A marketing department used to pay me to say so, but I’ve been off their clock for a long time now, so that’s an honest plug.
As handy as it to have a jukebox, argument settler, movie library and camera in my pocket, though, it sure is good to step into the world without it once in a while.
I realized that a few times this summer, mostly by accident. Once the worry of what I was missing passed, every one of those times left me relaxed like I’m not sure I had been since the days when a guy didn’t need anything in pocket but his wallet and keys.
The first time in a long while that I untethered myself from the digital world was at a Kansas City T-Bones game early in the summer.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
My wife and I got caught up in a traffic jam turning into the stadium parking lot, then I made it worse by breaking out of the stream of creeping cars for what I’d have sworn was an empty spot. Growing up on the edge of a desert, I really should have learned how to spot a mirage long ago. The game was already going by the time I found a truly empty spot in the next parking lot over.
We rushed to the gate, scurried to our seats and plopped down to catch our breath.
My wife said something funny and I reached for my phone to share it on social media. No phone. It was back in the car that I’d scrambled out of in such a hurry, and now there was nothing to do but enjoy the joke between just the two of us and slide back into conversation.
It gave the day an old-timey feel — just right for a summer ballgame — to know that my whole world was narrowed down to a small ballpark for an afternoon.
Some weeks later I was helping out at my older son’s Boy Scout summer camp. The only way to get a reliable phone signal was to hike to a specific spot at night, and the camp Wi-Fi was so spotty that it was too exasperating to try to connect absent an emergency. My phone mostly stayed in my tent, reduced to a fancy alarm clock for the day when it was my turn to join the sunrise shower house clean-up crew.
Let me tell you, 10 days with no idea what the government had gotten itself into or what new responsibilities might be tumbling into my inbox was worth every swipe of my mop that morning.
Snapshots, though, aren’t as easy to give up as my social media or news fixes.
Back when I got hooked on photography, setting up chemical baths under a red lightbulb to develop the two or three dozen photos that the film I’d shelled out for allowed me, I couldn’t imagine the photographic freedom our phones give us now.
I take advantage of this high-tech bounty, to the point where outfitting my Boy Scout and myself for a canoe trip last month included picking up a waterproof phone bag so I could take pictures from the river. It worked perfectly, and I ended up with a handful of shots that captured the fun of the trip.
And then there’s one of the last pictures, taken close up as my son paddled past where I stood in waist-high water. His face is set in the determined concentration of a boy who’s trying not to run over his beloved dad at the same time he’s trying to pretend that his idiot dad isn’t standing in the river snapping photo after photo.
My battery died a few minutes later, so I stowed my phone, climbed back into my canoe and took in the view unfiltered by any lens for the rest of the day. With his old man’s camera out of the picture, my son let his face relax into a huge smile.
I didn’t come home with a picture of that, but my memory captured the image better than any phone could have.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.