October 04, 2008
The Trouble With Cell Phones
There are many things I said I would not do, and I've been steadily checking them off my list, the various calamities of fatherhood, the small television upstairs, the exercise machine. Tonight's came by surprise.
I pulled the truck over at dusk at the edge of Capitol Reef in southern Utah, taking a dirt road out to a place to sleep, pack ready to go in the bed. I parked, shouldered the pack, and walked into an indigo sheen of horizon. Longing for Regan and the children, I brought the cell phone along, surprised to find coverage out here.
Is it so wrong to have a cell phone? I know my vows. I don't have to be reminded. I don't take cell phones into the wilderness. We mesh our lives with safety nets, people calling from mountain tops pleading for a helicopter to come get them. We wander around with tethers, reel ourselves back in the moment it gets messy. It is as if we are not wholly there, a pause button ready to halt our experience. People even give me crap for not carrying a cell phone out there. They think it's wrong not to, somehow irresponsible. It's bad enough I've got one at all. I'd rather not be rescued. But for christsake this was not wilderness. I could see headlights, lonely dopplers driving to Hanksville.
I walked toward the strange hats of sandstone up against the sky, pulled out the phone as I went, speed-dialed home.
You'll never guess what I'm doing! I'm walking around with my pack calling you!
They screamed, laughed. I dropped my pack and laid against it, found the north star and imagined the view from home. What I won't do for love.
My heart aside for the moment, it felt much the way I thought it would, the reason I vowed not to do it. I was suddenly somewhere else. It felt like a layer of Plexiglas went up, even between me and the stars, which had become numerous since we started talking. I was simultaneously here and not, my reach digitally altered so that I could cover the globe without knowing a single god damned route, just fingers punching buttons.
Even writing in a journal out here has often put me behind a veil thin as a blade of grass, through which I write to you, unexpected reader. You are not here, sitting on sandstone with me, yet I am talking to you, grabbing hold of a rope that leads to a hole where I pull myself out of this place, off of this smooth deck of bedrock where now I say good night to my family, turn off the phone, and write this note to you in my journal. I settle to sleep in a cup of stone, my still body pressed against the sky.