I was too calm at work. Something had to be wrong. Then I realized that I had left my phone at home—on the kitchen counter–probably under the bread wrapper. It was the same unnerving peace I felt on a vacation last summer–when we left the dog with friends.
Smudge is a hybrid, a schnorkie-poo, who, in the thankful absence of rats, is obsessed with one thing—the perfect blend of dye, felt and rubber toxins that is the tennis ball. He is so completely focused on bringing you that ball for you to obediently throw it across the yard/basement/bathroom that he’ll forgo food, rest and common sense—crashing into fences, couches and unsuspecting two year-olds. If you don’t follow his escalating sequence of hints (sitting patiently, rolling the ball closer, grumbling, grumbling louder), he’ll finally bark at the perfect frequency to shatter even our cheap wine glasses.
When we’re having dinner, he’ll politely wedge the ball under my left buttock, sit patiently and “ahem” if needed. My son has taken to stashing the ball in the freezer to kill its scent and calm down his majesty. But Smudge now knows the secret and barks at the fridge like it’s a poltergeist.
Traditionally, dogs often evoke warmth, kindness, loyalty and fun. Old pictures of family dogs carry with them great stories—even frustrating ones like our neighbor Wendy’s post today…
I have begun to think of my phone as Smudge—charming, fun, slightly irritating and thoroughly exhausting. By the end of the day, I have responded to so many emails that could have waited (or become obsolete had I waited a few hours), read useless Twitter-feeds and Facebook timelines that don’t apply to me and even scanned Detroit Free Press articles about the Pistons, for crying out loud, that I’m cranky and overwhelmed—my soul about as battered and torn as our dog’s nasty ball, particularly if I run across a rather negative post.
We now live in a Don Knotts world, nervously checking our laps at traffic lights, in the elevators, in the bathroom (come on, we know you do it!). We are tethered to immediate updates on 7th inning reports of no-hitters that probably won’t happen. I’d like to see a blood-pressure study done on your average TZM viewer. I turned on the TV last night by pressing the button on the side of the machine—old school—since I couldn’t find the remote. TZM was on full-blast with a frantic nasally announcer over violent editing that made me turn over every cushion in the house until I could find my cable remote and switch to a handy idyllic southern antidote, either in Mayberry, Walton’s Mountain or the Yule Log Channel.
I truly can see Deputy Barney Fife owning a cell phone, but doubt John Boy or Sheriff Taylor would remember at which fishing hole they’d left theirs.
I went for a three mile walk during lunch yesterday and found myself checking my phone every twenty yards—not for any reason, just in case. And in case of what I have no idea. I realized I’d become like Smudge barking at the Maytag. So halfway through my walk, I resolved to do some serious house-breaking of my beloved pet. We’ll see how it goes.
1. “Crate” It
Most of us don’t bring our dogs to work, and that’s probably a good thing. A Facebook-free friend of mine who only has a house phone smiles calmly, “If it’s a real emergency, people will know how to get a hold of me.”
Most likely your significant other, your mom and your kids’ school know your work number in case of something more serious than, “What’s up?” So leave it in the coat pocket, behind your door–at least 10 feet away so you actually have to physically move in order to preview next week’s weather on Easter Island.
2. Give It a Normal Routine
Like your dog on the couch until 3:30 when the kids come home, pretty soon, your phone will get used to your routine and won’t bother you so much. If you tell people that you’ll check email at lunch after dinner and that’s it, they might get used to it.
3. Don’t Sleep with It
It’s hard when the new puppy comes home to let it whimper in its crate. You want to pick it up and take it to bed with you. You want to caress the puppy and let it warm you throughout the night. But this puppy will vibrate AP News alerts or Groupon deals until its handy alarm’s chimes wake you from your sleepless slumber.
See if you can keep your phone out of your bedroom tonight! Put an old alarm clock in a sock in its box in the basement; it’ll be fine!
4. Don’t Wear It–or Have it Near the Dashboard
We’ve all done the double-take at cars on drivers’ laps or those odd little dogs that some folks carry in their little bags. (It’s nearly as disconcerting as the full costumes you see on short-haired dogs purchased for our polar-vortex hemisphere.) Take the phone of out your pocket; move it out of the cup-holder and stow it under the seat.
5. Don’t Baby It–Ignore Faux-Brations!
We have noticed that Smudge doesn’t really need us to live. He’s a foot tall, but somehow can grab a dish of butter from a counter-top–yet still wants to be lifted onto a bed. He’s a natural scrounger and can survive fine without us—so can my phone, I’ll wager. Yet we still worry all day about it–we want it to know we haven’t abandoned it. It needs to be checked every four minutes or so, just in case something happened on a newsfeed.
I’ve embarrassed myself enough times in meetings when I certainly felt a hum in my pocket. I pat myself down and then notice that, oh yeah, the phone is on the table. Faux-brations are a sure sign of over-exposure—leading to Barney-like twitches. But just like knowing that you can go to out and leave your kid with the babysitter (or your dog with that kind friend) see if you can also leave behind your phone. Maybe they’ll develop patches to stick on our arms to help us through the withdrawal.
Like the opening of The Andy Griffith Show, my lunch break and even calming that crazed dog, Walt Whitman observed that de-teching our lives can often be accomplished by a simple stroll.
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
So take a deep breath and go outside; remember the dog but forget the phone.