Back in November of 2009, I made the jump from a “regular” cell phone, the kind that only allowed me to make and take phone calls, while painstakingly typing out text messages (arguably, this task was not even worth it). After much consideration and deliberation, I chose the Blackberry 8330 in red – to match the color of my hair, naturally. My sister Jen, part of an all-Apple-products-all-the-time family, urged me to go with the iPhone, but that just seemed too complicated to me. The Blackberry offered the necessary upgrades I sought in my communications life: easier texting, picture messaging and Internet surfing ability, without all the expensive apps tricks and hoo ha.
Those who know me best might identify this decision as the defining moment when my ability to interact with other humans in a normal fashion took a nosedive. Even I was taken aback by the ease and speed with which I became a full blown addict. My problem began innocently enough: a perusal of the New York Times or a review of celebrity gossip as I waited for trains or appointments. However it wasn’t long before I found myself waking up in the middle of the night after losing a battle with insomnia, then immediately reaching for my Blackberry. Hey! If I couldn’t sleep I might as well find out who had been in contact with me, or what I had missed in the world as I tossed and turned. Soon I found myself trained like Pavlov’s dog: at the first red flash, indicating the receipt of a BBM, SMS or any other type of acronym, I was physically unable to stop myself from attending to it. Friends, family and my husband half-jokingly lamented that I was no longer able to look them in the eye whilst having a conversation. I am a multi-tasker by nature but clearly my habit had introduced insidious consequences on my personal life.
Last Saturday, as I enjoyed a rainy 9/11 bike ride through the ‘hood, I gave little thought to my trusty Blackberry, riding shotgun safely in my canvas carry-all bag. It’s not as though I make calls and check emails while weaving through traffic. But I was comforted by her presence, ready to be unholstered at any moment. What if I witnessed a crime or fell off my bike? I needed to know I could update my FaceBook status, I mean call the authorities, immediately!
So remember that canvas bag I mentioned? Yeah it turns out that canvas is not water proof. Hell, I am a writer not a physicist. When I returned to my apartment to dry off, and I think you know what I am about to say next here……she was gone. The magic scrolling ball, deliverer of so much web enjoyment, was kaput.
Nearly frantic was I. It took every fiber of my being not to wake a sleeping Eddie with a Gladiator-style explosion of grief followed by scorched Earth. What was I to do with myself now?
I placed a frantic call to my wireless provider and ascertained that my Blackberry was still under warranty and could be replaced (Customer Service Rep: “You didn’t by chance get the device wet, did you? Because that would nullify the terms of the warranty.” Boop: “How dare you!”). The catch? They were unwilling to let me have one off the shelves (‘cause you know I asked). Instead I received the positively dreadful news that I would have to wait 7-10 business days before getting my fix again via UPS.
Though I imagined all sorts of horrors, the end of life as we know it, the inability to maintain a fledgling writing career with nothing more than a desktop PC, I had a surprising knee jerk reaction when the customer service agent offered me the use of a temporary loaner phone. Unequivocally, I answered in the negative. Apparently, even Boop has a line and knows where to draw it. There seemed to be something so desperate about accepting a second-hand, possibly germ infested device simply because I didn’t believe I had the self-possession to endure a week of analog communications.
Today is Day Four of my Blackberry-free sentence, and you know something? The timeout has done me a world of good. I feel more human again. I have stopped relegating the people I love to “conversation between text” status. Like all enjoyable addictions: booze, drugs, sex, I need to learn to have a healthy relationship with my wireless device before I can return to it.
My withdrawal period even provided me with extra time and mental bandwidth to develop a great business idea: a Blackberry Betty Ford clinic. Genius!