mmjiphonebreakI had just dropped off a meal at one friend’s house and was on my way to a birthday dinner for another. My bags were as full as my brain, overflowing with diapers, bib, baby food and somewhere in the bottom of my purse were my own belongings. I had grabbed my phone from the passenger seat where I had laid it after sending a text at a stoplight to ask for a high chair at the restaurant. Maybe I stuffed the phone in my purse or maybe I put it in the cup holder on the stroller, wherever I put it I did so on autopilot. Making my way into the restaurant, I balanced my friend’s birthday gift along the stroller handle and tipped the stroller up onto the curb. I hadn’t had enough foresight to look for the ramp on the other side of the entrance.

I was the first one to walk in to the private room at the back. The first. That never happens. I was feeling pretty good about myself. Maybe I was turning a corner, finally becoming more responsible here in my mid-thirties. Twelve interesting women found their seats around the table and the conversation was so wonderful that I didn’t once reach for my phone, not even to check the time. Not until the very end when one friend asked about a mutual artist friend of ours did I start digging into my purse to find her number in my contacts. I reached in and felt receipts, a pencil sharpener, a set of bobby pins, a bottle of mints, everything but the phone.

My friend called my number…no vibration. I dumped my purse…no sign of the device. It wasn’t in the stroller cargo area or the cup holder or on the floor with all of the banana slices my baby had smashed and dropped at dinner. I packed up my stray belongings and jogged the stroller out to the car, this time using the ramp. There was nothing on the ground next to the car, nothing underneath the car but old oil spots, nothing on my seat or on the mat under it, and there had been no phones turned in to the store right in front of the parking space. It had to be in the restaurant.

I clicked the car seat in place and sped across the asphalt to the curb of the restaurant. I put on the hazards and locked the car, watching my baby carefully through the glass as I asked the hostess to scour the back room for me. I gritted my teeth at the thought of some petty thief taking my phone home that night.

Back home, I put the baby in bed, kissed the big kids goodnight and put the “Find My iPhone” app in gear. Satellites pulled in the signal from my computer then pointed back down to earth and put a pin in my map. Weird. Like a pebble tossed into water, rings circled around the coordinates where my iPhone lay. It was both convenient and concerning how this tiny device could be so easily pinpointed on the grid. I looked at the street names around the shadowy box where my phone played hide and seek. Sure enough, the shape matched that of the restaurant at the outdoor mall where I’d just celebrated my friend’s birthday.

A manager answered the phone and had me turn on the homing signal alarm. The phone cried out like a wounded bird as he pulled it from the safe. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he told me. “It’s here, but I don’t think it’s going to do you much good.” The glass was cracked to bits, the display bleeding an inky light. Turns out they’d found it on the asphalt right next to the curb, the very place I’d tipped the stroller up to get on the sidewalk, the very place I’d later driven up to do one final, frantic check for the device. As it turns out, I ran over my own missing iPhone.

I had to laugh. I mean, this was just two days after I’d closed out the Less Digital Life series, all about how to have a happier life by being less obsessed with technology.

The next day, I felt half naked without the phone as an accessory when the girls and I drove into the city to meet with a friend. If you follow Rachel’s feed, you know how fun it is to hang out with her. When I finally forced myself to pack up and head back home, I had left us just enough time to get back for Elliot’s bus. Clearly, that moment of feeling like a responsible person the previous day had been a fluke.

There was traffic and lots of it. And the red lights were scheming together to make me stop at every street corner. I reached for my phone to call my husband or neighbor to come to the rescue, but all I had was an iPad without a data plan. I flipped it open trying to find a hotspot to send an email. Anything. But there was nothing.

“Please work the lights for me,” I prayed. It was taking me twice as long as normal. I pictured Elliot crumpled in tears in his seat on the bus, wondering why I wasn’t there to greet him. One and a half years of waiting at the end of every school day with open arms at the bus stop, and I blow it now. I replayed a scene from my own elementary years, how scared and alone I felt when my ride forgot to pick me up in the carpool line in second grade.

I looked for fast drivers and got behind them. I held my breath. My little girl prayed. The Lord wasn’t working the lights for us and I didn’t have my phone to come to my rescue in His place.

We were ten minutes away when my phone alarm should have been going off to tell me the bus was coming soon. We were five minutes away when I should have been listening for the whistle of the big rig’s breaks. When I finally pulled into the drive, the street was quiet and there was no little boy waiting at the corner or on the porch.

I locked the girls in the car and ran into the neighbor’s open garage to tap on the door. Maybe Elliot would be inside. But to my dismay, this particular day my neighbor had picked her daughter up from school instead of getting her from the bus stop. I cried as I called the school on her iPhone. They hadn’t had any reports of any children being left on the bus. My stomach sunk. Where was he? When I told the receptionist his name, a light bulb went on for her. “Oh, we tried to call you several times earlier today” she told me. In fact, we tried all of the emergency contacts on file.” What?!! Emergency?!! She went on, “He had a fever. We finally got a hold of your husband and he came to pick him up from the nurse’s office just after noon.”

When I got back into the van and hit the control to open the garage door, my husband and son flung the interior door open. They had been watching the clock, certain that we’d arrive before the bus came down the street. Our absence and the lack of contact had them picturing us stranded on the road somewhere, or worse, victims of an accident.

I thought back to my desperate, even demanding prayers that the Lord work the traffic lights for me on the way home from downtown. He hadn’t been working them because He hadn’t needed to. My son was already safe and sound in my husband’s care at home. I found myself quoting an old verse in a whole new paraphrase, “Some trust in iPhones, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

A couple of weeks later, my friend’s husband did surgery on my iPhone and got it back in working order for under a hundred bucks. It’s convenient to have my phone back for making plans and keeping in touch, but after the time away, I find myself reaching for it even less than before, like a recovering addict after detox. I guess I needed an iPhone break.

lessdigital{For all posts in this series, click here.}