My Weekend without a Cell Phone

Paraphrasing Joe Dassin, if cell phones did not exist, tell me, how would I?

This is not some kind of jeu d’esprit nor a science fiction project, but a 48 hours long experiment.

Just like many people of my generation, I spend roughly 25 hours a day staring at my smartphone’s screen. You can easily imagine then, that a weekend without a cell phone sounds to me just like a weekend without eating would seem to a chubster or a weekend with no drinks to an alcoholic. Talk about an addiction! So here I am, embarking on a – short – detox phase.

Conditions

In the interest of accuracy, I ought to be precise. I won’t actually spend the weekend without a phone; I will just toggle the airplane mode. This way, I will be able to use some of my phone’s features which are necessary to draft this article, while at the same time measure my ability to resist temptation, and avoid eyeing up other people’s phones.

I had to resign myself to doing nothing but watching the rather ugly urban landscape

The story begins on Friday at 3:15 pm, as I board a train that will take me from my mother’s town to Paris. As I didn’t have any mobile data access nor anything to read, I had to resign myself to doing nothing but watching the rather ugly urban landscape as well as my fellow travelers for the 30 minute duration of the train ride. The girl who was sitting in front of me might even report me for an eye rape, as my eyes kept reflexively riveting towards her too many times during my enforced idleness. I plead not guilty.

Friday

You probably think that a weekend usually begins at 7 pm, rather than 3:15 pm. I must concede that you’re right, but I can explain. A few days earlier, a friend of mine had offered to get me a ticket to the Rock en Seine Festival, which is why I made arrangements to ensure I can be free during the afternoon. But guess what? He then told me that he could not get me one, after all. Talk about a traitor!

Paris Map

You are here!

I had this unforeseen idle time to fill, so I called my girlfriend to suggest that we meet, having explained to her the restrictions caused by my weekend-long experiment. She decided to postpone her appointment at the tattoo parlor and invited me to drop by her place at my convenience. Well, this was quite sweet of her. Note to self: marry her, it looks like she’s a keeper.

People put my resistance to temptation to test by using their phones under my very nose

My girlfriend and I had to choose riskless activities (unless you consider unprotected sex a risky activity). We had a drink and some dinner in her part of town. My only frustration was not being able to check the restaurants’ rating nor to google the mysterious dishes.

Checking my iPhone is a part of my pre-sleep ritual: I mostly do social surfing, check sports results, verify whether anything important has happened without me knowing it. So it was trying for me to resist the temptation not to turn my phone back on. I was already afflicted with FOMO, the fear of missing out, like a drug-addict missing his fix.

It is an exciting and bitter experience at the same time. You realize that the world continues to go on while you’re standing still. But what would I have missed out on, after all? At the most a few alcohol-drenched stories on Snapchat. Did many people miss me? How many of them tried to contact me, to no avail? I will find out the answer within less than 36 hours.

Saturday

Not having a phone obliges you to be more organized. There’s less room for immediateness and more for anticipation. You want to study your itineraries beforehand, delegate the organization of the traditional Sunday football game, and stick your nose out instead of checking the weather app to choose your clothes, etc.

Grand Train NYC

After a good night of restful sleep, here I am, heading towards an appointment at Grand Train. However, contrary to what you might think after reading the previous paragraph, I forgot to plan before leaving the house. I had to use the public maps, ask random people for directions and pray that they won’t play a bad joke on me. Believe it or not, but despite losing my way and a few minor setbacks, I ended up arriving early for the appointment. In the absence of my iPhone, I started paying attention to my environment and the people around me, to kill time. It is not that bad. Really! It’s just as cool as Instagraming, if not more so.

My friend ended up showing up at last, and I let him be my guide until my second appointment of the day, a dinner with a friend who lives 25 minutes away from the nearest subway station. Due to my logistical constraints, I could not ask him to come pick me up. At least, my health app works even with the airplane mode toggled: a 2.4 km walk. Not bad!

paris-no_phone-tramway-1600

Lost in the outskirts of Paris

After the dinner, a friend who lives near my mother’s neighborhood offered to give me a ride back to her place. Unfortunately, I could not tell her that I was coming. Whatever, I decided to go anyway. I had to climb the gate and hammer on the door until I woke her up and she came to open the door for me. She did not look particularly thrilled by this noisy impromptu appearance. This is probably the reason why she woke me up at 8:30 sharp the following morning, by literally dragging me out of bed, so that I would help one of her friends move.

Outcome of the experiment

This exhausting period is over, I can at last turn my iPhone back on again. Well, aside from a few professional voice messages and texts from mates, it looks like I didn’t miss out on anything important. Few notifications, a nude selfie from my chick – mischievous, at the very least – and a piece of news about French midfielder Matuidi, who has had his contract extended by Paris Saint-Germain. Life goes on.

Photo courtesy of Kārlis Dambrāns (Flickr Creative Commons)

Julien Giacalone As far as Julien can remember he always wanted to be a gangster. Unlike Henry Hill, he mostly became a writer. But a strong part of him is still anti-establishment. Which part? Only the good half.
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