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How I Reacted When My Phone Broke

How I Reacted When My Phone Broke


While I was out of town this past weekend, my cell phone rebelled. First it played with me by pretending to remain charged at 100% far past the point when that was even possible, and then it died. I tried to resuscitate it, and gave it a fresh round of CPR (cell phone repair), but alas, it had breathed its last.

The problem was that I was in the I began going through the stages of griefJewish Alps, the Borscht Belt—also known as the Catskills. I am now an expert on cell phone repair options within most of those 100 miles: in a word, none.

I began going through the stages of grief. I called my therapist (on someone else’s phone, of course), and he was not sympathetic enough, so I fired him. I figured I would rough this tragedy all by myself. It would be Tuesday, a five-day delay, until I could get it fixed (without ruining my family trip by spending an entire day addressing the issue), and one of those days was Shabbat, when I don’t even use my phone. So, all in all, I figured I could do it—a four-day break from my phone.

It turns out I am an addict. All the things the experts say about our addiction to cell phones are true. I couldn’t function for the first day. There was this involuntary jerking motion of my right hand to my side where my phone holster lives, and it didn’t matter that I knew my phone wasn’t there.

I couldn’t drive, because how can you get anywhere without GPS? Follow directions and street signs? So 1990s.

I couldn’t find my wife and kids, because that would require me to actually get up and look for them, versus the completely normal thing: texting them “where r u?”

It got progressively worse. I had a few spare minutes when I wasn’t doing something that filled my brain, and that right arm did its thing again, with the aim of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, and with no phone I was stuck there, in the mountains, with only my thoughts. Oy!

I started getting sweats and other ailments, as more and more of my life unraveled with my inability to function like a normal human being without my phone.

I mean, even my jog, which is one of my joys on vacation, was ruined, since I actually had to look and breathe and be mindful of what was around me. Looking at gorgeous scenery, tall trees, fields of green grass as far as the eye could see, rivers and dams and other natural beauty was all I could do. If only my phone was working, I could drown these sights out with music, or better, important news about what new crisis was happening in Washington.

Well, day three arrived and a weird thing happened. I guess I was detoxing, but I stopped missing my phone. And that’s when the really crazy stuff happened.

Turns out I have seven kids, four of who were with us at the time. Turns out they speak and are really great company.

Apparently, if you sit on a hammock with a couple of your children and no phone, they talk and say some of the funniest and wisest things. Shocking, I know, but true.

Turns out, if you don’t have your cell nearby, you might find a child of yours and teach that child how to ride a bike. In fact, if your face is not turned towards a phone, that child might even learn to ride that bike in under two days.

I found out more things.

Shockingly, my wife likes it when I look at her when she speaks, and when I smile when she makes a funny comment. My ears suddenly started working, and I heard her when she asked me to take out the garbage.

And it turns out that the miraculous creation around us can actually be seen and appreciated.

Alas, all sad things must come to an end, and my phone, now sporting a fresh new battery, has rejoined my life. However, this near-death experience has taught me that it might just be time to slow down and smell the roses, and perhaps leave the phone at home by mistake/on purpose more often and allow my phone-sickness to heal a bit.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that G‑d guides the steps of humanity, meaning that wherever we are and whatever we experience are paths to learning and growth.

Needless to say, the obvious lesson from my trauma (since I have my phone back, I find myself returning to my sinful ways) is to work on our collective phone addictions.

However, on a deeper level, as we It might be time to slow down and smell the rosesnear the holy month of Elul, a month dedicated to introspection, perhaps we need to orchestrate phone-down times—not just on Shabbat, but in our day-to-day lives—so that we can live in the mundane world without the natural mundane distractions.

Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—the holiness of these days teaches us to live on a higher level. The real goal of these days, however, is to bring that higher level down into the mundane world.

Elul, the month that is an acronym for the verse in Song of Songs Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li, “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,” is a time to really take a look at our Beloved, our Father in Heaven. To truly see Him, we need to put down the distractions. We need to put down our phones, because only then can we pick up the messages!

Quick, let me text that to someone . . .

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman is director of Chabad of Peabody, Massachusetts.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Atheist looking for truth August 13, 2017

"Quick, let me text that to someone ..."

LOL!!! 😂

I enjoyed reading this! Reply

Ellen Goldfarb Union City Ca via August 21, 2017

my phone was on a shelf in the bathroom and my husband threw the bath mat on it by mistake. I don't have to tell you how horrible I felt with a wet phone, since this was a first for me. It isn't even a smart phone just one I can text and make calls and so on. This article came to me just as I had this experience. Oh how true it is, after it dried with the help of my family, taking it apart etc. I felt no longer lost. This article was an inspiration to me. The phone wasn't important the family all helping me made my day! Reply

Duruonyeka Vitalis Onuoha Abuja August 20, 2017

The experience you shared is normal and part of human life. Reply

Michelle england uk August 19, 2017

very refreshing read - I smiled too! thanks and may G-d bless you more with your ability to put your phone down and enjoy the moment for which He set the scene and provided Family :) best Reply

Dina Mann Sunnyside, New York August 18, 2017

Smart/Stupid phones I love what you shared!! I never realized much dependency I have for my smart phone(s). I have 2 no less! One for my counseling practice and one for my life.

One thing I did do is remove myself from notifications for conferences, updates etc. from a miriad of organizations that I worked with from my previous field. Suddenly, there are less 'ding dongs' going off at all hours and things a eerily quieter. I feel a little unwanted so I check my phones and get a little angry. All in all, it is more peaceful. Also, 'do not disturb' is on for weekends, so no calendar reminders, alarm beeps go off for Sat and Sunday unless I set one as 'exception.'
But how great is technology!! I love it all the same. Reply

C August 17, 2017

Someone is trying to get your full attention, this was a blessing. Now, you have to discipline yourself to greatly reduce the amount of time that you are permitted to have the phone around you. Let your children be in-charge of timing you and taking your phone away and putting it someplace where you know you can find it later. You are role-modeling for your children appropriate and inappropriate behavior, good time to talk about addictions. You have a serious problem, and just because so many others are also addicted does no make it laughable. Your family is suffering because of how you chose to ignore them, and ignore your responsibility to be a parent and husband.
Good Luck and teach others to withdraw as well. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA August 16, 2017

If the author doesn't use the phone on Shabbat, why wouldn't he have already learned on previous Shabbats that "if you sit on a hammock with a couple of your children and no phone, they talk and say some of the funniest and wisest things" and "my wife likes it when I look at her when she speaks, and when I smile when she makes a funny comment"?

Shabbat is more than just going to shul and not using phones. It's supposed to enjoyed with one's family. Reply

S U.K. August 15, 2017

I do not have a mobile phone. It simply amazes me how people use their mobile phones as an additional vital limb.

Anxiety, detox from a phone? Time to evaluate life and the importance of human interaction.

Sadly, how many families are plugged in to a gadget without any social interaction? This is inhumane.

How many people have their Torah on a gadget? Reply

Susan Levitsky August 14, 2017

This may sound counter-intuitive, but you should get yourself a smart watch to go with your phone. It allows you see that the message, phone call or email is not important enough to stop what you are doing. Since your phone will spend more time in your pocket, you won't be tempted to look around on it if you are doing something important, like talking to your kids. Reply

Dina Mann Sunnyside, New York August 18, 2017
in response to Susan Levitsky:

Good idea!! It will save you the acute discomfort of going through withdrawal. Maybe do what we in the addiction counseling field call 'Harm Reduction"' You don't or maybe shouldn't go for total abstinence but do all little at a time. Mobile devices are a vital part of our modern communication and especially of you are a clergy, counselor or some other helping profession. But that doesn't mean you should be available 24/7.
Don't throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak! Reply

Sarah S. NYC August 14, 2017

Really nicely written piece. It's inspiring to see Hashem is working through so many details--including your own mental machinations! Reply

Simcha Frankel August 13, 2017

Rabbi Schusterman this story and lesson hits home in such a light and joyous way
Thanks and I might just leave my phone at home next time I go out
Simcha Frankel Reply

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