No Messages This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Clutching my tiny silver phone as it dribbled water all over me, I came to the gut-wrenching realization that my phone was dead. I shook my link to the outside world with all my might in hopes of releasing as much water as possible. After a few minutes of blow-drying the internal circuit board, light illuminated my screen and sent me a message of hope. When my hand began to vibrate, I shouted, “Sweet Jesus, it’s coming back to life!” The buzzing ring tone brought a sense of promise but that was unfortunately shortlived. My phone died in my hands that night.

The next few days of solitude were eye-opening. Drifting from civilization and with no way of contacting anyone to explain my isolation, I felt naked without my cell. I began to wonder how much our society relies on technology. I found myself worrying about losing all my numbers, never seeing my pictures again, and never reading the text messages I had saved for months. This was serious. All my numbers were stored on my dead phone and I realized that I only knew three by heart: my home phone, my sister’s cell, and my ex-boyfriend. This made me wonder if cell phones are actually making us dumber. I remembered being in middle school and able to recite all my best friends’ numbers. Apparently times have changed.

Not having my phone made me think of when my obsession started. I got my first cell phone when I was 14 after living with one of the most over-protective mothers in the world. Prior to that, I carried around a pink beeper that would go off every four minutes. But having a cell phone in ninth grade put me on another level of cool at my school. Unfortunately, that fizzled out faster than banana clips in the ’80s, since it was only for “emergencies.” Now, my mother’s idea of emergency differed from most. If the school bus dared to be more than 10 minutes late, my phone would be ringing.

As the years passed, phones began to shrink in size, and so did my mother’s strictness about its purpose. I became one with my phone. Discrepancies regarding which company to choose and how many minutes would suffice became everyday jargon in my household. It was not until this fall when I entered college that I felt completely dependent on my cell.

Like most students, I didn’t have a landline in my apartment. I had access to email, but the only way I talked with family and friends was with my cell phone. When it died I truly felt disconnected from everyone, but as each day passed, it became easier to manage. At times I almost felt relieved that I was not on call. I shopped in silence, drove with music, and quietly walked around campus observing everyone on their phones. Who were they talking to? Who was I always talking to? And what was I always talking about? I found myself questioning the importance of being so available and found it relaxing not having to worry about responding to a call too late, reading too much into a text message, or checking how many minutes I went over on my last bill.

Consistently walking into silent classrooms while everyone either listened to their iPods or talked on their Razors gave me a reality check. Do students avoid talking to strangers? I was guilty of the same thing. I usually listened to my iPod on the bike path, checked voicemails right after class, and then talked to friends on my phone before putting ear plugs in for the ride home. It seems we have turned into a society that values technology over face-to-face communication. Driving home from work one night, I noticed all the drivers passing me were on the phone. I myself had memorized what letters were on what numbers of my key pad so that I could text message while driving.

I finally came to grips with the fact that my phone would never work again and sprinted to the Verizon store. I weighed my options, but most important was what this poor college student could afford. It seemed as though America’s obsession with thinness meshed with technology, as phones are smaller and thinner than ever. I had no clue whathalf the features meant but I did know that no phone was even close to my price range. I circled the store several times before leaving. Even though I desperately needed a phone, I could not bring myself to buy an ugly, low-feature, bulky one.

Ebay was my cheapest alternative and was a pleasant surprise. I found my exact model phone, with the car charger, for $100. I put the item on my watch list and prayed no one would bid higher than me. Days passed and less than a minute before the auction ended, some jerk from Kentucky outbid me by two dollars.

Eager for a break from my phone frustration, I went home to discuss my next step. One of my girlfriends told me her dad fixes cell phones for a living. Following his advice, I took my phone and doused the keys and back with 100% rubbing alcohol, then blow-dried everything some more. I nervously gripped my phone and pressed the power button. After a few long seconds a voice came from my cell, “Hellomoto,” and a screen with colorful swirls and shapes appeared. I screamed with excitement as I looked upon my resurrected electronic device. And then came the swarm of text messages, voicemails, and pix texts I had been missing for an entire week.

I am still obsessed with my cell phone, but when I look back on my week of solitude, I sometimes find myself missing the relief I felt by not always being available to talk. For seven days I was not just a phone call away, and that felt liberating. I turned off my talkative world and went to class, went to work, and went to the grocery store all by myself. I had no one to tell me about their day or what they were doing because I was busy living my own life. Now I find myself silencing my phone more often than answering it. I still feel as though I am addicted to it, but now my binges are not so expensive.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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