Friday, March 22, 2013

The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me

On Wednesday, I lost my cellphone.

By all accounts, it should've been a tragedy.  I was in the middle of an incredibly busy week, on the way to meet a producer, a few hours before four people were showing up to my apartment to be fed.  This also happened two days before I was going to bid adieu to New York.  I decided that the only way for me to finish the final revision on my novel was to leave Manhattan and get the kind of calm and focus that is so elusive for me on the island.  I had arranged a week-long residency for myself at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, where I'm getting married in two months, where I'm teaching an Advanced Directing Class.  And because I was leaving New York, I decided that I needed to get everything done that I'd been putting off for weeks.

I splurged on a cab to the producer's meeting, since it was that annoying kind of meeting in the middle of the day, in a neighborhood I'd already been to a few hours earlier.  Ordinarily, I would've squatted in a cafe and earned the proprietor's ire by reading for hours and only ordering tea, but I had to get home, remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine I'd soaked it in in preparation for frying, grate the lime and lemon zest for my chilled cherry soup, and oven fry the bacon so that the salad I was planning to serve after the entree had a little kick.  I didn't have time to idle in cafes.

I stepped out of the cab, greeted the wonderful writer with whom I was about to step into the meeting, patted myself down, and said half to myself and half to her, "My phone is in that cab."

I had kept the receipt.  I called 3-1-1-.  I gave the medallion number.  They gave me the garage number.  My ringer was off, of course, so the driver wasn't picking up when I called.  I suffered through the meeting, came home, and somehow, had lost the cab receipt that had been in my possession just a few hours earlier.  I remembered the garage number, however, and used the magic of the internet to discover that the garage was just around the corner from my house.  I found it, and across the locked gate, saw the cab (Medallion Number 4P19) where I suspected my phone was hanging out, free for once from incessant usage and checking.  But I couldn't get to it.  And I had dinner guests arriving.  And the deep fry thermometer I had ordered from Amazon to get my coconut oil to the perfect 325 degrees of heat for frying chicken still hadn't arrived.

The dinner party, I'm proud to say, was a glorious success (I didn't photograph any of the food, and even if I did, I'm currently at the O'Neill, where the wireless connection feels more dial-up than broadband).  I started with the aforementioned chilled cherry citrus soup, followed by savory sweet mashed potatoes (I used bacon grease instead of butter), blanched broccoli rabe, Rafael's irresistible smoked salsa, and coconut friend chicken, followed by a salad with arugula, romaine, walnuts, cranberries and chopped bacon.  Then my guests (one of my fav guys from my soccer team, his bf, and a straight couple) humored me by playing Citadels, one of my favorite uber-nerdy board games, which was won by the only woman present (I came in second place by one point).

And through all of this, I didn't have my phone.  I've turned on the iCloud track option, and apparently, my phone gets turned on every few seconds every few hours, then turned back off.  I chart its progress from my computer, amazed at the technology that allows me to do this and befuddled by how it's supposed to help me get my phone back.

The last few weeks had been hard on me - every project I'm working on thrills and delights me, but somehow, with the wedding planning, I'd been feeling manic and stressed, not the creature of joy I'd like to be.  I felt it affecting my behavior, and for the first day or two without my phone, I felt its absence, the way you'd miss a cybernetic limb that had been hacked off.

What time was it?  Had someone emailed me in the last six minutes?  What was the weather in New London going to be like?  Was that a text or just my leg muscle twitching?  How many people have responded to my last Facebook post?

This and many other questions went unanswered without my pocket-sized portal to other worlds.  And although I was going through withdrawal, I also felt liberated.  I told myself that if I hadn't found my phone by the time I went to New London, I would spend the week without it.

So far, it's been great.  I do get scared, thinking about all the people who might be texting me, ignorant of my predicament, assuming that I'm unbearably rude in not responding.  But the impulses to check the time or my email every few minutes are already diminishing.  My dear friend (O'Neill Artistic Director and officiator of my wedding) Wendy Goldberg and I took the train up together, and had a two-and-a-half-hour conversation that wasn't interrupted by beeping or pinging or chirping electronics.  And when we got off the train, she was so inspired that she told me to take her phone and keep it so that she, too, would be phone-free for her week up here (seven minutes later, she insisted I return it so that she could check her email).

I love being phone-free, and feel positive that this week will be more productive without it.  And if I need to check my email, I can just use my computer, the way we used to in the olden days.  Or, I can use the iTouch that my family gave to Rafael for his birthday two years ago, that I brought up so that I could have an alarm clock. 

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