Pop torture: “Living a week without a cell phone is the equivalent of being waterboarded by Charlemagne” Burnett says. (Tom Bateman/AQ)
Pop torture: “Living a week without a cell phone is the equivalent of being waterboarded by Charlemagne” Burnett says. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

A few weeks ago, AQ Staffer Ben Burnett lost his cellphone. He kept a diary during that terrible time. The following is a tale of hope: a rare glimpse at a young man’s slow descent into madness and his triumphant return to the digital world.


I’m expecting a call about landing a new job. I’m on call at my current job and my best friend who lives across the country is breaking up with his girlfriend.

My mom is e-mailing me every couple minutes asking me to make an appointment at the dentist because they can fit me in tomorrow “which never happens!” she insists. It’s the end of a very long day so I just want to put my feet up, order a pizza and fall asleep with something mindless on the television.

But I can’t hear back from that job. My best friend can’t call me. Neither can work. And that dentist appointment sure is not getting made. I can’t even order that pizza!

And it’s my fault, because I left my phone next to the leftovers at Thanksgiving, so that I’d remember it.

I admit, the turkey coma fucked me up. Losing a phone is a universal problem. But you know, I fancy myself a bit of a spirit quest guide. And I thought, what better way to inform the student body how to go one week without their spirit-guardian-angels: their cell phones.


I kept hearing/feeling phantom vibrations like my phone was sitting on my bed or floor. I assume this is akin to a heroin addict being unsettled by light, or a tobacco addict craving a cigarette. Either that or my body is twitchier than I remembered.

Did my skin vibrate mercilessly before I bought a cell phone? Probably, I have a skittish personality.

At school, a girl’s phone beeped loudly twice in class and I snickered, despite the fact that this happens to me all the time. It’s only been 48 hours and I’m already self-righteous. I’m going to be unbearable by the end of this week.

I let out my inner-journalizer after class and ask around what people would do without a cell phone. Most girls say “fix it,” scratch that – almost everyone says fix it. Only the truly apathetic don’t care whether their phone lives or dies. Everyone else eyes their own lovingly while they answer my question.

“I need it, like… all the time.”

Personally, I could get used to this. Sure, I had to open Facebook chat and ask friends to ask friends just to hang out, but there was little added effort. I just didn’t have access to everyone in my pocket.


Dreamt I found my cell, climbed to the top of my house and threw it to Oromocto.

When I woke up I rolled over to text my girlfriend before remembering.

Apparently this assignment is affecting my psyche.

Know why losing your cell phone is the best? You have literally no obligation to go out of your way to contact anyone. Your hang-out time is completely dependent on the schedule you set. There are no obligatory / guilt hang-outs, because you have the only excuse irritating friends accept: “my phone is out of commission, I’ll catch you next week!”

I’m off to Halifax tomorrow to spend a weekend whisking between whisky shots and wheat beers. How will I keep from getting lost on unfamiliar side-streets when my sense of direction is worse than a dead log floating down a river of rapids? I have the capacity to follow whoever walks confidently in front of me. That’s it!


I made it four days without getting in trouble. That’s pretty good considering the circumstances. To wit – my girlfriend is a very pleasant and patient (not to mention intelligent, compassionate and- how many adjectives can I fit here?- caring) lady. Sometimes she lets me listen to UGK and play video games when she’s over, so I try not to rock the boat too much.

But she has finally voiced her disapproval of the “unplugged” life.

Sure, all she did was instant message me “UGH” and “WHEN is your cell phone back?” but this is one of those times when “you’re right” and “soon, I promise” work much better than an impromptu (and unnecessary) defense of journalistic merit. I don’t actually have a strong stance on this matter – I just like being able to drop off the radar once in a while.

It’s nice to have no one on your back, but it’s even better when people remind you they actually like hearing from you.


Got my phone back Sunday. I had 16 texts and 2 voicemails waiting for me. That’s actually underwhelming and if I hadn’t spent a week broadcasting my lack of phone I’d probably enter a depression chamber (not a thing, but imagine!).

Living a week without a cell phone is the equivalent of being water-boarded by Charlemagne while watching Hitler’s conception.

By which I mean, who cares? Fifteen years ago you’d be living without a cell phone, and 15 years from now you’ll probably be living with something far more invasive and technologically terrifying.

I’m fine with everyone having phones, but just consider simple etiquette: don’t text and drive, don’t text in conversation, don’t text in class, don’t text at the movies. The only proper situation for texting in a social situation is when you have nothing to say to the person beside you- because I am the most awkward person in the world.


  1. Nice article! There are certainly pro's and con's to having a cellphone, but everyone can agree that our entire social life now revolves around one. Unless of course it doesn't. You know, adapt and shit.


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