Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: What happened the last time you forgot your cell phone at home?
The Forgotten Phone
By Caroline Stevenson
I am a free spirit, on condition that I always have my Handy, my mobile, my cell phone ̶ or however you prefer to call it ̶ within reach.
I can let my hair down and be spontaneous, provided I can plan my spontaneity to the degree which assures that my spontaneousness is going to result in something rewarding, like checking out a beautiful part of the Austrian landscape I’ve never seen before, instead of whiling away a Sunday abandoned at a remote train station with no lunch because I never thought to check on rail replacement works.
Having a fully charged miracle of technology in my pocket gives me the confidence to go off the beaten track. So long as I have it on my person, I won’t necessarily feel the need to check it. It’s comparable to having a particular restaurant around the corner from your flat which you have still never dined in, despite having lived next to it for years, because you figure it will always be there at your disposal.
There is of course the odd instance where I am unavailable for a limited period of time. I can put it in flight mode and switch it off entirely for the duration of a concert without any form of panic about my lack of contactability to the outside world setting in. In this context I am being courteous and following social etiquette. If either of my parents went into hospital whilst I was at the theatre, they’d be totally cool with me not picking up immediately. In fact they wouldn’t forgive me, even from a hospital bed, if I interrupted an actor mid-monologue with a retro, Nokia-esque ringtone. But it’s a different matter entirely if you aren’t contactable for a prolonged period due to a moment of carelessness.
On the rare but memorable occasions I manage to forget to take my phone out with me and can’t turn back round instantly to retrieve it, the anxiety it induces is gut-wrenching. The first thought I have is Oh my god it’s been stolen, it must have been stolen, it’s so unlike me to forget my phone! And how screwed I must be as a result, because all of my details apart from my banking details are on that little addictive screen – and surely they can be gleaned too if my email account is expertly hacked into… but then I mentally retrace my steps, think of when I last saw it, and realise that in between my leaving the flat and walking the deserted street to board the bus into work, the only possible thief would be some sort of pickpocket ghost. So at least I will be reunited with it at some point, but it’s still not much comfort. As far as my brain is concerned, the day I forget my phone at home will inevitably coincide with a date some cult in some far-removed corner of the globe has had marked in their calendar for a good while. The final date on their calendar. For it is the dawning of the apocalypse. The day I forget my phone will be the day I suddenly get inundated with lucrative translation job offers which must be confirmed by sundown and submitted punctually in time for the apocalypse. A deadline’s a deadline. The day I forget my phone will be the day a close relative or dear friend is in urgent need of my help, desperate to speak with me and the only solace they get from me is my dreadfully tinny-sounding voice on my voicemail: “Hi, this is Caroline, I’m not available right now, please leave a message after the tone and with any luck we’ll speak again before the impending apocalypse.” I won’t even be able to let bygones be bygones and let that old flatmate know that I’ve finally forgiven them for taking that last slice of pizza out of the fridge – and all because I didn’t leave enough time to get ready for work and left my flat in too much of a rush. Again.
The moment I reach the workplace, I call my mobile from a landline – those relics of a bygone age – and am to some degree soothed by the fact that my mobile rings and goes to my irritating voicemail. I deduce it is absolutely still at home because a thief would have probably removed the sim card. And only a dumb thief would actually respond to an incoming phone call. I call my parents from work especially to let them know I won’t be available on my mobile for a while. And I call their landline because my mother is a switch-their-mobile-on-once-a-day kind of person, of the mindset that it is largely a one-way communication system. But somehow, irrationally, the burden is still on me, the less frail and more robust person in the equation, to be instantly available. Honestly, how did people get anything done before the advent of mobile phones? There must have been so much needless hanging around when a friend didn’t turn up at the expected time for a coffee date with no explanation.
After a long day at work with not quite enough distractions from my dilemma, much hand-wringing and drawn out suspense after a public transport delay, I am reunited with my phone, almost tripping myself up as I make a dash towards the device lying nonchalantly on the coffee table…
… I have one text message: Magenta is offering 2-for-1 cinema tickets. All that worry for nothing. Yes my ego is a little bruised by not having returned home to a flurry of messages, until my phone pings after I have cooked my dinner: do I fancy a day trip to the spa at the weekend? Why yes, that sounds like just the thing to recover from today’s stress. I’ll float around in the water contentedly, safe in the knowledge my phone will be shut away in a nearby locker. Let the spontaneity commence!
Sunday Wrters' Club member
Portrait of Caroline courtesy of Markus Raffeis
I absolutely share your beautifully captured sentiments.