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The sound of silence, and rock 'n' roll

August 20, 2011|Bill Kohler

President Obama struggled to give up his Blackberry after he took office. I remember laughing when I heard that.

It's really no laughing matter.

It's been five days, 14 hours and 23 minutes since my cellphone was taken away. I left it in the pocket of my shorts last Friday while we were at the beach, fishing. It swims with the fishes. (I always wanted to write that in a column.)

I tried to give it CPR.

I tried to dry it off.

I even tried mouth to mouth.

We opted for soaking it in a bag of rice overnight, but it was too late. She was gone.

After a day and a half of wrangling online and over the phone with the carrier, a new phone was on the way — and I was a couple of Benjamins lighter.

So what did I learn from all this?

1. Keep the phone at the house or hotel unless you're expecting a call from a pregnant wife or about a dying loved one. Bring a real camera if you want to take pictures.

2. Get insurance for your smartphone.

3. I don't really need a smartphone.

Over the past year, I've become addicted. The phone is like a cigarette. I needed to know in my mind that one was there when and if I needed it.

I never left the house without it or a charger. I rarely could drive to work (or home even) without calling someone — a reporter, a family member, an old pal.

I loved my Bluetooth — for safety and convenience sakes.

I also became a texting fanatic. I was almost as bad as a high school girl. I was using emoticons, smiling and laughing as I texted. I got an unlimited plan, a family and friends plan, a five-faves plan and a wont-somebody-just-text-me-every-10-minutes plan. The phone was the last thing I looked at before I conked out and it was the first thing I looked at when I woke up.

I was sick. I didn't even recognize myself in the reflection of the 3 1/8-inch screen anymore.

Now don't get me wrong. Smartphones are amazing. In my opinion, they are the some of the best inventions of this technological age.

Cellphones in general are a journalist's best friend. You can call from the scene instead of searching for a pay phone. Reporters (and even crazy-eyed Tri-State editors) can send in photos and video from the scene that instantly can be put online.

Reporters can text me during meetings to tell me the meeting is going to last "forever." They even have the ability to use a phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot for another device.

I like them because I can check my work email from anywhere (even the beach!!) or take a photo (of me lounging poolside perhaps) and share it with a work colleague or sibling to rub it in. One particular recent highlight was when I texted photos of a Vince Lombardi statue outside Lambeau Field to some Steelers fans.

But you know what, I've discovered something in the last couple of days:

  • Silence
  • Rock 'n' roll
On the former, I've forgotten what it's like to think while I'm driving to work. Or not to be yakking on the phone while I'm making lunch.

I also have not missed the buzzing my phone makes every time there's a message or a call.

As for the latter, I've cranked up 106.9 on my earth radio and the Classic Rewind channel on my satellite the last couple of nights and wow, music is proof that there is a God and he loves us.

I'm not much for current music (except country and Rihanna), but I've forgotten how good some of that old stuff is.

So is there hope for me and other addicts?

Perhaps.

As a parent and supervisor, I'm all about teachable moments. You know, learning from our past and all that.

I think I've grown somewhat through this long, arduous process. Was I considering calling Dr. Drew? Yes. Did I spend a few hours in the fetal position? Those are just vicious rumors started by some hater on Facebook.

Bottom line? You can live phone-free. Landlines still do work. I even asked the nice lady at Sharrett to use one of their phones this week. She was kind enough to dial the number for me, too.

But do I miss it? Of course.

Does it make me smarter and more available to my family, reporters and friends? Surely.

Can I live without it? Of course not.

OK, gotta go. The FedEx truck should be stopping at my house any minute ...

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