Robin Sloan doesn't have a cellphone. This floored me. The man who was manager of media partnerships at Twitter and who more recently wrote the novel Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore does not have a cellphone. It's not that he doesn't have a smartphone — he doesn't have a cellphone, period.
Sloan explained this at a launch party for his book back in September. To put it into context, the event's host surveyed the room of attendees, asking people to raise their hands if they similarly did not own a cellphone: Sloan was the only one.
The author admitted that he previously did have a cellphone but had gotten rid of it "because it was too distracting." Despite being a successful writer, with all of the events, meetings, etc. that it entails, he thought the benefits of a cellphone were outweighed by the distractions. It forced me to ask myself: What was I missing by being distracted?
Two days later, at around midnight, I was in a cab crossing the Williamsburg Bridge when I thought of chucking my Nexus 4 out the window. I had been drinking, heavily, and was in the midst of an argument with my girlfriend, Angela, so it wasn't exactly the most calculated, intellectual leap. I wondered if the cabbie would notice. I wondered if Angela would notice. I wondered if I could actually get my phone between the bridge's steel trusswork while we sped by at 70 miles per hour.
I lowered the window, then raised it. I was scared — scared of losing five ounces of plastic, glass and who knows what else. And that fear was what convinced me. I lowered the window again and tried to act casual while flinging out my phone. It sailed clear between the beams and down into the black East River. No one noticed, and I left the window open for a while.
The Morning After
Anyone who's experienced their fair share of blackouts knows The Morning After Checklist. Whether you were closing down a bar or running wild on LSD, when you come to the next day, the first thing to do is to run down The List in order to assess the damage. If you can give satisfactory answers to all of the questions on it, you should be fine:
- Are you in jail?
- Are you seriously injured and/or in the hospital?
- Do you have your wallet or purse?
- Do you have your keys?
- Do you have your cellphone?
I've been running down that list since discovering psychedelics in high school, and the day after throwing away my phone was the first time I really felt fucked. I was hungover to all hell, but worse was the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach and the sensation of phantom limb connected to the phone that should've been charging on the bookshelf, laying on the kitchen counter or dead in the left-hand pocket of my jeans. When I wasn't mechanically looking to where it would have been, I replayed the taxi ride in my head over and over, like it was the murder scene from a Lifetime movie. What had I done?
Feeling useless, I logged onto Facebook, where I came across this:
Around the same time I was tossing my cellphone into the East River, Louis C. K. was on Conan joking about their dehumanizing effects, calling them "shitty things" and "toxic." It was nothing more than a coincidence, of course, but it made me feel better. I decided to see how long I could go before getting a new phone, if I could limp fast enough without one to keep up with work and play.
That was five months ago. I still don't have a phone, and I don't plan on getting one.