Last spring, in the middle of a multiple-day class discussion about the role of technology in culture, one of my students sent a text message in class.
This happens all the time, but this time was memorable because, after I called her out and asked her to put the phone away, she put it on the tabletop, turned to face me, and fidgeted.
After a while, she raised her hand and said, cautiously, “Can I just hold my phone? I promise not to use it, but I’m so uncomfortable if it’s not in my hand.”
I am not making a word of that up. At the time, I stared at her, flabbergasted, and suggested half-seriously that she consider therapy. Now, after a brief stint in something like her shoes, I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t need help myself.
I have a love/hate relationship with cell phones. I love for my family members to have them, so I can assuage my fears by calling them every so often.
I hate keeping up with my own, and frequently, when my family tries to assuage its fears by calling me, my own phone is off, dead, or somewhere I’m not.
My children have threatened to have a GPS implanted in me somewhere, so they’ll at least know where I am. I thought I was immune to cell phone anxiety.
On Sunday, however, my Beloved and I went for a drive to give the dog something to do and also to take pictures for my blog. We wound up in Wytheville, starving, and were the last customers in a restaurant. Since it was one of his favorite spots, I sent the Boy a smart-aleck text message, we had dinner and went home.
Only, my phone stayed there on the table. I didn’t know this until I got home and needed to call the kid, who had gone somewhere with his friends and LOCKED US OUT.
(This keeps happening to us. Our children have keys to the house, and we don’t. And our kids don’t even live here. What is with that?)
We eventually got in, but I was moderately unhappy because, well, the Boy was out with his friends, and my cell phone was in Wytheville.
In terms of irrationality, this is right up there with cargo cults of all kinds. We still have a landline.
My Beloved has a perfectly functional cell phone that he keeps with him because he loves me.
The Boy is 21 years old, no longer a boy, and absolutely capable of getting himself out of most trouble that he could get into on a Sunday night; in fact, he was home before midnight, no worse for the wear.
I, on the other hand, can’t rest because my phone is spending the night locked up in the manager’s safe.
On Monday morning, I had to cool my jets until the restaurant opened, and then my plan was to drive to Wytheville and grab the phone.
To my shock, I found myself reluctant to drive half an hour without the cell. I was so uncomfortable with this idea, I actually borrowed my Beloved’s phone for the journey, despite the fact that it was a lovely clear morning, my car is ultra-reliable, and I’m only going 30 miles or so.
It was at this point that the memory of my student came back to haunt me.
Maybe I need therapy. Maybe I’m more attached to this technology than I thought.
Maybe this fall I’ll be a little more gentle with my students and their phones; I still won’t let them text in class, but I’ll be a lot more sympathetic about letting them just hold the phone.