7 Days without a Smartphone

Surviving without a ubiquitous modern accessory

Carson Ford
13 min readSep 10, 2018

The following is a fictional account detailing the aftermath of a traumatic occurrence in the life of a millennial. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.


I never thought it would happen to me.

It’s the sort of thing you assume will happen to someone else. However, turns out, I was that someone else.

I dropped my phone in the toilet.

The day had been off to a good start. I was texting back and forth with my crush, using just enough emojis in all the right places. The conversation was going well, a sporadic repartee that had spanned the whole morning. Anxious that I might miss one of her messages or take too long to reply I took my phone with me to the bathroom, setting it on the edge of the sink.

I was washing my hands when it happened.

I got a message from her. The phone vibrated as the notification flashed on the screen. The slight movement was enough to tip the phone off the edge. I lunged to catch the device before it could plummet to the cold bathroom floor, but my hands, dripping wet and slick with soap, proved useless. The phone slipped through my fingers and struck the rim of the toilet. The screen shattered into a spiderweb of jagged shards before teetering into the bowl with a resounding plunk. The screen flickered for a moment and then went dark.

I don’t know how long I stood there, staring down into the toilet; I had always used my phone to check the time.

In shock, I retrieved the ruined phone from the toilet and held it up to assess the damage. The diagnosis was clear: setting it in a bowl of rice wouldn’t work this time.

Recalling that I had purchased accident insurance for the phone, I left home and rushed to the wireless store a few blocks away.

There was no one in the store when I arrived. I rang the bell on the counter once, twice, and then a spectacled associate with a scraggly beard slid out from the back room.

“Do you need something?”

“My phone, um, broke,” I explained, skirting the details. “I need a new one.”

“Did you try switching it off and on again?”

I placed the phone on the counter in reply.


He sat down behind the store computer and began to enter in my information, pecking the keys with his pointer fingers.

“So, your accident insurance expired, but you’re eligible for an upgrade anyway. Wait here.”

Perhaps my luck hadn’t run out. A new phone would be great; the old one had started to show some wear and the new model had just been released. I wouldn’t have to tell anyone that I had dropped my phone in the toilet after all. I’d just say I got an upgrade!

“Out of stock.”

Never mind…

“Sold out,” the associate elaborated. “I’d give you your current model, but you’re only eligible for an upgrade, not a replacement.”

“I’ve got to have a phone,” I interjected. “When will it be in stock again?”

The man scratched his beard. “The new model is backordered, so it could take a few days, maybe a week.”

Defeated, I left the store and went back home. The associate said he would have the new phone shipped to my address once it was available. Meanwhile, I would be phone-less.

I felt alone, unable to call, unable to text. I couldn’t even take a selfie to document my misfortune. What was I supposed to do without a phone?

Day One

A smartphone is truly the Swiss army knife of the digital age. Not only had I lost my phone, but I was now also without my camera, notepad, calendar, and even alarm clock. I was made painfully aware of that last one when I overslept the first morning without my phone.

Knowing that I would be late for work, I considered calling in sick. However, I ran into two obstacles: (1) I didn’t have a landline to make the call and (2) my boss’s number had been saved in my phone, not my head. It dawned on me that I had also lost my address book.

Going to work presented difficulties as well. The door to the office was protected by an electronic key scanner; I had always used my phone. I was now also without my key card. Thankfully, I caught the attention of a coworker inside the building who let me in.

Work went well enough, despite being tardy. There was nothing to distract from the long, awkward silences riding the elevator or passing people in the hall. I didn’t know where to look or what to do with my hands, so I kept to my desk and tried to focus on work.

Back at home later that evening I struggled to wind down for bed. Normally I turned on a podcast and fell asleep while it played, but without my phone the room was silent. I had also lost my radio.

Instead, I booted up my laptop to check social media. At first I struggled to remember my various logins; I had grown accustomed to staying signed in on my phone. Time trickled by as I browsed. Scroll, scroll, scroll.

Day Two

Today I was lost without my smartphone.

No, not figuratively. I was legit lost.

It started when I decided to check out a nearby library to find a book to read at night. Taking my laptop to bed had proved disastrous, as I had stayed up far too late and slept poorly. I decided to embrace my lack of technology by going old school and checking out a book to read before bed.

I had a general idea of where the library was. Confident in my sense of direction, I set out on my quest. However, after half an hour of wandering around a maze of unfamiliar streets, it was clear that I needed directions. Out of reflex, I reached for my phone to make use of the GPS, but my pocket was, of course, empty.

Fear began to creep in when I no longer recognized any of the streets I was on. It’s not like it was a sketchy part of town; I just hadn’t been lost since I was six years old. Swallowing my pride, I decided to ask for directions.

I spied several potential guides to choose from: a man in a suit waiting by a bus stop, a woman pushing a stroller, and a dog walker being dragged along by at least a dozen of her wards. The businessman was engrossed with his phone and the dog walker had her hands full, so I approached the young mother.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where the library is?”

The woman was surprised to be hailed by a stranger, but smiled and laughed good-naturedly.

“You’re close! It’s just around the next corner,” she said, pointing to the next intersection. “I’m on my way there now if you’d like me to show you.”

Embarrassed, but also relieved, I accepted the offer and accompanied her along the remaining distance to the library. Once inside she showed me around the building; she was a frequent patron and recommended several books to check out.

It wasn’t until after we had parted ways that I thought to ask her the best way to get home. At least if I got lost again I’d have a book for company.

I should have checked out a map.

Day Three

I never thought of myself as someone who feared missing out on things. That was before I became phone-less.

Now I couldn’t help but think of the posts, messages, and invites I was missing. Without my phone flashing notifications non-stop, I found myself signing in on my work computer throughout the day to check my accounts. More often than not I hadn’t missed anything consequential, but still, I felt the need to know.

It came to a breaking point after I had sent a message to my crush. I had casually asked if she had any plans for the weekend, secretly planning to ask her out on a date if not. She didn’t reply immediately, so I kept going back to sign in and check over and over again.

This went on for hours.

I began to second-guess my message. Had I come on too strong? Was she not interested in me? Was she too busy talking to someone else?

I was driving myself crazy and I wasn’t getting any work done, so I blocked the website. I decided not to check again until the evening on my own computer. Resolved, I was able to focus on work and salvage the afternoon.

Though I had managed to muster patience at work, I was anxious to check for a reply when I arrived home. I forced myself to put my things away and eat dinner first. After washing the dishes I finally retrieved my laptop.

She had replied.

I don’t have any plans. Would you want to do something together? :)

Day Four

With still no word from the wireless store and my desk at work overflowing with a half-hazard arrangement of sticky notes I decided it was time to buy a notebook.

I had relied on several apps for taking notes and organizing my schedule and was losing track of things without them. Their analogue precursors would have to suit my needs.

I went straight to the store after work. At first I was overwhelmed by the variety of options; I found notebooks, journals, and calendars of all different sizes and colors. In the end I selected a medium sized, leather bound planner. It had enough pages to last two years with sections designated for monthly and weekly planning and plenty of room for notes.

I also splurged and bought a nice pen. If I was going analogue I might as well do it in style.

Back at home, I soon realized that the pen was much more impressive than my handwriting. Having only typed notes for so long, my handwriting had devolved into a childish chicken scratch. I switched to cursive and found it more tolerable.

I was pleased with my purchase. The planner was easy to use and writing by hand was both quick and comfortable. Plus, I wouldn’t have to charge it every night.

I christened the planner with two calendar entries: an outing to a new coffee shop with some friends from work tomorrow and the date with my crush the day after that.

Day Five

Finally, Friday.

To celebrate the conclusion of another work week I went with a group of colleagues to visit a new coffee shop in the neighborhood. By the time I arrived several of my friends had already claimed tables, so I set my things down in one of the chairs and joined the line at the counter.

When it was my turn to order I reached for my phone to pay with the scanner. Embarrassed by the force of habit, I reached for my wallet instead, but I had left it with my things at the table. Luckily, I had a few loose bills in my jacket and was able to pay with those.

Apparently I was living off-grid now.

Steaming beverage in hand, I took my seat and looked around the coffee shop. Illustrative artwork decorated the walls lit by industrial lighting fixtures. The tables were solid wood and the seating was upholstered with unique yet subtle patterns. Music played softly from concealed speakers, setting an appropriate mood for the trendy haunt.

I turned to the friend sitting beside me to ask which drink he had ordered, but stopped when I saw he was busy typing a blog post on his phone and trying to connect to the coffee shop wifi. Not wanting to interrupt, I turned to the colleagues sitting across the table. They were posing for a selfie with their drinks held aloft. I offered to help and took a quick series of photos. Once I returned the phone they quickly scrolled through the pictures to see which was post-worthy.

Maybe it’s because I was the only one without a smartphone, but throughout the evening I noticed as my friends kept returning their attention to their devices, distracted by a notification or wanting to take another picture of something. Conversation happened in short bursts, punctuated by incessant buzzing and chimes.

Once it started to get late I quietly slipped out and headed for home. Even though I hadn’t taken a single photo or posted anything about the outing I felt as though I had been the only one truly present. Without the distraction of a smartphone I had simply enjoyed being in the moment.

For the first time since being without a phone I didn’t miss having one.

Day Six

I was both anxious and excited for my date that evening. We had hung out together plenty of times before, usually with a group of friends, but this would be our first real date. I had made reservations through the restaurant’s website that morning and had struggled with narrowing down what to wear up until it was time to go. I finally decided to forgo the tie, but kept my shirt tucked in.

We had agreed to meet at the restaurant as it was roughly between where we lived. I left early, hoping to get there first; I didn’t want to keep her waiting. I arrived outside the restaurant with ten minutes to spare, but I was already glancing around expectantly.

She arrived soon after, wearing a pale green dress. Her hair fell in soft waves about her shoulders and a loosely tied scarf hung around her neck. She smiled when she saw me wave and joined me at the entrance. Her cheeks were tinged with a faint pink blush. I was glad not to be the only one a little nervous.

I opened the door for her and she led the way into the restaurant. We were quickly seated at a comfortable table for two half recessed into one of the brick walls. A waitress supplied us with menus and deftly lit the candle on our table.

Conversation was a little slow at first. Most of our interaction until that point had been in a group or via text; this was new territory. To fill the gaps she pretended to read her menu and I fidgeted with the silverware.

Our waitress returned and we placed our orders. Once it was just the two of us again I was about to try another topic when her phone chimed. She glanced down, but chose to ignore it and left it on the table. However, as soon as the conversation began to take off, her phone chimed again, pulling her attention away. She reached down to check the notification.

A sudden boldness struck me. Leaning forward, I placed my hand on top of hers as she was about to pick up the phone, covering the screen. She looked back up at me, quizzical.

“How about no phones?” I suggested, suddenly feeling confident. “Lets make this evening just about us.”

The smile returned to her face. Sliding her hand out from under mine, she flipped the mute switch and tucked the phone away in her bag. To my delight, she returned her hand to mine on the table, her eyes sparkling in the candlelight.

“That’s right, you’ve been without a phone for the past few days,” she said. “What’s that been like?”

“Well, let me tell you about my week…”

Day Seven

On my way back home from church I was surprised to discover a small package waiting for me at the mail kiosk in my building. The box was labeled with an expedited shipping stamp. It was my new phone.

Hurrying upstairs, I began to unbox and set up the phone. The screen flickered to life and I quickly began to download all of my old apps and preferences. Dozens of missed notifications and unread messages flashed across the screen, each vying for attention, appearing faster than I could dismiss them.

My trusty calendar and notebook apps loaded all of my old notes and plans. I opened each to start updating them, but my fingers felt cramped on the tiny keyboard. I had grown to prefer writing things down in my planner. Even with all their features my apps couldn’t compete with something tactile. My enthusiasm for the new phone ebbed a little.

As more and more app icons populated the screen I took a more critical look at them. I realized I hardly used most of them, even before being without a phone. I began to purge a few, trying to keep only ones that were either useful or somehow productive. It felt good to declutter.

I suddenly realized over an hour had slipped away while setting up my new phone. My stomach rumbled; I had also forgotten about lunch. Setting my phone on the counter, I rummaged around in the kitchen for something to eat.

While I was eating my phone buzzed as a text message appeared on the screen. It was from her.

I had fun last night. :)

I started to type a reply, but decided to call instead. She answered quickly.

“Hey, you must have gotten a new phone! I wasn’t sure if you’d get my message.”

“Yeah, it came this morning,” I said. “Hey, I know we just saw each other last night, but would you want to do something this afternoon? I’m free and there’s this new coffee shop I thought you might like.”

“You had me at coffee. Where is it?”

I gave her the address and told her I’d meet her there. Two dates in as many days; I couldn’t stop smiling.

I found my keys and threw on my jacket and was about to leave when I remembered my phone. The past few days had undone the habit of grabbing it on the way out. About to pick it up, I hesitated.

After my no-phone suggestion last night our date had gone really well. Actually, the past few days had gone really well. I had been less distracted and was more intentional about my free time. Maybe I didn’t always need to have my phone with me.

Objections arose in my head. What if she needed to call me? What if I missed an important message? Was it even safe not to have a phone with me, just in case?

I left the phone on the counter and closed the door behind me. I didn’t need my phone for a quick trip to the coffee shop. I didn’t have to be connected 100% of the time. I wanted my phone to be a useful tool, not a constant distraction.

I’ll admit, it felt strange to willingly disconnect, but it was also freeing. Having a phone again would be convenient, but I didn’t need to rely on it for everything.

I could go another day without a smartphone.