October – “Solitude & Silence!”

One Sunday afternoon a few years ago, I was flying out of Atlanta on a trip to the west coast.  I parked at a lot that I frequented back then which was a mile or so from the airport.

As soon as I found an open spot and parked my car, the shuttle pulled up behind me.  I jumped out of the car, grabbed my suitcase out of the trunk, and boarded the bus.

After a short ride to the terminal, I checked in at Delta, went through security, and then rode the train out to my gate.  From car to gate took about 45 minutes.

I arrived at the gate about 35 minutes before the flight, so only had about 10 minutes before we were to board the plane.

I wanted to make a quick call to my wife to tell her I was at the airport and to tell her I loved her.  Checked my pockets for the phone.  Not there.  Checked my briefcase.  Phone not there…

NO PHONE!!! 

And then I remembered—my phone was on the passenger seat of my car!

I had left it on the seat and hadn’t grabbed it when I’d jumped out of the car.  I started freaking out.  I was leaving on Sunday and not getting back until late Friday night.  Almost six days without a phone!  I knew that there was no way to go back to the car to get it.

And then I realized I knew no one’s number.  At all…

It used to be that you memorized people’s numbers or that you had a paper address book.  Not these days.  Now, all the numbers are stored in the phone.

The only phone number I thought I knew was my youngest son Brock’s.  I had given him one of my old phones when I’d upgraded, and I thought he had kept my old number.

When I landed in Denver, which was where I was catching my connecting flight, I called the number.  It was Brock!   I told him to tell everyone that I didn’t have my phone.  He gave me my wife’s number, which I copied down.  She was going to get at least two calls a day, even if I had to use payphones.  (Do they still have those?)

Then I called my number and changed my greeting.

“Hi!  You’ve reached Robert Mallon.  I’m an idiot!!!  I left my phone in my car.  If you need me to return you call anytime before Friday night, forget it!  It ain’t going to happen…”  I ended the message with a chuckle.

And that was that.  The rest of the week was AWESOME!!!  No phone…  No checking messages…  No calls when I really didn’t want to talk at the end of the day anyway.  No checking the Internet for scores, or news or just surfing.  It was quiet—and I loved it!

And it made me think—“What did we do before we had these stupid cellphones?

I’ll tell you what we did back then—we waited until we got home, then we checked the answering machine.  When we were in the car, we didn’t talk to people on the phone, or text people—we listened to the radio or to cassettes!  (Remember those?)  Or we had what they used to call “conversations” with the other people in the car!

You got your news from the radio in your car or from TV.

Life seemed quieter and more peaceful back then, and much less distracted.

I can literally tell you that I had one of the nicest weeks that week that I’ve had in the last decade.  And I began to wonder how—or more importantly why, we’ve become so hooked on these mobile devices.

(I’m sitting at a gate in Philly as I type this.  There are around 40 people around me.  Looking around, I’d say at least 80% are either on their phones, their IPads, or their laptops…

What are we missing?

Watch those around you.  When they have a minute, they pick up their phones, and begin texting or reading emails.  They’re not “here!”

So this month—October 2011, I’ve decided to do a little test.  It’s going to last the whole month.

On October 1st, I set a recurring alarm on my IPhone that will go off everyday at 7:00 p.m.  When it goes off, I’m going to take my phone, put it on mute, and plug it up to the charger by my bed.  I will also close my MacBook.  There will be no reading or sending of emails.  No Internet at all.  No texting, no calls.  Nothing after 7:00!!!

If you call me or email me, or text me and it’s after 7:00, I’m not ignoring you.  I’ll contact you tomorrow.

There will be only two exceptions—if Sandy or any of our kids call or text, I’ll return those.  And I’ll also use the MacBook to do some writing.  But that’s it.

I am going to concentrate on the relationships in my life and with being a little more in the moment.  I will do a little more reading over the next few weeks–and not on Facebook or Twitter.  I want to sit out in the back yard and watch the sky at night, as fall rolls in.  I want to hear the rustle of the leaves, and watch the stars come out as day turns into night.  And I want to see what this does to my stress level.

In the old days, “it” (whatever “it” was) could wait.  I want to see if it can still wait.

Why am I telling you about this?  I’ve found that I tend to complete things when I have accountability.  I don’t like accountability though.  Most people don’t.  But as I post this in my blog, there will be a lot of people who know.  So I’ll do it.  I also want to see if I can do it.  To unplug for certain parts of my days…

I also feel that I need to just “shake it up” a little bit.  I want to see if I hear God’s voice a little more this month.  If that’s all that happens, I’ll consider it a win!

Hold me accountable.  Let’s see if I can do it.  I’ll report to you at the end of the month what I learn from this little experiment.  I’ll tell you what I felt I gained and also what felt  I lost.

I’m thinking there will be a little more gain, but who knows?

I’ll tell you around the 31st.

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  1. Jay Spencer
    Jay Spencer10-04-2011

    I have to say that this is one of the best articles I have read all week. I have had this tab opened on my computer for days. At this point I cannot even tell you where I found this blog post.

    I have done this on some limited basis, even gone a day without the phone. I keep reminding people that my mobile phone is for my convenience and not so much that of those in my database.

    I used to know everyone’s phone number and address. I was a walking phone book. Now I feel like I have dementia.

    • Robert Mallon
      Robert Mallon10-04-2011

      Jay! You don’t have dementia! You have what I have – “Sometimers!!!” Thanks for your comment! R-

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