I’m old enough to remember what a dial tone sounds like — and a busy signal. I’m so old, I remember picking up the phone every hour for five hours to tell my sister, “Hey, I need the phone!”
That’s right — every house had one phone, one phone line.
I’m so old I remember my childhood friends’ telephone numbers — Tony Salvatore was 657-8566, Jon Hulbert was 654-4503, Joel Adler was 657-5005, and my own phone number was 652-7693. Those have been in my head now for nearly 50 years.
But when I lost my phone over the weekend — I figured I left it in the men’s grill at the golf club after our round — I had to call my friends. But how?!
I have no idea what my friends’ phone numbers are, even though I call them all the time. Google was a nightmare; endless links came up when I searched their names, most wanting me to pay for the privilege of finding their numbers. And you’d be shocked to find out how many people have the same name as all of your friends.
But I tried several numbers anyway — all of them were the wrong people. The last guy I talked to said he didn’t know who I was, joked that he didn’t know where my phone was, but in a kind gesture, said he hoped I’d find it soon.
Of course I tore my car apart, nothing. And I scoured the house, taking every cushion off the couch. Then I headed to the golf club. They didn’t have it, with the manager saying no phone was turned in. The pro shops’ guys likewise said no phone was left in a cart.
At this point, I began to get suspicious. My phone is, after all, worth $1,000, and with eBay, anyone who found it could make a small fortune selling it. Someone must have it; it didn’t just disappear. Someone stole it!
Eventually, I was able to find the phone number of one golf buddy and he sent out a group text. Still nothing. No one saw it, no one had it.
All that by mid-morning. So, I just had no phone. I checked prices to buy a new one ($1,100), but decided to give it some time, maybe my phone would miraculously turn up.
Thus my phoneless life began. I decided to run some errands and, with any luck, get in a quick nine holes. Off to the grocery store.
But once there, I went to check my “notes” for my running grocery list. No phone. No list. Then I needed to ask my wife if we needed a few things. Couldn’t. No phone. And then I couldn’t find an item, so I reached for my phone to check the app for its location. No phone.
And that’s when one wonderful thing about phoneless life happened. I asked a random person if she happened to know where my item was. She told me what aisle to try. I said thanks, then complimented her shirt — she was wearing a Team Iran shirt, and this was before the big U.S.-Iran match in the World Cup.
The woman said she was born in Iran but moved to America as a young girl. She said she still loves Iran, but is supporting protesters rallying nationwide after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten in police custody for failing to properly wear a hijab. And she said that she’ll be happy with whoever wins the game.
I would’ve never had that conversation if I’d had my phone. Head down, I would’ve just looked up the app — and likely wouldn’t have even seen her.
Errands done, I hit the golf course. But instead of turning music on via my phone, as usual, I just played in silence — well, not silence because wildlife everywhere was making a cacophonous racket. But that, I realized later, gave me a wonderful sense of ease.
And, unlike every other round, I didn’t reach for my phone between shots to see if someone had emailed or texted. Please, I’m not that important and nothing’s really that urgent, is it?
In the evening, we gathered to watch a movie. But I couldn’t just pick up my phone at a boring part to flip through, so I watched every second intently. I realized then, too, how often I split my attention — for no reason.
In one-last ditch effort, I stripped the couch again and my wife spotted the phone, shoved way down. I had my phone back!
But that night, I didn’t take it upstairs to bed. I didn’t scroll it for an hour before going to sleep. And when I woke up, it wasn’t there to pick up right away to read email and texts.
And that’s when I realized that little by little, my phone had gotten the best of me. Without thinking about it, I often just mindlessly flipped through my phone. But I learned (again) that it’s simply a tool, one that I can decide when (and more importantly, when not) to use. I control my phone, it doesn’t control me.
And I’ll probably always remember that conversation with the Iranian woman, knowing that it would’ve never happened if I’d had my phone.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.