Phone Home

In her rush to get to work one morning, M accidentally left her mobile phone at home. This got me to thinking, what is a mobile phone? As in, what does the mobile phone really mean to us these days?

Let's say you accidentally forgot to bring your mobile phone with you one particular workday. And let's say you don't really have any solid plans after work -- like, you want to hit the gym as part of your routine, but it's not like you had a client dinner meeting that you could never ever miss.

What impact would this have on this particular day in your life? What would you (have to) do about it?

For me, it used to be that it just meant I didn't have my phone with me. No biggie. And in the very beginning, I had everyone's phone number memorized anyhow; I was faster punching the number in than finding it in the StarTAC's phone memory.

Then in SF, my routine was solid enough that I would still go through with it as usual: work, gym, dinner, home. All the people I needed to talk to at work were accessible in the office. All the people I needed to talk to socially were online on MSN, YIM, or email, so that wasn't really an issue either. Sure, I loved my Nokia 8260, but I could still get through the day without much trouble -- I even memorized a few of my most frequently-used phone numbers.

But all that changed.

After moving to Taipei, I stopped memorizing phone numbers (mostly). I started to put more calendar information into W800i. I still didn't have a landline, so that didn't change, and I could still reach everyone by email/IM. Except, I spent a lot more time away from home (which was somewhat out of the way) meaning I had to do without my phone for a longer period of time without contact. [shrug] I guess that was alright, except that my mobile phone was a major communication device at my previous work: clients and partners would call me and expect me to be instantly reachable. (Yeah, that part sucked.)

Then the iPhone came.

And now that I'm all iPhoned up, this little beast carries all my contact information (even from past companies, whom I would never call on even a rare basis), my calendar schedule, my music (for listening to while at work), and a movie or so (in case I have a long waiting period to endure). It's definitely the digital counterpart to my life: there's a lot more going on now. And I have basically forgotten all mobile phone numbers except my own and a handful of others.

But even today, if I left it at home by accident, I wouldn't make a special trip home just to fetch it again unless it was on the way. With my trial .Mac account, all my basic contacts and calendar info is synced online, so I can still contact people as long as I'm at a computer with a net connection. I just can't be reached by anyone (except again by email or Gchat).

Maybe one day, I'll try leaving the house without my mobile phone. And see how naked I feel, or whether I'll actually enjoy the burdenless feeling of being tech-naked and frolicking in the sun.

That would truly be wireless freedom.

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