Filling the Gaps

It is hard to believe that smart phones have only been around for a decade. Though only ten years have passed, I can’t remember how I filled the gaps of time while waiting to do something else. These days, that time is often filled looking at my iPhone.

I have this irritating habit of pulling my phone out of my pocket when I step onto the elevator. Since getting my new phone (one in which I deliberately refused to install Facebook and Twitter) I’m trying hard to break that habit. Still, I walk onto the elevator and my natural instinct is to reach for my phone. It feels strange just to stand there doing nothing.

What did I do in elevators before I had a smart phone? I can’t remember. Smart phones have sunk their roots so deep into my brain that it seems like I’ve always had one ready for use. But there was a time before smart phones. Indeed, I lived some 35 years before the smart phone came along. Why, then, can’t I remember what I did in elevators before my smart phone provided a distraction?

For that matter, what did I do while waiting in the lobby at the doctor’s office. Probably I read the well-worn magazines scattered across the table. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen magazines in waiting rooms for a long time. Charging stations, yes, but not magazines.

Now that I have taken Facebook and Twitter off my phone, I have less reason to pull it out of my pocket while waiting for something. I am slowly beginning to remember what it was like to just stand there and wait. But I am also beginning to recall just how frequent that waiting can be.

It leads me to recall how I managed to do lots of other things before my smart phone did them for me. Remember meeting friends at the mall after school? We’d pick a time and place, and that’s where we’d meet. If one of us was going to be late, there was no way to let the others know. We made it work.

I knew the roads in my old neighborhoods far better than I know the roads in my own neighborhood today. I would pour over Thomas Guides of the San Fernando Valley. It seemed, at one point, that I knew every street. Flying over the Valley (back when I flew) I could easily recognize houses and builds and streets from the air because of those maps.

Not so today. The Google Maps app on my phone takes care of directions for me. It makes it easy to get where I am going, but its the maps version of Cliff’s Notes, and I feel somewhat ashamed every time I turn to Google Maps.

For the first 35 years of my life, the morning weather report suited me just fine. A newspaper like the Los Angeles Times gave me what I needed to know. I got along without up-to-the-minute weather and BREAKING NEWS.

Refusing to install Facebook and Twitter on my new phone has been a good thing. Now, when I have to wait for something, I pull out my phone and check the weather, or pop open the L.A. Times or NY Times apps to see if anything has happened in the 30 minutes or so since I last checked.