I recently had a friend reach out to me through a social media app that I have on my phone. What gave me a laugh is the manner in which he reached out, along with a recollection of the last time I had seen him; sharing an impromptu golf weekend some two decades ago.
What made this trip in the early 90’s so memorable were the circumstances that lead up to it. We had both endured a hellish week at the office, and felt absolutely justified in leaving at noon; fully deserving a couple of days of nothing. And by nothing I mean golf.
Of course, not five minutes after merging onto one of the 70 lanes on the 401 in Toronto (it has since expanded to 300 lanes), my cell phone rang. It was the office. I took the call (it was legal back then.). While I was on my call, my friend’s phone rang. It didn’t matter. We were on our way to an incredible golf course just a couple hours away in eastern Ontario. What’s a phone call? After only a few minutes, we both laid down the electro-cinder blocks. Done. Onward. To the golf cou… BRRRINGGGGG….
Phone call. It was his. It was a client. Not a problem. We’re on our way to play gol… BRRRRINGGGG…. Okay. This time it’s mine. He’s on the phone anyway, so I might as well get it. Bzzzzzzzz… Bzzzzzzzz…. As I’m on the phone, my pager goes off. Not a problem. I’ll return the call after I finish the one I’m on. I end my call and start dialing the number that paged me (work) because I want them to know I’m going to go golfi… BRRRRRINGGGG… It’s John’s phone again. It’s the office. They’re asking John if he has seen me. They just sent a page, hoping to catch me before I was out of town. It had been well over three minutes since the page came through, and I haven’t returned it yet. John passes me his phone. BRRRRRINGGGG… my phone rings while I have John’s to my ear.
And then it happened. After my call, John put down the passenger seat window, and out it went. The most advanced technology (to ever fit in what was then the size of a toaster oven) was now out the window. My turn. And I did it. I disposed of it. I was free.
It was, without question, the most liberating feeling I had had in years. Euphoria. Primal screams followed. We had just killed the beast! By slaying this dragon, we were disconnected from the outside wor… Oh… my… GOD! I’m disconnected from the world! What if my wife goes into labour? No… she wasn’t pregnant, but what if she was? What if my parents were trying to call? Sure, they call me at the home number every Sunday at precisely the same time, but what if this one time they were trying to get a hold of me? What the hell have I done? And my clients!!! What if, on this Friday afternoon, I had a client who was desperate to reach me?!!! Sure, we had a support team that was second to none. I had an assistant that was more capable than I. I haven’t had a client call me in a panic in two years… but what if THIS ONE TIME they really needed me? Oh God! What have I done?
I was miserable for the remaining two hours of the drive. I knew I was disappointing the world with my selfish act. I remember imagining the forty voicemails that I’d have. I knew at least one person would call the police, and possibly every hospital in the Toronto area, desperate to learn that I was okay. John’s anxiety wasn’t different from mine. We had disappointed the world.
We got to our destination. I checked in as quickly as possible, grabbed my room key, waited in an elevator that moved at a painfully slow speed – evidently aware that I was either without a cell phone or desperately needing to pee. I lunged myself to the hotel room and dialled in to my voicemail. I was fully prepared for the turmoil. I readied myself for the impending doom. I had done something extraordinarily stupid, and I was about to get called on it. I should have been available and I wasn’t.
And so, rocking back and forth, taking deep breaths to avoid asphyxiation, phone slipping because of the sweat, I was sent to a state of reality.
“You have… no new messages”.
The moral of the story? Nothing changes. I still check that I have my phone before I dare leave my desk or my house or the office. I still experience separation ringxiety . And you still don’t stand a chance of reaching me this Friday afternoon.
Not that you were going to try anyway.