The Rockwood Files: Phone Alone

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

My name is Gwen Rockwood and it’s been two hours since I accidentally left my phone at home.

I realized it roughly 20 minutes after it happened, and by that time I was already 15 miles from home with no time to drive back and get it. When I reached over to the passenger’s side seat to grab it, I found nothing but a lifeless charger cord with no phone attached to it. I hoped that perhaps it had slid off the seat and onto the floorboard. I searched the cracks and crevices around the center console. “Please be here. Please be here,” I chanted. But it wasn’t.

My phone was home alone. I wanted to slap my hands against the sides of my face and yell, “Nooooooooo.”

But there was no time for that because I was already late for my haircut appointment. I walked into the salon while still rummaging through my purse, hoping I might have overlooked it in the jungle of crumpled receipts.

“Is something wrong?” my hair stylist asked.

“I left my phone at home,” I said.

“Oh, no. That happened to me once. It was bad,” she said.

She led me over to the chair and fastened the black cape around me. I tried to tell myself this was a good thing and that some phone-free time at the salon would help me decompress from the digital demands of daily life.

But it didn’t feel good. It felt… weird. Like I’d left my right arm (or my brain) at home on accident. I couldn’t check email. Couldn’t read the online news. Couldn’t check the forecast. Couldn’t read my e-book. Couldn’t get or send a text. And I couldn’t even check the time because I use a phone for that, too.

Speaking of time, it stood still. What was supposed to be a relaxing hour in the stylist’s chair felt like eternity. I kept mentally retracing my steps, wondering where I’d left the phone. I imagined the text messages that might be pinging away in the stillness of the dark, empty house. I imagined it ringing incessantly. “What if the school nurse tries to call me because one of the kids is sick? Or hurt! What if Tom has an emergency? What if my mom has called so many times that she thinks I’m dead in a ditch somewhere?”

When you absolutely can’t answer your phone, you convince yourself you’re urgently needed by everyone, possibly even the White House.

Then over the roar of the hair dryer, I heard it. My phone! My heart leapt at the sound of that familiar ring tone. I dug through my purse again, certain it was there after all. In my head, I spoke to it. “Is that you, phone? Are you here?”

Then the woman in the chair next to me reached into her handbag, retrieved her ringing phone and crushed my hope. I looked at her screen longingly. “I remember when I was able to send text messages,” I thought, as if it had been two decades instead of two hours since I’d done it myself.

Finally the haircut was over and I paid the stylist as she set up my next appointment, asking if September 30th would work for me.

“I have no idea,” I replied. “My calendar is on my phone.”

As I drove away, I reminded myself that this phone-free existence used to be normal and we managed to get through entire decades without them, even though it seems impossible now.

When I finally got home and scooped up my digital beloved (which had registered only one missed call that was not from the White House) I changed the ringtone to an old song from the late 70s. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It sounds like this: “Reunited, and it feels so gooooooood.”

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.