A case of cell phone withdrawal

FLINT – My mind is racing. I’m sweating. It’s a cold sweat. I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t stop fidgeting. Fidget, fidget, fidget.

“What the heck is wrong with you?” says the lovely yet formidable Marcia.

I don’t want to tell her because it’s a little embarrassing. I suspect I’m having withdrawal.

Not from drugs. Not from booze. From something far more powerful and insidious: my cell phone. I left it at work, which is more than 60 miles away. I realized I’d left it behind about five miles into the trip home.

At the time I thought, “I gotta go get it!”

After all, I haven’t been without a cell phone on me or by my side for about five years now. It shocks me even to admit that because I’m the original cell phone skeptic.

When the first portable phones came out – the ones that were the size of a suitcase – I was the first to scoff at the idea. I mean, c’mon, who needs to be in touch all the time? Superman, maybe. You never know when the world will need saving. But he has super hearing and doesn’t need a phone. A phone booth, maybe. But not a phone. For anyone else, though, the idea that the world will collapse without instant access to their brilliance is just ridiculous. And arrogant.

“The idea will never catch on,” I predicted at the time.

But it did. Suitcase phones soon became the size of shoe boxes. I still couldn’t imagine who would want to make a call while driving or sitting on a train. Do it when you get there!

Nor could I imagine why anyone would want to be reachable at all hours, seven days a week. That’s nothing more than an invitation for your boss to reach out and ruin your weekend. No, sir. Not for me.

Even after cell phones became both small and popular about 10 years ago, I resisted. And it felt good. I felt like a rebel. “I will not be tethered to humanity,” I told myself. Yes, I think like that.

Eventually, I broke down, though, and got myself a cheap phone, the kind without a contract. A Tracfone. Remember those? I would use it for emergencies only, I said. It wasn’t long, though, before I was defining an “emergency” as the need to order a pizza on the way home or to chat with a buddy in Texas while strolling through Meijer.

For a while there I became, quite frankly, the kind of person I thought I’d hate: someone who publicly chatted on his phone for the express purpose of being seen publicly chatting on his phone. For some reason it felt good. I still can’t explain why. But it did. You know what I mean.

I don’t do that anymore, thank goodness, but I have long since graduated to a smartphone. And these days, oddly enough, I seldom use it as a phone. Instead I use it to check work emails (which I do incessantly, even while at dinner with the family), to read essential nonsense on Facebook and Twitter, to text the teenagers (usually “Where r u?”) and to play dumb, time-wasting games that I couldn’t live without. I’m pretty much on the thing 24/7.

That said, if you had asked me last week if I was addicted to it, I’d have laughed and said, “Don’t be ridiculous. I can stop any time I want. I control it. It doesn’t control me.”

But now that my phone and I are 60 miles apart and I’m suffering separation anxiety, I’m not so sure.

Is there a 12-step program for this?

EDITOR’S NOTE – Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.