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Summary: Run Free

By Rich

Last night I spent four hours without my iPhone. Four conscious hours, to be specific. It was wonderful.

I realize that may sound strange, but I bet the majority of you reading this nearly always have a phone within hearing range, if not actively grasped in your hand or stuffed in a pocket where you obsessively check it every now and then, when the slightest breeze triggers the vibration nerves in your upper thigh.

Maybe the Apple Watch will fix that last one.

Unlike most of you I have been living with pagers, radios, and other on-call devices since around 1991. Due to my involvement in emergency services, I was effectively on-call continuously for years at a time. No, I was not required to show up, but between paid and volunteer gigs you just get used to always being in touch.

It was also an amazing way to get out of crappy dates.

But somehow my public service commitment slowly transitioned to having my phone on or near me at nearly all times. Part of this is due to my inherent geekiness, some an effect of running my own business, a smidge from being a parent, and plenty from a developed habit that isn’t necessarily the most positive psychological development.

Practically speaking I do need to have my phone near me quite a bit, especially during working hours. Even when I am blocking out distractions, the folks I work with need to be able to get a hold of me if something important comes up – especially since I manage all our IT. And with a family of 5 there is a lot to coordinate. I even need it on longer workouts for safety – I run in the desert, ride my bike far from home (sometimes an hour away by car) and go on excursions in new cities. Is my phone a necessity? No, I did all that before having a phone, but I also got into some dicey situations.

But that doesn’t mean it needs to be all the time. I used to catch a break when I was on mountain rescues or ski patrol. But not only do I not participate in those any more, cell coverage is far better than you would expect unless you go really deep into the backcountry. Or need to make a call on AT&T in New York City.

Last night I was in San Jose for the Cloud Security Alliance conference. After teaching a developer class I met up with a friend who is also a runner (better than me). We went out for a nice four miles, and decided to grab some beer and burritos without swinging back for our stuff (she had cash). Between the run, slow service, and finding food, it was nearly four hours before we re-attached our digital leashes.

This wasn’t some sort of existential event. But it was nice to be out of touch for a while, and not worry about it. And even better that it didn’t involve some massive excursion to evade cell towers. A run, two beers, a burrito, and then back home. No Yelp to check reviews, Siri to find the closest burrito, email interruptions, or text messages. We survived, as did our children and businesses.

Go figure.

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