Every time I miss the bus or have to ride my bike against the wind, a raccoon gets a little closer to having a new neighbor. Though I think about it often, I’ve never actually abandoned my worldly possessions and run away to the woods, but I’m getting closer…
Or, more accurately, I’m getting closer in the sense that walking up the stairs to my apartment gets me a little closer to Jupiter. I don’t have a phone anymore. That’s not exactly a shift toward woodland life, but it’s as close as I’m likely going to get. It also feels like it shouldn’t be a big change to my life, but so many little things are different without constant unlimited access to pictures of cats and all of humanity’s collected knowledge and easy contact with everyone I know. In a lot of ways, it’s infuriating. I like the internet, and I know I spend a lot of time there, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Engaging with communities online and being exposed to new people and ideas is useful and really entertaining, and also I refuse to see any downside to anything that has so many videos of cats falling off furniture. I miss looking at shitty memes while I wait for the bus, but I don’t miss… pretty much everything that phones are supposed to do.
I got my first phone in 2011. By that time, phones weren’t really for calling people anymore. From my experience, they were for arranging trips to Taco Bell with the one friend who has a car and the 11 who have enough nickels to afford a single burrito and all the free sporks a teenager could ask for. For all the time I’ve had a phone, I’ve never wanted to talk to people over it.
And now I don’t have to. I don’t have to answer calls asking for tech support for people I haven’t worked with in 3 months. I don’t have to hang up on mechanized telemarketers. I don’t have to lie to the cashier at the art supply store because they can’t get my number for a free account with guaranteed discounts and exclusive offers if I don’t have a phone number to give. I miss the memes and there’s a Twitter-shaped hole in my heart, but the mental weightlessness I’m getting from not having to worry whether or not I’ve missed a call I didn’t want to answer anyway is just gratifying to a near sexual degree.
I don’t think I even need to run away to the woods now. Not giving people I don’t want to talk to a direct conduit into my life was all the escape I needed. That makes sense. That should have made sense earlier. I shouldn’t give people my phone number. I should get a new one and only tell a few people I have it. I could pretend to be even more pretentious than I already am and say things like “I just feel that I’m above this whole phone fad.”
I’m going to lean into this freedom from unnecessary obligations and awkward conversations. I can’t afford a new phone for a while, and I don’t really want to now. I’m not closer to living out my wilderness daydreams, but if people I don’t like can’t make my pocket vibrate anymore, then I don’t really need the woods. I could just stand near a potted plant and continue not buying a new phone.