Challenge 2 of the Bored and Brilliant experiment is called ”Keep your devices out of reach while in motion”. This means exactly what it says. You’re supposed to keep your phone out of view, including not listening to anything on headphones, any time you’re in transit, which includes driving, on the bus or walking down the street.
According to the book, the idea is that your mind is not doing nothing; rather, the times you are travelling are great times to just let your mind wander. The book refers to a conversation with “boredom expert” Sandi Mann, who said she switched off during her morning commute and found she would often come up with new ideas during those times.
The book says that we may think of times when we’re in transit as “unproductive, inefficient or lost if we’re not checking our mail or doing other tasks” but that letting your mind wander instead can be “refreshing”.
It beefs up the challenge a bit by suggesting you take the time you save by not looking at your phone on your travels to notice five things you’ve never noticed before. So that seems to me like it’s bringing some mindfulness into your day to replace phone use. Sounds good to me.
Here’s what happened on day one (Sunday). I had agreed to meet my sister on the way to an event we were both going to so she could give me a lift the rest of the way. I’d calculated it would take me about an hour and a half to walk to the meeting point so I left home at 8am, which I thought would give myself a bit of extra time. Normally walking this route I’d have my phone out some of the time, I’d probably check instagram and twitter a couple of times, maybe listen to a podcast or two and take some photos. But I’d also do a lot of the walk without the phone.
I thought it was a bit ironic that it was a podcast that actually got me into reading this book, after I’d just go back into listening to podcasts when I was out walking after a 15-month break, and now I couldn’t listen to any more because of this challenge. Walking is generally the only time I listen to podcasts.
So, with my phone dutifully stuffed into my bag, I set off.
I didn’t think about much at all really. I spent a lot of time looking at the cars going past and noticing how many of them had only one occupant. It made me think what a terribly inefficient transport system the car is. It takes so many resources to build a car and then even more more to run it and maintain it, all of which does untold damage to the environment and the planet, all to move one person from one place to another. And most of the time, most cars just sit on the side of the road or in a garage or car park, completely useless. There has to be a better way to move people than destroying the planet in such a way.
After these deep thoughts, for the rest of the walk I was wondering how I was going to get to my sister on time. I realised I’d planned my walk time for a different route than the one I actually needed to take. I didn’t end up going the way I’d thought I would go and was on the road that ran parallel to the road I had to meet my sister on. As I was walking on the wrong road and the time got close to the meeting time I realised I was going to run out of time and I needed to get to the right road sooner because my sister had said she’d drive along there if I wasn’t at the meeting point on time to find me.
But, if I wasn’t on the right road she’d miss me and then she’d call me to find out where I was and I’d fail the challenge because I’d have to answer!
I knew some of the side roads joined the two roads but I didn’t know which ones were the most direct roads and which ones would take me longer. If I’d had my phone I could have found out very quickly on Google maps (phones in transit are not bad!) but I was determined to stick with the challenge so I resisted the urge and turned up a street I knew would get me there. It was very steep and it actually took me backwards onto the road I needed to be on so it wasn’t a good choice, but I preferred that to one that might have been even worse, or more convoluted, and taken even longer.
At least I was on the right road at this point so, if I didn’t make it to the meeting point, my sister would be able to find me without me having to pull out my phone and tell her where I was.
It got to a couple of minutes before our meeting time and the phone rang. (I know this because even though it was in my bag on silent, it’s attached to my Fitbit, which alerts me to when I get a call. There is no escape from the phone.) It was her. I was not within sight of the meeting point. What to do?
I knew I was close so I ignored it. The phone rang again. I ignored it and sped up. It rang again!!!
I was remembering how, in the By the Book episode on this challenge, Kristen had been going home to get ready for some friends coming over and someone kept calling her while she was on the subway, so she couldn’t look at the message or respond. There was a delightful frenzied exchange she went through with her husband, Dean, wondering if it was the people coming over trying to message her and if it was an emergency or if they had questions about the party.
This was me right then!
Dean, not in the slightest bit worried, responded with: “then let’s pretend it’s 1982. They’ll wait until we get to a phone . . as soon as we stop we’ll be able to call them . .” Of course, there was no emergency, the friends turned up to the party and everything was fine.
And so too with me, everything was fine. My sister found me just a block from where I was supposed to meet her about two minutes later, we made it to the event on time and, although I had picked up the phone, I didn’t actually use it.
I totally understand how Kristen felt on the subway that day!