It started like the dozens of other business trips I've taken over the years. Park in a lot across the airport, hop on the shuttle, grab a boarding pass and wend my way through the snake line leading to security.
Off with the shoes and jacket, empty pockets into tray and walk through the machine and hope it won't detect anything that might require a secondary inspection. No problem this time. Shoes and jacket retrieved, pockets filled once again and off to Gate 8.
Then it happened. I reached for my cell phone to tell my wife I was on my way, and it wasn't there. Oh no. I realized I left it in my car. Panic. What to do? What to do?
Can I live without my cell for two days in New York City? Do I have change to use a pay phone? Do I remember how to use a pay phone? My wife doesn't even know where I'm staying. We always keep in touch through my cell phone. And those hotel phones are so damn expensive.
Then again, other than home and work, who can I call? All the telephone numbers I need are programmed into that little mechanism in my car. My children. My mother. My friends. My barber.
What's become of me, I wonder. What's become of our society? Can I be that dependent on my cell phone? At the university where I work, it seems every student has a cell phone, and it seems that's all students do as they walk across campus -- talk on their phones.
Why, we no longer plan to furnish dormitory rooms with free telephones. Why spend the money? Students seldom, if ever, use those old-fashioned devices when their sleek cell phones allow them to call anybody, anywhere, or send text messages until their hearts' content, or until their budgets burst.
But who am I to criticize? I get much business completed on my commute to and from work, all thanks to my cell phone (and earpiece.) How did I ever get along without it?
When I was a kid, we had telephones with numbers like Garfield and Lincoln and University, and only the most well-off families had the luxury of a private telephone line. We had what was called a party line, for those of you who think cell phones have always existed. And it wasn't unusual for the unknown neighbor down the street to yell at you to get off the phone so she could use the line.
Parents in those days cautioned their children to always keep a dime in their pocket to call in case of an emergency. Then it was a slew of quarters kept in the car in case you had to make a call from a pay telephone, and God forbid if it had to be long distance.
Ah, but memories did me no good as I stood outside Gate 8 feeling lonely and naked without my cell phone. I guess I could manage with pay phones and the hotel phone, I reasoned.
Then I looked at my watch -- because I couldn't consult my cell phone for the time -- and realized I had a whole hour before takeoff. Back to the terminal I went, down to the courtesy phone. "Please have the shuttle driver bring me my cell phone; it's in my car," I told the woman on the other end.
Ten minutes later the shuttle driver arrived and I passed him an appreciative tip as he handed me my precious commodity. So what if I had to endure the snake line again? So what if I had to shed my shoes and jacket and empty my pockets again? So what if I had to pass security muster again?
I had my cell phone. I was at peace with the world.