Technology

My Name Is Erica and I’m a Cellphone Addict

My worst fear came true last weekend. I lost my most precious possession—the apple of my eye, the love of my life. No, not my dog or my cat or my child or my husband. My cellphone. It had dropped out of a shallow pocket in my pants. (When will they start designing pants for the humongous-phone era?)

I’d gone out to a movie with a friend. She’d driven me home after we stopped to visit a friend of hers. As always, the first thing I did when I walked in the door was look for my phone. It’s a large Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with a lime green cover that I bought because it’s so bright, I can find the phone easily when I lose it in my house several times a day. So I looked, but no reassuring lime green peeked out from anywhere in my pants, my bag — anywhere. I assumed it was in my friend’s car, so I ran out and starting waving at her frantically as she blithely drove off, not realizing I was in dire trouble. I jumped into my car and tried to follow her, but it was too late. I turned around and went home, figuring I would call her from my landline.

Then it hit me — I didn’t have her number. It was on my cellphone.

I could have driven to her house if I’d remembered where it was, but like most South Floridians she lives in a complex with hundreds of identical houses on maze-like streets, and while I’d visited her a few times, her address was, of course, on my phone.

At this point, I realized that I’d never find her in a million years. In fact without a phone number or address, I might have lost her forever. She was a fairly new friend — who knew when I’d hear from her again.

Or see my cellphone again.

How much do I love my phone? Let me count the ways:

  1. For getting calls from people who only have my cell number (I was expecting a couple of important calls).
  2. As a GPS to find my way around.
  3. For listening to audiobooks.
  4. When I need fast information about just about everything.
  5. As a calculator when I can’t figure out the math.
  6. As a flashlight when I’m in a restaurant and can’t read the menu
  7. To call an Uber when I can’t drive because I’m getting sedation at the doc’s office.
  8. To consult my shopping list.
  9. For texting. In fact I always texted my friend, which was why I couldn’t find her number.

This is a shortlist.

By now I was in a panic — the device I always turn to when I need help was nowhere to be found. Without my phone I was helpless. In fact, I realized later, I suffer from a classic case of nomophobia: an over dependence on electronic devices.

I’d installed the Find My Phone app on my phone, which supposedly syncs to your computer so you can track your phone’s whereabouts when it goes missing. I found the Find My Phone website, which seemed to exist only to promote how wonderful the app is but didn’t give any indication of how to use it to find your phone. Eventually, after clicking around, I thought I’d figured out how to find my phone, but when I tried nothing happened. Geez. I hit the Help link, which told me to ask other users in a forum. They had to be kidding. (I later discovered that I’d failed to click a miniscule gear icon and then a Device Manager, which would have located it. Who designs these sites? Obviously no one who has lost their phone and is in a panic.)

I poured a glass of wine to calm down and collapsed on the couch, determined to drive to my friend’s community the next day and harass the office into giving me her address, and I fell into a fitful sleep. At 4am I bolted upright: I’d looked for my friend’s number in Google contacts on my computer — my phone contacts automatically sync to my computer — but I’d been looking under a last name. Sure enough, there she was, hidden at the end of a long list of Carols, most of whom I didn’t remember and should have deleted long ago. Whew! Saved by Google.

I called her first thing in the morning but — more panic — the phone was not in her car. She called the friend we’d visited, who found it on her lawn. I said I’d pick it up.

“How are you going to find her house without your phone?” Carol asked me.

“Can’t I look it up on Google Maps and print out the directions?”

“It’s an incredibly confusing area. Can’t you use your GPS?”

“It’s on my phone,” I whined.

So she picked me up and drove me there. Carol is now in line for sainthood.

My phone was none the worse for spending the night in the grass. I clutched it to my bosom and felt whole again.

What did I learn from this experience? A lot! I immediately insured my phone with my carrier for $10 a month. They’ll replace it the next day if I lose it. I downloaded a better app to find my phone: Lookout is more intuitive and will locate my phone even if the battery runs down by sound a deafening siren sound. (Here’s the Lookout link for iPhone.) The app also allows me to lock my phone remotely so nobody else can use it or access the information I store in it. And I’ll make sure to keep it synced to Google so all my data is in the cloud and will appear automatically on a replacement phone. I suggest you take these measures as well if you’re as nomophobic as I am.

In the meantime I’m looking for a cure for PTPD: Post Traumatic Phone-loss Disorder.

Are you addicted to your smartphone? This site has a questionnaire to determine how far gone you are. (My score was off the charts)

 

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