I was about a half mile from home when I realized I didn’t have my phone with me. Heading out the door I forgot to grab it. Should I turn around? That question flashed through my brain as quickly as I remembered I was phone-less.
Many years earlier, when I was a new driver, I got stuck on the Baltimore Beltway after the engine died in my little red VW. It just stopped working so I had to drift over to the shoulder. The left shoulder. This was three years before the first cell phone was sold to consumers…a decade before I could afford it…and 25 years before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone.
All I could do was sit there and wait as traffic blew past just a few feet from my dead car. Finally, a State Trooper pulled up behind me. He called a tow truck which eventually got my car…and me.
Recently I was talking with a millennial friend about the difference between his generation and mine. I asked if he could change one thing about Baby Boomers, what would it be? Without hesitation, he said he wants us to embrace technology.
I think I understand. Those of us who grew up without cellphones can romanticize that period of our lives. We talk about how we used to be able to hold conversations and focus on the person we were with. We drove without the distractions of text messages and phone calls. We enjoyed the tactile pleasure of using a pencil on a paper calendar.
The grass was greener. The sun was brighter. The people were better.
Yeah, that blurry vision of the past can clearly get annoying, even frustrating, for those who never experienced it and never will. I’m guilty of thinking my friend’s generation missed something that technology has taken away.
My daughter and her family were heading home from vacation when her husband thought the brakes felt a little funny about 20 minutes after leaving their rented beach house. Brandon pulled off the road into a parking lot and checked the brake fluid. It was empty. He checked under the car and saw the brake line had split and they were minutes away from totally losing their brakes.
Gratefully, they didn’t have to wait until a State Trooper saw them and radioed for help. They texted Brandon’s family, who was still at the beach house, for help. Brandon used his phone to find an auto parts store that was still open on a Saturday night. The store had the needed part. Family members picked it up and brought it to Brandon who installed it right there in the parking lot. Two hours after stopping they were back on their way home.
Obviously, it helped to have auto repair skills, but without technology my daughter, her husband, and their two little children would have been stranded on the side of the road much like I was decades earlier with almost no options.
I don’t want to turn the clock back. I love being able to go to an Orioles game and buying a discounted ticket on my phone just outside the stadium entrance. I rely on Waze to get me around stubborn traffic. And, when Ava’s breast cancer biopsy came back positive I was on my phone looking up specific medical terms. There’s no part of me that would have preferred going to the library and trying to find a book with that information.
I embrace technology, but I’m also still a little concerned. Like many, I battle boredom. And, like many, I quickly reach for my phone when I’m bored. I wonder if this is really where the generational disconnect happens. My millennial friend is fine with technology as a boredom buster, but I struggle with it.
I like being able to put my phone down…to not feel the constant need to look at it. Obviously, I didn’t have a cell phone when I was a kid. I wasn’t even allowed to watch much TV so I was forced to be creative when I got bored. This is probably where I romanticize life without my phone, but I think I got pretty good at figuring out how to use a wide open space of time. I don’t ever want to lose that.
Walking for fitness is keeping that from happening. My daily goal of getting at least 20,000 steps forces me to put my phone down (or at least put it in my pocket) so I can move. In fact, going for a walk has become my default if I start feeling bored.
I felt slight panic that day I forgot my phone and was heading to the grocery store. I almost turned around, but instead kept going. It felt like a like an adventure. Risky even because I remembered that time I broke down on the Beltway.
“What if that happens again,” I thought. “Hmmm…guess I’ll be adding another 6,000 steps on my Fitbit.”
That made me smile.
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