So much so that I used to sleep with it on my pillow or holding it. I have a problem. And now I have a crackberry. Which makes it way worse.

nevie said...

i'm gonna be honest. i stopped reading after "travilah elementary school." cuz I WENT THERE! from 1st-5th grade. i got really excited and had to comment.