Phone Home

Routines. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Write that down.

I’ve got my share, although habits are tricky for me, my tendencies toward compulsiveness understood and acknowledged. Sometimes it gets dangerous. Other times, good for me. Vigilance is the key, and now I have a nice pun that I didn’t see coming.

I spent some hours on the transit road yesterday, not my usual style but hey. It’s a break from habit. I needed to be down in Renton, some 30 miles or so south of here, at 7pm. For various reasons, it makes a lot of sense for my wife to take the car on Mondays, and she usually does.

But now I’m an elder. A Ruling Elder, actually, if you want to be specific. My wife is a Teaching Elder, which is the term we’re now using for ministers in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I feel so sorry for her.

“Elder” is such a loaded word, carrying with it centuries of shorthand. Aged, wise, a fount of good advice.

Just not in the Presbyterian Church. “Presby” means elder; presbyopia, which pretty much everyone over 40 has (it’s why you need bifocals or progressive lenses), just means “elder eyes.” So the system is set up with a committee of elders, voted in by the congregation, representative democracy alive and well here in this particular denomination.

So the Board of Elders, referred to as Session, is essentially student council. We are on the board of directors of the church, although it’s a small church and big decisions are rarely on the table. It’s really a fine way to have leaders, which organizations need, without heads getting too big. We are all just servants.

Last night, we talked about making sure the dishwasher was loaded correctly. For an example.

Anyway, JK drove to school and then across the lake to church yesterday, her typical Monday, and I headed out at 3pm to do some bus work. The first takes me from fairly near my house to the mall, which then means I walk across the mall, the entire mall, to reach the next bus stop. I usually have 15 minutes to do this and can pull it off in less than 10, so there’s a little pressure but not much. And yesterday was warmish and sunny. I wore sunglasses most of the trip, even.

Then I pick up that bus, after my short wait, and spent an hour getting to the Bellevue Transit Center, where I wait about 10 minutes for the next bus. And then I spend another hour on that, walking the last half-mile from where it dropped me off to church. An easy trip, a little exercise, three hours of my time that, again, I could spend enjoying sunshine and some interesting podcasts.

And then the drive home, no big deal. I left a battery charging in the car, which I do a lot, so I had to turn around and retrieve it. A couple of hours go by as I unwind, and then I head for bed, another routine I try to keep.

As I took my glasses off to place on the nightstand, I realized I forgot my phone. I leave it muted for the night but it’s useful for setting alarms or getting the time in the middle of the night if I’m so inclined. So back to the man cave to retrieve it.

No sign of it there, and now I’m not quite so sleepy. One doesn’t want to leave one’s phone lying around. It’s locked down and I could wipe the contents remotely long before someone broke my PIN, but that’s no fun. Retracing my steps made more sense, and sure enough it had just slipped out of my pocket and was lying on the floor of the car.

Back inside to reassure my wife that phone was retrieved. A few minutes to let the adrenaline get re-uptaken or however that works, then back to bed, where I conked out quickly.

Fast-forward to 6am, when my wife stirs me to drive her up to the bus stop. At the last moment, I can’t find my keys, so I just use hers.

But no sign of the keys inside, or in the car. I obviously used them to get my phone, so we’ve narrowed the timeframe. Not on my desk. Not in my pockets. Not on the ground, shoved between the seats, lying in the flower bed. No keys. Keys are important.

A little panic this morning, then, until my wife texted to try the bed. It was late at night; maybe I left them in my pockets. And sure enough, there they were. Relief.

But a little fear, too.


It wasn’t the keys. That made sense. A spontaneous, late-night trip outside to get my phone? Easy enough to slip my keys into my sweatpants and then wear those to bed, letting my keys land where they will. It’s nice that I found them. No fun changing locks.

It was the phone. As I said, I keep it silent during sleeping hours, although it’s been programmed to let phone calls through from family members, just in case. It just saves me the beeping from late-night emails. It mostly serves as a convenient light, and the alarm. I never read screens in bed, not anymore.

But I panicked, bigly. And that’s the unnerving part.

Look: We all know about phones. Unless you’re one of those who’ve opted out of smart phones, and I know a few, our phones carry a lot of information. So do my credit cards and driver’s license, which I could also easily lose, but my phone? Emails, text messages, browsing history, photos…it’s an open book to pertinent details about my life, and could lead in the right (wrong) hands to a lot of information that could be troublesome.

An answer would be to downgrade to less reliance on my phone, but that’s not happening either. It’s an incredibly useful tool, letting me be reached (when I want to) anywhere in the world, along with maps and weather forecasts and all sorts of useful apps. I will take the good and keep an eye on the bad.

And, again, it’s pretty locked down. Law enforcement would have a lot of trouble breaking into it, as we saw with the San Bernardino shooter. Although I have no issues with law enforcement at the moment.

A criminal would be more inclined to try brute force, but again: I’m aware of this. My PIN is very long, and my fingerprint keeps a quick unlock available but only resides on my fingers. I never let my phone out of my sight for any length of time, so if it goes missing for any length of time I’ll just wipe the contents, put a recovery email message on the lock screen, and hope for a good Samaritan while I look into replacing the phone.

I was spared that, but the fear that went into a temporarily missing phone is disturbing. Keys, sure. Everybody wants to keep track of their keys. Letting my phone out of my sight, or at least my knowledge of its whereabouts, and I panic.

This bothers me. I may not be able to get unbothered; we make choices, and I guess I’ve made this one. And I’m not worried about living life with my face buried in a screen; I don’t use it that much, unless I’m traveling.

But take it away, even for a short time? That’s pretty classical dependency, and while I might be willing to accept it, it’s got me thinking. I lost my wedding ring a few weeks ago and I had nowhere near the anxiety about that in comparison. Maybe time to reevaluate.

Or maybe time to be extra vigilant. My phone isn’t going anywhere. At least not if I have anything to say about it.

I won’t say much into it, you understand. I just like having it around.

Pillow talk

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