The Beauty of Unavailability or A Love Letter to My Flip Phone

Ace, the Big E, and I travelled Up North for Thanksgiving.  Between us, we schlepped along two flip phones with only one charger (oops), an iPad with charger, and my laptop.  The boys ran around in the woods, unearthing deer skeletons and chopping down buckthorn.  They might’ve taken Ace’s phone along, powered off b/c of the no-charger situation.  I drove into town, about fifteen minutes away, to check on the in-laws.

I managed to visit three thrift stores and Mills Fleet Farm (twice) on Black Friday.  Black Friday in a town of 14K looks very different from Black Friday in the Twin Cities.  It was AWESOME.  One of the thrift stores randomly decided in the middle of my visit to make all clothing $1.50 except winter coats.  Okay, I can roll with that.  Ace got a real nice pair of Dickies overalls.  The Big E got some athletic pants that will fit him in a few months.  I left my phone in the car while I shopped.  I don’t have caller ID.  Or texting capability.  And I haven’t set up the message box.

I didn’t hear from my boys for six hours.  I called from Mills Fleet Farm to ask clarifying questions around an item they had requested.  Oh, btw, the Big E said, we tried to call you a bunch of times.  The beavers undermined part of the driveway and it collapsed.  Pop tried to cut down a tree with his knife and he stabbed his hand so I blasted the treetrunk with a shotgun then we stuck the tree in the hole in the driveway.

If I had answered the phone when they called the first time, things would not have gone well.  Pop stabbed his hand?  Is he still bleeding?  Does he need stitches?  You used a shotgun to do WHAT???  Are your toes still on your feet?  ACK!

This is the beauty of unavailability.  By the time we talked, Ace’s hand was bandaged (he requested Coban “self-adherent wrap” from Mills – it’s super cheap in the veterinary section), the tree stuck jauntily in the sinkhole, and I could proceed with my errands with a minimum of stress or anxiety.

(I recall one occasion Up North when I’m glad I had a charged phone at hand.  Ace called to announce that there was smoke coming out of the hood of the truck and seemed entirely too cavalier about the whole thing, but that is a #SoThisHappened story for another time…)

Up North, there is no internet.  We have electricity with baseboard heaters but no running water this time of year.  There is an outhouse perched on the edge of the woods.  (Remind me to tell you the Murder in the Outhouse story sometime.)  Ace, the Big E, and I gather at the table over our microwaved venison chili and stare at each other, talking with our mouths full, arguing, laughing.  No one surreptitiously checks their phone under the table.  No one reaches for their back pocket, Pavlovian, in response to a subtle “ding.”

The Big E is lobbying hard for a smart phone.  He saved his money and bought himself an iPad a couple years ago.  When we’re at home, he texts.  If I confiscate the iPad as a consequence for nefarious deeds done, the Big E complains bitterly that I’ve thrust him into a state of complete social isolation.  Pick up the phone, I say.  Nobody does that anymore, he replies.

Pop and I need to do more research, I say.  I’m putting him off.  He thinks that I think that smartphones cause depression, promote a false sense of community, fuel disagreements, and prevent people from engaging in an authentic manner.

The location of my flip phone is currently unknown.  If you want to talk to me, call my landline.  I don’t text.  I don’t have caller ID on the landline either.  You can try to surprise me, but my voice recognition is pretty good.  Hope to talk to you soon.  Call me once the bleeding stops.


Musical Moment

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6 Responses to The Beauty of Unavailability or A Love Letter to My Flip Phone

  1. Julia Reiersgord says:

    Anne! So great! You are A-1 nail on the head about smart phones. Next public health crisis. U students diagnosed with depression/anxiety doubled since a few years back.

    • anne says:

      yes – we used to think it was a good idea to put cocaine in Coke. Oy. Very interested to see what we’re thinking about smartphones 50 years in the future…

  2. Melanie says:

    I love this. It’s so true….I myself held out for years about getting a smartphone. I got one about 3 years ago, and found myself slowly (and then faster and faster) spending more time on it. I didn’t want to give up texting, though. About six months ago I put the smartphone in the closet and bought an old Blackberry of Amazon. Full texting keyboard, and never set up e-mail or anything else. Too small and slow to even think about using to go online. I find my life is better because of it.

  3. Ken says:

    Your Pleistocene father (who also sports a flip phone but is otherwise well-supplied with tech stuff named for fruit) wants to know what BTW means.

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