Books Magazine

My First Cell Phone Nightmare

By T.v. Locicero

So I had my first cell phone nightmare last night. I’m not talking about some frustrating episode that actually happened involving the ubiquitous little device that has taken over our lives—the kind of experience where you just can’t get the damn thing to do what it’s supposed to. I’m sure many of you are only too familiar with what I’m talking about.

No, this was a real nightmare, the kind you have when you’re lucky enough to finally fall off to sleep. It felt like most of the night I was fussing and fuming with my little Blackberry, trying to make it work properly. But the more I tried, the more weird and dysfunctional it got, producing more and more bizarre pictures on the screen and disallowing any of those vital things I feel like I need to be doing every waking minute with my phone.

Like, making an overdue call to friends or family (that will often go to voice mail because they can see it’s me calling), or reading an urgent text telling me a package I received yesterday has just been delivered, or taking a call from some solicitous guy named Bruce in India who thinks I need help with erectile dysfunction, or opening an email with a news flash on some incomparably stupid thing Trump has just done that I’m now hearing about for at least the fifth time, or…well, of course I partially jest. Not all my cell phone transactions are misleading or a waste of time, but you get the idea.

If my nightmare sounds like a Kafka story for our times, that’s pretty much what it felt like. (For those of you who just said, “Wait, what’s a Kafka?” or “Why would a Middle-Eastern food favorite have anything to do with this?”—just go google on your mobile.)

As I said, the dismal dream seemed to go on for much of the night, and when I’d wake occasionally and then try to get back to sleep, I’d immediately find all those disturbing images from my out-of-control smart-ass phone again flooding my mind as soon as I’d close my eyes.

Actually, it felt as if that nightmare almost had a mind of its own and wanted to consume mine. Yes, a strange notion but even awake, it seemed I was still in its thrall. And now that I think about it, that’s kind of how I feel about the disruption our cell phones are inflicting on most of our waking lives.

Disruption. Now there’s a seminal concept, one we need to understand and apply to practically every aspect of our contemporary world. Like Amazon disrupting the book business, or iTunes with the music industry, or Trump doing it to the American political landscape. But our so-called smart phones may be disrupting more things in our everyday lives than any other social or technical phenomenon.

Yes, you’ve always been able to take a photo of your genitalia and send it to someone who might (or quite possibly might not) want a look, but now you can do it practically instantaneously with just a single tap or two.

Remember road maps? The kind that were often a pain to fold back up correctly? Now road maps are like ancient relics because your phone will calmly talk you through directions to just about any location on the globe and show you a photo of that spot both from above and at ground level.

Want someone to spend the night with you, or maybe share the rest of your life? Just tap away. How about knowing how many minutes you’ll slice off your life span if you indulge in that delicious looking glazed concoction you’re eying at the local donut shop? I’m sure there’s an app for that…or there will be tomorrow.

Our phones can kill us (just keep using yours behind the wheel), or find a cure for what ails; they’ll teach us something amazing, or make us remarkably stupid; connect us, distract us, or keep us living in a bubble; help us find love or trouble or both, learn the facts or remain ignorant, tell us what to cook tonight, or how to overthrow a dictator tomorrow; they can make us well-informed citizens, or prey to fake news, show us the play of the day, or someone’s head chopped off, the cutest kittens at play, the latest live Facebook murder, or a horrific natural disaster; and they’ll offer the most elaborate bird calls, the ugly screams of a mob, or our favorite song.

Come to think of it, given the incredible penetration of these powerful little pocket things into practically every corner of our psyches, I’m surprised at how long it took for my phone to finally invade my dream life.

And while I haven’t researched this, I’ll bet you a box of those artery-clogging donuts that there’s an app out there that will turn your mobile into a soothing white-noise or soft music provider that will help you get right back to sleep if a nightmare wakes you up.

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