FLINT - The long holiday weekend allowed me to do something I've wanted to do for a while now.
I put down my cellphone.
Not for the entire weekend, but for one glorious day, at least, I didn't answer it when it buzzed. Didn't check my e-mail. Didn't send my son or my wife a word in "Words Free," which is a phone version of Scrabble we're playing. (A game of actual Scrabble used to take an hour. We've been playing the same game of Words Free for a month now. We expect to finish sometime in 2013. Ain't technology grand?)
I didn't even answer texts. True, no one actually sent me one. But, still, I didn't check to find out that they hadn't, and that's progress.
Seriously. Lately, I've become addicted to my phone, which is painfully ironic in that I'm the guy who used to write all the time about how obnoxious people are with the things.
Not that they still aren't obnoxious. They totally are. What's changed - to my deep and everlasting shame - is that I've become one of them. I walk down the street with perfectly acceptable people talking to other people on the phone. I chat while driving. (Although I don't weave. I am, after all, the world's best driver. You can look it up.) I check e-mails and scores when I'm out at dinner with my wife.
Worst of all, I find myself filling spare time with the phone. Instead of thinking deep thoughts, I grab the phone and check the stock market; instead of contemplating the meaning of man's existence, I slingshot exploding angry birds off of improbable stacks of blocks.
That's no way to live. Where would humanity be if people never allowed themselves moments of silent contemplation? I doubt the Gettysburg Address would have even gotten written if Lincoln had a smart phone.
"Let's see now: Four score and whup, hey, a Facebook poke from Gen. Grant. I'd better poke him back. Very sensitive, that man."
Napoleon at Waterloo: " and I was, like, lol, and hang on no, lieutenant, it does not concern me that the Prussians are on their way. You handle it; can't you see I'm on the phone here?"
Sir Isaac Newton: "Ow, that apple hurt. I wonder what makes it fall like that? I wonder if ooo, hey, a text."
So I'm glad I put the phone down for a day. I'd forgotten the joys of being out of touch and off the grid. It was refreshing. And it reminded me that I was right in the first place about cellphones.
Life was better without them. All phones, in fact.
I'd like to have lived before they were invented, to be honest. Back then, if somebody wanted to pester you, he or she had to come to your home or office, and you could always hide behind the curtains and not answer the door. (I still do that when the Girl Scouts come around. Hey, I'm trying to lose a few pounds.)
Then Alexander Graham Busybody invented the phone and, worse, somebody else invented the answering machine and everything changed.
Not only could people could crashing into your life whenever they felt like it, they could also leave you a message, which made it impossible to avoid a lot of unpleasant things people always seem to want you to do, like work and errands.
Cellphones only heightened the affect and made it doubly hard to hide out from the world. Now people can reach you anywhere, anytime, and they can leave you messages a bunch of different ways, so there's no escape.
"Didn't you get my call? I left you a voicemail. Didn't you get my text? I'll send you an IM on Facebook."
Even the best liar can't get out of doing stuff he doesn't want to do anymore.
So, yes, honey, I'll pick up milk on the way home. And the dry cleaning. And some pizza.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.