On a recent Saturday night, a family connection got into trouble that took me on a rescue mission to a party gone wrong, then Emergency. Then it echoed into nightmare.

At the party scene there was broken glass and shouting and eventually first responders, and a partier left by ambulance; I beat the officials there and tried to hold things together. This young woman, barefoot and disheveled in her party dress, wandered through the front room a couple of times, crying. And in between the sobs “I can’t find my phone. Fuck you! I’ve lost my phone. Go away! I just gotta get my phone. Shut up!

Others rallied around suggesting the back yard, the basement,the bathroom; they got the abuse. I heard she found it, finally.

So I went off to Emergency to see if I could help out, pretty busy there on a weekend night. I wasn’t there long, but on two occasions a gentleman was escorted out by multiple large serious suddenly-appearing security employees, explaining that “No she doesn’t want to see you. She doesn’t want you here.”

One of these guys was telling them how much he loved her and respected her and would never want to hurt her and that he was terribly sorry for anything that might have gone wrong. A wasted-looking woman, thin as a wraith, wandered through trying to bum a smoke and told the dude “Nobody wants you here.”

He broke down suddenly: “OK, whatever, it’s just I really need my phone, I dunno if she’s got it or it at’s her Mom’s.” The security guy said “If I ask, will you just get out of here?” I never heard how that one ended.

Apparently there were no disastrous effects from the bad-party night, but I think it planted a seed, because a couple days later I woke up after a nightmare that I remember (rarely happens) in vivid full-color detail.

Riding a train to Boston with colleagues, I was between cars on my phone and accidentally stepped off the train at the last stop before our destination. As it pulled away I was furious but I knew what to do: Contact my party and ask them to grab my stuff before they got off, I’d catch up somehow. It was a pretty short stretch, so I’d have to get through fast.

But my dream-phone went into pathological-resistance mode; we’ve all been in that place where a device decides it’s not going to wake up, then won’t let you sign in, then the app you need won’t start, then it stupidly won’t recognize the name of a contact you’ve used lots of times, then drops into autocorrect-Swahili-emoji mode, then an update notice jumps in front of what you’re trying to do and captures a tap that that it thinks means “go ahead”.

Maybe not all those things happened in my dream, but what did happen was the UI finally morphed into this weird red/yellow dragon motif like a cheap Chinatown awning, and simply ignored all forms of input, as the seconds ticked away. I woke up sweating with that instant profound “that-wasn’t-real” relief. I’m pretty sure now that Chinese-torture UI mode is lurking somewhere in Android’s bowels waiting to leap out at me.

So what is this about? · Maybe we’re all getting a little overly intimate with our mobiles?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Brian Slesinsky (Jun 28 2017, at 23:45)

Hmm. How long before we start routinely carrying a backup phone?


From: Gavin B. (Jun 29 2017, at 01:08)

Nomophobia occurs in situations when an individual experiences anxiety due to the fear of not having access to a mobile phone. ... Anxiety is provoked by several factors, such as the loss of a mobile phone, loss of reception, and a dead mobile phone battery.



From: John Cowan (Jun 29 2017, at 04:10)

I long ago decided that since I was never more than half an hour from a proper computer, that I really had no need to wear one on my person. I have a simple flip phone whose charge lasts almost forever, that lets me receive (rarely make) phone calls, that is physically very robust (mil spec), and suits me just fine. What is more, my fingers are too damn big for those ultra-mini-on-screen-keyboards.

"First you use machines. Then you wear machines. Then you are machines." —John Brunner


From: Valerie (Jun 29 2017, at 08:48)

These days losing your phone is just as bad as losing your wallet. With access to your phone, someone could probably get into your email, and then into every bank account, etc that you own.

I panic when I lose my phone, but it's not because I'm so attached to my phone; it's because of the damage that could be done in the wrong hands.


From: Doug K (Jun 29 2017, at 13:27)

I am of the Cowan school of thought - though I do talk to Ms. Google on my phone quite a bit. The phone is linked to a burner Gmail account, not my real one, and I don't access anything sensitive like bank accounts with it. I'm afraid of Nomophobia ;-)


From: Gordon Haff (Jun 30 2017, at 08:42)

Intel had a funny video a few years back in the vein of someone losing their phone or something along those lines and the wacky disasters that followed.

But yeah.We're probably not that far from not necessarily carrying cash or credit cards or most other types of cards (because pics of those are saved on the phone, right?). And if we do have a few pieces of paper or plastic maybe we just carry those in our phone case.

I'm pretty cognizant of and careful about having various backup cards/info/etc. when I'm traveling--though not usually a separate phone. But I'm a lot more casual day to day.


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (Jul 01 2017, at 20:00)

I have a smartphone, but rarely use the smarter features. The main reason I have it is that I consult from home, and I get email for that endeavor on the phone. Mainly it serves as an 'email notification device" - I often will go into the office and read the e-mail on the larger screen. If I could find a way to send a text message notification to a 'dumb' phone with just the subject line of the e-mail, I might switch back to a flip phone.


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