It was more or less like those dreams that we all occasionally get from time to time. I felt vulnerable and foolish. If the eyes of others weren’t permanently fixated on my pitiful self in morbid fascination, then they must have been savvy enough to look away quickly as I glanced around the room at them in silent horror.
I metaphorically was that guy standing next to his car on the side of the road after an accident; I had turned into the person who holds up a line by asking a bank teller for ten separate cashiers checks made out to ten different people; I became the man who realizes he forgot his wallet only after the waitress brings the check.
Everyone was staring at me and thought to themselves, “Tsk, tsk. The poor slob.”
What happened, you ask? Well, I left home earlier today and forgot to bring my cell phone. Can you imagine? Sheer panic and horror! My umbilical-cord-cum-pacifier combo was no longer within reach. I felt profoundly naked.
I noticed not having it with me about of a quarter-mile from home, and for two beats I thought about turning back to fetch it. But it just seemed so silly to waste time like that. Other than, God forbid, a car accident, what on earth did I need my phone for? I was headed to the bank and then the gym. Come on, Dude, get a grip. You made it through the sixties, seventies, eighties, and most of the nineties without having one and you were fine. When you needed to make a call back then, you reached into your pocket, pulled out some coins, and…
… oh, right. Pay phones don’t really exist anymore, do they? They do, but they really don’t. Not in the same conspicuous way they once did anyway.
Yet, it feels so strange to go out in the world now and not be connected to others in some fashion. People talk about being “unplugged” frequently, but I realized today that I rarely ever am. Curiously, though, I also seldom ever get phone calls on my cell phone either. My siblings and I tend to be very formal with one another, and for the most part we actually send emails ahead of time to arrange phone calls (don’t ask). Because the majority of my friends are out on the west coast, they likewise tend to e-mail first because of the three-hour time difference. Still, I never leave home without that cell phone.
It was at the gym this morning when I really felt the full impact of not having it with me. While everyone else around me constantly glanced down at their phones as they exercised, I was merely left with the pathetic option of glancing up at the FOUR televisions sets in front of my elliptical. Can you imagine?? Just TV to watch. Such deprivation!
I missed listening my own music, I wanted to hear my favorite podcasts, and it felt strange not being able to check my e-mail or read Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter feed.
And yet I wasn’t exactly starving for some stimulation if I cared to actually pay attention. In addition to those TV’s, the gym also offers their own piped-in music. I was pretty much hearing it for the very first time today. I had no idea that they play classic rock rather than unfamiliar pop hits from current artists about whom I am embarrassingly unfamiliar (the average age at this gym is between 55-60). Because I had full sensory awareness of my surroundings, not to mention using honest-to-goodness peripheral vision for once, I also noticed that not everyone wears headphones and listens to music while they workout. Some people bring books and magazines to read, while others, <GASP!> engage in actual conversation with one another. It was an eye-opening, ear-opening experience.
Perhaps most fulfilling during this unplugged experience was the quality of my own workout on the elliptical. I burned nearly ten more calories than usual and the mileage I made was appreciably higher than normal. By focusing on my workout instead of the phone, I achieved far better results than I regularly do.
I felt so pumped after I left the gym that I channeled that rascal blogger over at the Coffee Kat blog and headed right over to Starbucks for a different kind of pump — a single shot espresso. Kate’s not-so subliminal shilling for the Starbucks Corporation, in spite of her repeated denials, finally enticed me give in to temptation. My endorphins didn’t need any further fuel enhancement, but all the same it was the best post-workout high I’ve had in ages.
I have read countless blog posts and articles about unplugging and removing oneself from the grid. The concept has definite merit. It is good to try to be one with not only nature but those with whom we also come into some personal contact. All too often we pay more attention to that beep or ringtone than the importance of an actual person sitting or standing in front of us. I think this goes for paying attention to yet another important person in our lives, too: ourselves. With a glowing screen constantly in our face, the technology does tend to remove opportunities for contemplation and introspection.
I’m probably still going to bring my phone when I return to the gym tomorrow. I suspect I’ll continue to check my e-mail during a workout and definitely listen to my own tunes again. There’s something about the way the great James Jamerson played those bass lines on the old Motown tunes that is perfect for an aerobic activity, and I know I’ll get that from my own mp3’s.
I did, however, learn a good lesson today about eliminating tunnel vision and opening myself to additional stimuli. The government’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign is to keep us all aware and safe, but perhaps we can also use it to improve human interaction too.
Feel free to wave and say hello if you see me at the gym. I promise I’ll respond and not just look like some hypnotized robot. I further promise not to be literally naked. Trust me, it’s bad enough I have to see that.
Until next time…