By Lisa Black
I forgot my phone the other night.
Perhaps that should be written as: The other night, I left the house and forgot my phone!!!
After a busy day of cleaning and laundry and other tedious day-off tasks, I rushed out of the house to play a concert with the local community college orchestra. I play the violin—terribly, so I play very quietly and try not to screw up.
I hit a traffic jam, and we had been told to be ready to play the dress rehearsal at 6 PM sharp. If you’ve ever played in any musical group you know that no one on earth can give you the evil eye like a conductor. No one. The general of an opposing army across a battlefield, the IRS agent auditing your sketchy deductions, the mother-in-law when you let out a belch that rattled the light fixtures at her sit-down dinner. No one. So even though my conductor is an adorable little always-slightly-flustered new mom, when that traffic slowed up I reached for my phone to find an alternate route.
And remembered how I left it on my desk, charging until the very last minute.
Now, I’m not a tween who can’t go ten seconds without TikTok. I’m an adult who remembers having one phone in the house and no answering machine. If you called someone and they didn’t answer, you called back later. If you called someone and they were already talking to someone else, you got a busy signal, and called back later. If you were away from the house and had an accident, you found a pay phone, for which you always kept a quarter in your purse. And believe it or not, we survived.
And I like cell phones. I like the security of knowing a family member can get hold of me at any time. I also have a job that occasionally needs to ask people to come in even when they’re not ‘on call.’ I like knowing that if it was my fender bender in that traffic jam, I could call the police, ambulance, spouse, tow truck and anyone else necessary with a touch of my thumb.
I’m also an efficiency nut. I love the ability to answer emails while I’m standing in line at the post office, or to research a topic while waiting for a flight to deplane. Without that I’d have to make conversation with other human beings or, almost worse, waste time.
But I had no choice. I’d spend the next four hours honing my observation skills—important for a writer—and maybe pick up a few things to use in a book. Efficiency, always.
I got through the concert without causing major embarrassment to myself or my fellow musicians, and sat in the auditorium to listen to the other ensembles, a small string group and a large chorale and soloists. Selections ranged from a 400 year old opera to an incandescent rendition of “Northern Lights” by Ola Gjeilo.
You can forget the difference between live music and recorded, until you’re there. And though I like pop music as much as the next person, sometimes you need the more classical stuff, with notes that rise and fall and melodies and countermelodies and harmonies that make your mind race trying to follow it all across those lilting clouds of sound.
Try it. If you’re not into music, find some other way to get that tingly feeling of being completely present, just for a few minutes. Play a game with a small child and don’t let yourself think of all the work you should be doing. Cook some complicated dish entirely for yourself. Find some running water—a beach, a fountain—and watch the wave patterns. Go listen to live music, even if it’s your kid’s sixth grade band recital, and really listen.
Your brain will feel as if it took a vacation.
What about you, readers? What do you do to unplug?