Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Four Hours Out of the Cloud

I was just updating my phone.

You know how it is.  You reach a point at which you're tired of "ignore" and "remind me later" and you go ahead and bite the bullet because you have power and wifi and a little time on your hands, because you're reading your email on a desktop to which your phone is connected.

At least, that's how it was for me.  Pedestrian update.  So imagine my surprise when I looked down to see my phone stuck on a screen with the iTunes logo that wouldn't go away no matter how many times I restarted, and looked up at my computer, where a pop up window implored me to restore my iPhone to factory settings.  After wrestling with it for a while, not feeling ready to dump everything and start from my last cloud backup (Mel is right: go do your backups. Of everything), it was time to leave work.

Without a functioning phone.

It's one thing to take a voluntary break from the grid, to step away for a few hours or days, to be in control of the drug.  But to have the plug pulled by someone other than you, and to not know whether you'll get your data back, or when: that's a different experience altogether.

I drove home in silence, feeling an overwhelming urge to call someone, doubtless the result of not being able to do so.  I waited for the phone to buzz, telling me I had new email from students during the pre-dinner internet rush, but of course, it didn't.  I worried that my husband would text me that he'd been in some terrible car crash with the kids, and I wouldn't know.  I worried that a student would try to reach me, and would get only voice mail, which I'd never hear.

An hour later, after I'd hastily crammed some tacos into my mouth and kissed my family hello and goodbye, I was on my way to the Apple store.  This is madness, I thought.  How did I become so reliant on my phone?

Because I don't spend much time in the Apple store, I didn't know that one needs an appointment to get a seat at the Genius Bar.  I confided to the friendly-looking gentleman with a clipboard that my students have my number, and that they use it for emergencies (which is a slight exaggeration, but also completely plausible).  Taking pity on me, he sat me at what I called, in conversation with the grandmother sitting next to me, "the second-class Intelligensia bar."  He plugged me in, started me up, and did what I probably could have done at work, had I had time to do so: rebuild my phone from the Cloud (did I mention that you should go make your backups?  Make your backups).

My table-mates and I talked about raising young people in the digital age ("it's how I keep track of my 14 year old granddaughter that I adopted; I know everything about her," confided the woman to my right), about the attachment we have to our devices, both for work reasons and personal ones ("this is where all the things I really care about live," said the older woman to my left, "the pictures, the texts, the things nobody but me cares about.").  We talked about feeling disempowered, disconnected without our devices (without having control over the disconnection).  It was a delightful way to spend an hour with strangers I would have never met, except that karma took my phone away.

I was back in business by 9 p.m., four and a half hours after I lost connectivity to the mobile universe. Everything was just as I'd left it; nothing had blown up.  I hugged the employee who helped us, who blushed sheepishly.  I told him I'd hate to deal with people like me all day, in store so loud you can't hear yourself think.

And I drove home in silence, without feeling the need to call a soul.

Have you ever lost connectivity for an extended period of time, for reasons beyond your control?  What was the experience like?
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  1. See, this is why I put off updates. Even though I back things up regularly (or at least I think I do).

    Glad it was resolved so quickly. But terrifying to be disconnected against your will.

  2. TODAY! This happened to me today. I could feel panic starting to rise in my chest because (1) I just switched computers that I use for backup and (2) I was kicking myself for updating in the first place. But turning off the phone, unplugging it, and plugging it back in worked this time. Though that time I got the restore to factory settings message -- the phone never recovered. I hate those moments because I feel like I'm at such a loss to fix things. I'm so glad they were able to get you up and going again.

  3. The other backup I need for when I'm involuntarily plunged back into the 1990s is a book. One of my top 5 uses of my phone is to keep me from being bored anytime I have to wait (which is often).

    I love the twist on your post, where you wanted to call people when you couldn't, and you craved silence when you could.

  4. I have had phone issues galore. From the stupid to forgetting to pay the bill and having service shut off, to forgetting my phone at home or at a restaurant!, to having it go completely dead with no charger in sight. So yes, it is the worst feeling in the world. And to think, it wasn't that many years ago where we didn't have cell phones at all!!.


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