Thursday, April 5, 2018


Bright and early last Saturday morning, my phone went into a public toilet.

It wasn't on purpose. It happened while I was traveling, attending an event at Atlanta's convention center. I entered the public restroom and--as one does before using the facilities--was juggling several bags to keep them off the floor when I heard the splash. Horrified, I fished the phone from the toilet (no, don't try to imagine it...), wrestled it out of its case, and attempted to dry it with paper towels. I told myself to be thankful it was early in the day and the restroom had just been cleaned. There were plenty of towels and the toilet situation could have been far worse.

Surely the phone would be fine. Right? Wrong. It died immediately. As it was a holiday weekend, there was no help to be had. Any fix would have to wait until Monday morning, after my return to Boston.

First thing Monday, I took my phone to the local Staples, who'd replaced the screen for me only five days earlier. A phone I'd had for two years with no issues, and now I'd had two horrors in a week. The screen fix--while not cheap--had been quick and easy, so I hoped this would be, too.

No dice. They changed the battery, used a special dryer, and basically did everything possible to fix my phone, but the damage was too extensive.

The upshot: I ended up going four full days without a phone. It isn't until you're without one that you realize what you do--and don't--miss.

I didn't miss Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or any other social media. There was one photo I wanted to see that a friend posted to Instagram, but someone was kind enough to send it to me via email.

What I did miss: the ability to check the weather (especially since I was traveling), having my airline boarding passes handy, and having the electronic ticket to the event I was attending in Atlanta. I figured out workarounds for the tickets and passes. Once the weekend was over and I was in the midst of the can-it-be-saved process at Staples, followed by the order-a-new-phone-and-wait process, I missed other things. No audiobooks or podcasts while walking my dog or driving, and no ability to sign up for my gym classes using the app on my phone.

My biggest surprise came on Tuesday morning, my last phoneless day. I always carry my phone while I'm running and debated whether I should go without. I like having it for safety, but I love having it for the music. When the sun emerged, however, I decided to lace up my shoes and run. I had no music, no audiobook or podcast, and no Map My Run to give me my time and distance. I expected a rather boring outing, given that I was completely disconnected, and figured I'd go a couple miles at most. I ended up running nearly six miles, and the time flew. It had been so long since I'd run in silence that I found the routine noise of the neighborhood and sounds of my feet hitting the pavement and trails meditative.

Lesson learned: running without music or GPS can be bliss.

I'm a big believer in disconnecting from technology from time to time. It reduces the noise in my brain and helps me think more clearly. When I travel, I don't buy WiFi on the airplane because I like having a few hours where I'm completely cut off from the Internet and social media. I've taken vacations to places without Internet or cellular service and relished those days. Having an unplanned disconnect--one where I couldn't even listen to a book or music--was an entirely different experience, but a good one, I think, even if it made the trip home from Atlanta more challenging, since I didn't have my boarding pass or access to airline updates. It made me realize that I need to disconnect more often.

On that note, I was fascinated by this article I read recently about Silicon Valley engineers who've chosen to reduce or eliminate their social media and their positive reactions to doing so. Great food for thought here:

Our Minds Can Be Hijacked: The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia

Have you disconnected recently? What was your experience? Was it planned or unplanned? Would you do it again?

I don't recommend throwing your iPhone into a toilet--particularly given the expense--but if it happens, take advantage of being disconnected. It's not all bad.