I consider myself to be a 'together' sort of person. Having reached my early forties and proudly part of generation x, I’m inclined to pour scorn on first world problems as I don't consider them 'real' issues. Making enough money to pay the bills, ensure that the family get a holiday once a year and that my indulgence for all things technical can be sustained, means being pretty pragmatic and the application of effort without whinging has served me well so far in life. Hard work and taking a few chances without becoming dependant, should be enough to sustain a course for a care free life.
And yet, last week I was struck by a condition that threw my equilibrium to a state close to meltdown.
It started with a search about the minor, albeit slightly annoying, issue of poor battery life on my smartphone. My iPhone6s is coming towards the end of 2 years of fantastic service - It is my most cherished device, has changed the way I interact with the world and affords me the ability to access everything that any self-confessed control freak should require in an instant – A friend of mine mentioned that Apple had identified a batch of handsets that suffered with a peculiar issue where the phone cuts out suddenly especially in low temperatures, when below 30% charge the phone switches off and generally requires charging almost constantly.
A quick search on the Apple website led me to a notification page explaining the process to remedy the unexpected shutdown issue. And very nice it was too with a simple 4 step process flow confirming that my serial number matched the batch with the fault, offered me 3 options to fix – I chose instore at my local Apple shop-, located my nearest store, booked me an appointment and received a calendar invite. So far, so easy. I had a general sense of well-being and delighted that my trusted digital device, one of the very special things that I just could not live without, would have an extended life.
Between booking the appointment and the date of my visit to the store I made sure to regularly back up my device on both iCloud and MacBook (you know, just as a precaution).
On the day of the ‘event’ I set off for the station with my device, earphones plugged in listening to a podcast and whilst on the journey I attended to my inbox, checked my business and personal banking, raised an invoice, read news articles, made an amendment to a meeting agenda, laughed at a photo of my dog shared with me by my wife, viewed the weather forecast for the coming week and checked LinkedIn for the latest professional showing off notifications. To complete these tasks just 10 years ago would have taken a day, I managed all of that in a leisurely 40 minutes.
Kinda makes me sound super productive but honestly these tasks take such a short amount of time to complete because of the practicality this technology has afforded us which makes us all the more productive than at any time in the evolution of our species.
The feeling of walking into the Apple store was the usual mix of slight excitement viewing the pretty products and nausea in anticipation of an over familiar and over friendly millennial asking me how my day is going. Genius Bar – I like to think that the bar name is a nod to the customer – check in complete, uncomfortable seat on atable of non-interacting humans taken, logging onto the WiFi and completed a final back up of my data to the iCloud.
Enter Josephine, my very own Apple Genius for the next 10 minutes, calling me by first name like we’d been lifelong buddies (grrr) as we confirmed the particulars of my appointment we gently skipped through a list of questions and form filling on her magic electronic pad. Finger signature completed I unplugged my headphones, gently coaxed my iPhone from its protective shell then handed it over. What came next was as unexpected as it was unwelcome – the notification that I would be parted from my device for 3 hours whilst they completed the battery change.
So safe was I feeling about the process it never occurred to me that it might take a couple of hours to sort out.
With a strong hand on the shoulder, Josephene confirmed the time I should return and gently walked me to the exit of the store whilst my expression resembled Bishop Brennan after he’d been kicked up the arse by Father Ted setting me free into an unfamiliar world I was no longer connected to.
Making my way to the escalators I had a thousand thoughts whizzing around my head trying to work out what to do for 3 hours without my iPhone. Descending the vertical transportation device staring at my now useless headphones, I began breaking into a slight sweat and entered the first stage of panic. Honest and genuine fear from the mundane in considering if stores still sold tiny radios or should I get a mp3 player as a temporary measure – but how would I get any music on it? –not knowing the minimum charge to make a call from a phonebox should I feel compelled to call someone and complain that I had no iPhone – do internet cafes still exist? - to the practical things like how can I check that invoice was paid this morning? Are my clients trying to contact me? Am I supposed to be collecting my son from school?
Then is occurred to me that nobody knows where I am….snapped out of my funk the realisation that NOBODY KNOWS WHERE I AM momentarily filled me with joy and I had a spring in my step as I bounced towards the river to find a pub. Still smiling with a pint of organic lager in hand wandered over to get a seat in the upstairs bar with a river view. The beer was delicious by the way, can’t remember the last time I took the time to actually taste a drink with nothing else to occupy my mind. Watching the world go by filled up about 5 minutes before my thoughts returned to the missing thing that should be in my hand keeping me busy.
The next 2 hours and 40 minutes were not as much fun as it should have been. What has become of me that I can’t even last a couple of hours’ separation from an inanimate object?
I’m not a completely blinkered robot who needs to constantly interaction with my phone as I frequently enjoy walking and messing about with my family. Being without my phone by choice is one thing, not having access to the phone when in my own company because of an unexpected reason caused me minor anxiety. Which forced a complete reversal in my previously held opinion, on the ‘snowflakes’ I had previously mocked, when reading about their terrible experience when they were without access to their precious device has a very real impact and one which will only become more prevalent.
Je suis un Nomophobe.