Smart Phone, Dumb Me

I left my phone at home the other day. I didn’t get a good night sleep the night before, and was so groggy in the morning, I simply didn’t remember to take it with me. This happens once every few years. But instead of turning around to go back home and get it, I decided to make my first meeting on time and to see what it would be like navigating my day without constant email, text messages, phone calls, games, GPS, Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds… you get the picture.

What If…?

My first thought was “What if I need to call home?” Then I remembered I had a desk phone (:-0), and gave my wife a quick call. Win! Now she knows my office number. In the last decade or so, I guess she’s never needed to call it, since I always have my cell phone. Now she has a backup number for me, so that’s good. But it’s not the most interesting part.

I also thought “But what if it’s an emergency and I’m not at my desk?”  Then I thought about our personal emergency communication plan, and realized that the only way it was going to get used is if we both have the same emergency at the same time, e.g. something catastrophic like an earthquake. I didn’t think to ask her to turn a radio on, set to monitor throughout the day. Our plan clearly needs more tweaking. Since my commute isn’t that long, it’s really not a big deal. And if you remember back in the <gasp> 20th century, there was a time when nobody had a cell phone, and somehow we survived… But that’s still not the most interesting part.


The most interesting part of my day was what I noticed about the people around me.

Stop looking at me.

I work at a high-tech company where most employees have smartphones, the kind that consume lots of data and have many, nifty apps, in addition to being used for work and personal email.  Can you guess what it looks like on an elevator, walking between buildings, or in the cafeteria?  The thing I noticed most is how many people were oblivious to the world around them because they were heads-down, focused on their phones! Even driving, when waiting at a light, I looked around more than before, and saw many drivers taking a break to surf the Internet or send a text message in the seconds between lights. Of course, it wasn’t everyone. But a lot of people were heads-down. Take a good look around, next time you’re in a crowd, or waiting at a light. What do you see?


How Aware Are You?

And I lied. While that was definitely interesting and got me thinking, it wasn’t the very most interesting part. The most interesting part was… you guessed it: all about me. I hadn’t noticed this before because my head was always buried in my phone! Fail. That’s what you call “inadequate situational awareness” or “condition white” for the more martial among you. If you leave your phone at home for a day and suddenly you notice some big, different things, you definitely weren’t paying enough attention before. Just like me. So don’t fail. Pay attention.

Set down your whiz-bang phone, tablet, iPod, or other gadget for a minute and look around. You may notice something you never noticed before.

Stay safe.


6 thoughts on “Smart Phone, Dumb Me”

  1. Perhaps you remember the time I commented on the amount of smart phones in a play area for children. The parents were definitely not watching their children! Yes, the kids were safe and happy, but what did they miss by not observing the kids.

  2. I did one worse in that I lost my blackberry phone. Tried calling it and listening for the ring, several times. Then gave up and called the provider and had them shut it off so it could only be used to call them and report it found. After about a week of looking all over, I realized I can call it’s voicemail and retrieve messages there. But the lot manager finally put up a sign saying he found it(not working). Now I have my address displayed on the screen, my picture, and the blinking beacon that is anoying always making it visible. And a password I have to use everytime I want to look at what is on screen, though it gives a call option for emergency. This is something that should be done with laptops as well as I had a work one stolen and very glad the password held until it was compacted with a car. Anti virus updates often can be quiried for an IP address by the system administrator so that is like a cheap lojack. So smart device security is very important.

  3. My better half has accused me of such behavior at times. Bad me! But usually I am watching. 🙂

  4. My husband still refuses to have a cell phone. He is quite happy observing the world. Me, not so much.:) Thanks for your insight.

  5. When I leave mine at home, yes, I miss calls, but that’s not life-affecting (the crucial ones leave messages). The biggest pain is that if my phone is left at home, so is my calendar (outlook). When that happens, I have to print out the next few months from my desk computer before I go out to my court appearances for the day. I so miss the good ol’ days when I used those At-A-Glance spiral bound planners. I’ll always remember when Judge Harry asked us if a particular date (about 30 days in the future) would be good; I flipped to the next month, quickly scanned to the date, saw that it was open and said that’d be fine. Meanwhile, Mr. Carter (the prosecutor) was tapping on his Palm Pilot with his stylus – this was a first gen device somewhere around 2001. He continued to tap. Judge Harry looked over at me. I looked at him. He looked over at Mr. Carter. Tap, tap, tap. Judge Harry finally let out a long sigh and said in that low southern drawl, “You know, Mr. Carter, you ought to try getting one of these here things Mr. Parnell has. It’s called a calendar.”

  6. I’ll confess, sometimes I prefer a piece of paper and pen, or a simple printout. But modern devices have become so darn convenient!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *