Longform

What Would Life Be Like Without Technology? A Onetime Addict Finds Out

Page 3 of 9

"My heart-rate monitor app says it's 150," I say. WebMD indicates this may be anxiety; they suggest Percocet or Vicodin. Which is Harrington going to prescribe?

"If you're feeling jittery, it could be the added stimulation you're putting yourself through," he explains. "It used to be the only way we'd know we had a message was to come home and check your answering machine. Now it's constant. That'll make you anxious. Let's check your pulse." It's 93. "Wow! Well, your pulse at rest should be 60 or 70. Ninety is if you're walking briskly. Let's check your blood pressure."

The look on his face tells me things aren't good. "Your blood pressure is sky-high," he says, putting my other arm in the device to be sure. "Yeah, it's 183/110." (Normal's closer to 120/80.) "If you said you weren't feeling well, I'd think about putting you on medication." Three months earlier at my annual exam, everything had been normal. "That's fascinating. You've actually got some hard data. Listen, I think this is probably from all the stimulation, and that you'll be fine, but I want you to take it easy, and come in again later this week."

"Any chance I can get a medical-marijuana card out of this?" I inquire.

"Get out."

I refuse to read anything on paper during my Techno-Gorge, and have instead downloaded Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue on a Kindle. My plan is to read half on the e-reader, and the last half on what's known as a "book" during my Digital Blackout. On a professional level, I don't care what people are reading on, so long as they read. I spent 10 minutes reading today, but, through no fault of the Kindle, was repeatedly interrupted by incoming messages.

Though I have no chance in hell with her, Natalie has agreed to a date at Branzino, where I now rule as Mayor. Before I can warn her about my digital madness, she's already knee-deep in her phone. Not wanting to appear uncool, I begin fake-swiping.

Our server offers menus, but I wave her off, as we'll be perusing the online version. (Showing the value of human interaction, she nonetheless recites the specials.) We use the BLUSH application to pick our wine, and proceed to photograph and rate each course on Foodspotting. Dessert is decided by CalorieTracker (Natalie has cheesecake, while I nibble a crumb that falls off the plate). Every occasion requires photographic evidence, and our server obliges, even waiting for me to upload the KissCam filter. Though they won't accept PayPal, I use the Tipulator for closing out. Walking Natalie to her car, we pull up the RU Drunk app, including the straight-line test that uses the phone's accelerometer. Sober, Taxi Magic is not needed.

As I post pics from my evening, I am approached by a homeless man. A schizophrenic named Jerry, he and I share the same birth year, and not much else. No amount of technology is going to aid Jerry. No status update will change his profile; he's already tried to "check in" to various shelters — to no avail. We won't be Facebook friends, or Linked now or in the future. He won't benefit from One Bus Away or Kayak. There isn't a Tippr offer that will ease his hunger; no Pin of a fireplace will make him warm.

We laugh as he offers me a Canadian fiver he's been given. I briefly ponder showing him my Converter+ app, but think better of it. The cold truth is that he and I live in an ever-widening reality, and the five dollars I give him isn't going to close that gap.


I've tried all kinds of advances with Siri, but she's all business. Ask her to cozy up, and she gives me a nearby Bed Bath and Beyond. More aggressive passes lead to Web searches for escort services, or her fallback, "Now, now." I'd be surprised if she hasn't put Gloria Allred on my speed dial.

Regardless of Siri's professional boundaries, I need to be constantly tethered to the phone, and have found a way to sleep with her — in a platonic kinda way. It's an app called Sleep Time. Place the phone on the mattress and the accelerometer detects movements throughout the night; an alarm goes off when the "sleep lab" senses I've had enough. Since Siri won't put out, this is the next best thing.

Speaking of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation found that more than 90 percent of Americans are regularly using their devices an hour before bed. That's not a good thing: Just when your noggin is getting ready for beddy-bye, the artificial light stimulates relaxation chemicals (melatonin). Bed-surfing also raises the risks for diabetes and obesity. But this week there is no "off button." Snoozing's for losers.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael A. Stusser