When I wanted to go to lunch this past week, I didn’t call anyone to join me. Instead, I went to go sit alone by a certain tree in the yard, smiling politely at passers by until I found a friend willing to eat lunch with me. Often, I would reach for my cell phone, only to feel a painful void in my pocket as I remembered my dedication to the experiment. It had to be done.
You see, for the past few days, instead of using my cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, WriteAPrisoner.com, or any other social media, I went old school, contacting others solely using the red phone that comes with all Harvard dorm rooms. Disappointingly, I didn’t get to make or receive any calls from Moscow the entire week.
To start off, I had to plug my phone into the wall. Since August, my roommates and I had hidden the phone under the couch, and it took me eight tries to place a successful call from my room. However, I’m an important guy—I need to call people at all times during the day. So, I brought the phone with me, casually throwing it in my backpack as I went to class and various activities. This worked well. Making a quick call during Ec10 section, I ignored the looks of my TF and classmates as I ran out of the room carrying the phone. Later, I only experienced mild embarrassment when I dropped the phone on the floor during lunch in Annenberg.
This was one of the nicest weeks we’ve had this year, so I spent a fair amount of time on the grass. Of course, so did my bright red phone. Every time I sat down outside, I made sure the phone was visible to those around me, as I wanted the world to recognize my struggles. However, when people asked what I was doing, no one seemed to appreciate my serious journalism:
Friend: “Hey. What’s with the phone?”
Me: “Oh, nothing.” I put the receiver to my ear for a moment, “Just enjoying the sunlight—doing some important business.”
Friend: “Oh.” Awkward pause. “Why...why the red phone?”
Me: “Why not? I have to call people, don’t I?”
Friend: “Yeah, but...cell phones...convenience...modern technology...whatever. I’ll see you later.”
Granted, it wasn’t all fun and games. Although most of my friends just laughed at me, a few of them were able to successfully make me feel awkward. On the bright side, they couldn’t text me to complain.
When Friday finally arrived, I retired the red phone to its rightful place, and released my cell phone from its desk-drawer prison. For a moment, I felt extremely popular. Most of the missed calls and texts weren’t important, but I did have a series of messages from my mom and dad. I called back immediately, only to find that they were simply asking after my whereabouts, as they hadn’t heard from me in a few days. Moral of the story: don’t call your parents. Just kidding. Kind of.
When people don’t communicate, especially overeager Harvard kids, they go crazy. I found myself spending an overwhelming amount of time worrying about what I had missed. That said, we should use our red phones. They’re surprisingly fun, even if you spend most of the time taking fake calls as you sunbathe in the yard. If everyone took breaks from Harvard’s constant grind of communication more often, we might all be more relaxed. Or we could go insane. Either way, it’s time for red phones to make a comeback this spring. And I’m not just saying that so I can say I did it before it was cool.