Actually, I became phone-less in Anacortes, WA. We were at the fuel dock, refilling the boat’s tank with diesel as the last step of our amazing family boating holiday. I saw the fuel dock attendant tie down our stern line and move into position to grab our bow line. Although a gusty wind was blowing us off the dock, I was confident that my husband in the pilot house and the attendant on the dock could handle things. My focus was on packing up the galley.
Until, that is, I noticed that the stern line was slipping. I raced for the stern and jumped onto the dock, bending down to the cleat to tie the stern line more securely. At that point, as I crouched down and leaned over, I watched my phone somersault out of my shirt pocket and gently rock in the water before gracefully sinking out of sight.
I almost never carry my phone with me. One of my husband’s pet peeves is that I frequently don’t know where my phone is. My usual outfits of skirts and tops don’t come with pockets and when I move from room to room my phone is often left behind. This day, however, I had donned a boat shirt when the cool breeze kicked up and popped my phone into the pocket. It was a fateful decision.
We had an amazing few weeks together in the coastal waters of British Columbia. The enchanting combination of emerald islands and azure water, vistas of trees, bright skies and beckoning mountains always sings to our souls. A few of our children joined us and we even had the opportunity to introduce our oldest grandson to the nautical life. The weather was magnificent, the people friendly and welcoming and the challenge of winds, currents and tides presented a welcome break from life’s usual daily concerns.
Aside from the expected boat problems (How can our water tank be dry when it was half full last night? Why are the batteries not holding a charge?) the trip was life-restoring but uneventful. Now, after hundreds of miles of navigation, only a hundred feet from our home dock, Poseidon claimed my phone.
My husband immediately reassured me that we would replace it and I quickly made an internal calculation that we and our family were healthy and losing a cell phone doesn’t come close to ranking on the catastrophe meter. But... I still felt not only a pang of sadness at the financial and time waste but I also felt incomplete. I have never smoked, but I imagine that someone used to a cigarette in his hands might feel the same strangeness once it was no longer there. While I easily put aside my phone every Shabbat, I missed its presence all of that Monday. When I went to get our rental car and couldn’t phone to tell my husband that I was back...when my husband ran into a store and I couldn’t play Words with Friends while I waited...when I could hear the family What’s App exploding on my husband’s phone with messages that I couldn’t read–I felt incomplete.
Picking up a new phone the next day, I realized that the young sales associate never knew days of being disconnected. When I was a child, I assumed that once I rode off on my bicycle with friends our parents had no way of reaching us. When my mother went to the store, if I forgot to tell her that I had finished the peanut butter, it would have to wait for the next trip. As a newlywed, I never expected a message telling me that my husband was five minutes away; when he walked in the door was when I knew where he was. Yet, in a few short years, I have become so accustomed to being constantly in touch that I was unsettled at losing that contact. Sitting with empty hands looking around a parking lot or having to remember what exit I needed rather than being guided by a disembodied voice directing me was downright weird.
I don’t have any profound statement with which to end this Musing. Life changes and I’ve become as used to having a phone appendage as my grandparents became accustomed to having indoor plumbing. Each wondrous new advance rapidly becomes a required standard. Still, while I’m not happy about losing my cell phone, it did remind me that the line between a helpful device and a crutch is remarkably fine.
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