Last night, I went to a screening for a movie that is coming out tomorrow. My sister won four tickets in a contest, so the two of us and two friends went along. I was excited to see a movie at no charge, naturally. The added popcorn, pop and candy were icing on top of the cake. One of the stipulations to entry, however, was that no video recording devices were allowed in the theatre, as an anti-piracy measure. That meant my precious iPhone 4 could not be by my side. When I first heard about this caveat, I thought “They can’t be serious, can they?” I mean, who doesn’t have a phone with video capturing capabilities these days? I laughed it off. I thought that it was surely just some clause they put in the fine print, that perhaps it was something that is written somewhere on every movie ticket or in the back alleys of the theatre’s website. The idea of not having my phone with me is foreign. Very, very seldom do I leave my phone at home, and that’s only when I’m literally going across the street. I wouldn’t call myself an incessant phone talker, texter or app user, but I like having my phone in close proximity. Being accessible, and more importantly, being able to access virtually any information at my fingertips is something that I’ve gotten used to. It’s become so intrinsic to me, a right. As weird as it sounds, I feel bare without my phone, dare I even say vulnerable.
We got to the theatre, and I saw that the event organizers meant business – no cell phones were getting into that theatre come hell or high water. They provided us with the opportunity to surrender our phones to a team of people at a table just outside the screening. They had a phone check set up, similar to a coat check at a club. Only this check required a waiver, absolving them of any responsibility if our phones got damaged or stolen. Not to say that these people were not trustworthy, but I wasn’t able hand them over my baby. Yes, I called my iPhone my baby. I’d originally thought I’d be clever by turning off my phone and stuffing it in my jacket pocket, but I saw the security brought the big guns out. I’m referring to detector wands. It was like airport security! I was alarmed, as I’ve never seen any movie theatre, live theatre or TV studio take such drastic measures to prevent cell phones or other recording devices from getting in. I in no condone piracy, but all this palaver seemed a extreme, to put it midly.
At this point, I had three options – (1) I could leave my phone with the staff, (2) I could take the subway back home and drop off my phone or (3) I could leave it in the trunk of my friend’s car. We all chose the latter, as it was the quickest and easiest option. We did this at around 6:15PM. The car was less than 10 minutes away from the theatre, so walking to and fro didn’t take too long. The movie was scheduled to start at 7PM, so we were able to make it back in good time.
Before the movie started, one of the organizers said hello to the crowd, mentioned the sponsors and a special shopping event that is happening this weekend in Toronto. She told us the name of the website and asked us to check out. What she got in reply from the audience was a resounding “How am I supposed to remember the website? I have nothing to write it on”. Well, that’s not what we said verbatim, but that was the essence of it. She sang it in a little jingle to help us remember it, but that was of no help, at least not to me!
The movie started, and luckily it was very funny (it was Baggage Claim, the funniest rom-com I’ve ever seen!) Even if I had my phone with me, I would not have checked it because I was laughing too hard. The movie wrapped up and it was time to leave the theatre. We were able to bypass the phone-check line, which was rather long. I wanted to run into a store nearby before it closed, but I had no idea what time it was … because I didn’t have my phone on me. Eventually when we made our way to the main concourse of the building, I saw that it was about 8:45PM. We’d all planned to grab a bite to eat after, and our friend would drive us all home. We figured we’d just leave our phones in the car until it was time to leave, seeing as the restaurant was closer than the garage. I sped off ahead of the gang to go to the store, while they made way to the restaurant. I told them to make sure they stayed at the restaurant, as I’d have no way of reaching them if they decided to go somewhere else.
I meet up with them at the restaurant at around 9:05PM, as my shopping trip was a fail. We ordered our food, had good conversation and laughs, among ourselves and with the waiter. We finished our meals and it’s time to get the bill. I soon realized that I didn’t have a calculator, as I don’t have my iPhone. I flagged the waiter down and asked him for separate bills. To calculate what we each ordered, factoring in tax and tip … that would have been a nightmare with four people ordering meals of various prices. The waiter was able to appease my request, saving a lot of time and mathematics.
Our dining experience wrapped up just after 10. A quick walk to the parking lot took us to 10:15PM, exactly four hours from when we deposited our phones. I immediately checked my notifications. Not much happened during that time – an Instagram like, a pin, and a so-called “breaking news” alert from a news outlet that no longer understands what “breaking news” means. And to be honest, four hours away from my phone wasn’t all that long, especially considering I was in rapt attention for about half of the time. But if I hadn’t been, the story would have been different.
I’ve had a cell phone since 2004, but I’ve only had a smart phone for the last 3 years. That’s not a very long time, but it’s become something so important in the daily goings-on in my life. It’s my watch, camera, music player, alarm clock, calendar, navigator, calculator, voice recorder, flashlight, messenger, notepad, internet machine and oh yeah … it’s my phone! This little thing has become so essential to me that the idea of being away from it almost seems impossible. There is a degree of dependency, arguable contrived, but is there nonetheless.