Phantom Vibrations


I noticed it for the first time when I went to South America a couple of years ago. After 3 flights and nearly 24 hours of travel I had arrived in Santiago, Chile without my luggage. To kill time I took a walk around the city to start my day.

I was soaking up the sights and sounds when I felt my phone vibrate. I reached my hand into my pocket and… nothing. My phone hadn't vibrated because there was no phone. My phone didn't work internationally and there was no reason to have it with me so it was turned off and buried in the bottom of my backpack where it would remain until I returned to the states.

So if my phone wasn't in my pocket why did I feel this phantom ring?

It happened to me several more times that trip and it was weird, kind of spooky. Like I had a haunted thigh.

I was in South America for over two weeks and by the time I left the phantom vibrations had tapered off. I had very much realized that there was no phone in my pocket and the only vibrations were in my brain. But since that trip phantom vibrations happen to me regularly.

Part of it makes sense because I rarely have my phone on anything but vibrate. I used to have specialized ringtones for all of my friends but stopped doing that when I realized how much effort it was.

It's not saying that I don't love my friends and think they are all deserving of individual recognition... it's just that they are all equal in my eyes.

Ahem, moving on.

But what started as a coincidental observation in South America has turned into something more. I check my phone way too often. Sometimes it does vibrate but I don't feel it. I use this as a reason to justifying checking my phone every other minute. Perhaps it is not hyperbole to call it an addiction. What else do I do 20 or 30 or… 50 times a day?

It's the only activity that's normal to do that frequently. If I wanted to know if it was raining, I might check online, or look out the window. But if walked over to the window 30 times a day to see if it was raining, people would think I was a mental patient.

If my phone were a person, our conversations would go like this.

Hey do I have an email?
No.
Hey do I have a text?
No.
Hey did somebody tweet at me?
No.
What about an email?
No.
Are you sure?
Yes.
And still no texts?
No.
Do you want to check if I have any emails?
::punch::

Yes from time to time I do get some important emails. Perhaps my bank balance is low, or somebody needs a last minute favor, or a friend is unexpectedly in town, but on the whole as embarrassing as it is to say… my life isn't that important.

There aren't teams of people running around asking each other

What would Rich Boehmcke do? What does he think? We should email him immediately and find out.

And now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I don't want teams of people wondering that.

Sometimes I will pull my phone out of my pocket and if the little green light in the upper right hand corner isn't blinking I will just put it back in my pocket. And in my head I will congratulate myself for resting the temptation to turn on the screen just to make sure.

Like this is some kind of great life accomplishment.

I pretty much did the same thing when I was down at my parents house this weekend. They live in a quiet part of South Carolina and going down there is absolutely relaxing. Their development is super quiet, nobody has anything to do, I just sit on the porch and chill.

I take this as an opportunity to not carry my phone around all the time. An added bonus of this is I no longer have a super hot nuclear generator toxic electro wave distribution power plant pressed up against my leg for much of the day. I am absolutely terrified of the as yet unknown effects of carrying a cell phone around all day so the chance to have it not pressed up against my flesh 2/3 of the day is a welcome relief.

But even when I take my phone out of my pocket and leave it in my room, throughout the day I will still walk past my phone and glance at it.

WHAT AM I EXPECTING TO SEE?

Even when I do have an email, 999 out of 1,000 times it is some unenlightening mailing list I subscribe to, or a bank update, or something else I don't even care about. But somehow that little frigging green light makes me feel validated. Like every time it blinks it says:

Richyouarespecial Richyouarespecial Richyouareloved

When I was in South America, or any of the other times I've left the country, I have had no problem leaving my phone in my luggage until I get back home. Because I WANT to unplug. I like stepping away from technology and connection. I like being off the grid for a while. I like taking the time to soak up things like conversations and scenery and ya know… life.

And when there is no chance of being contacted, I don't worry about what might being going on elsewhere. I went to Fiji earlier this year and not only did I not care about email or Facebook or texts, but I also couldn't stay awake for the entire day and I fell asleep every night by 10.

But for some reason, if there is even a remote possibility that somebody might potentially have a fraction of a reason to get in touch with me… man it is all I can do to avoid checking my phone every 90 seconds like I am about to get a text from Jesus.

What I really need to do is realize that if there IS actually something important about to happen, I can always just take out my phone and hold it in my hand, crank up the volume and wait for said event to occur.

But again, the chance of that happening is pretty slim. Considering there are no Victoria's Secret Models, Hollywood Producers, or Renaissance patrons of the arts who have my phone number.

So if there is a chance, a slim, fractional, remote chance that somebody… anybody, wonders what would Rich Boehmcke do?

Well, I'll answer them now. He'd probably just check his email.