At The Airport Without My Mobile Phone


At the airport without my mobile phoneMy stress was rolling uncontrollably down a steep hill. It felt like I had no control of it. I was on the airport bus on my way to catch a plane to Adelaide. I had just reached into my bag to get my mobile phone and it wasn’t there. It had to be there, so I emptied everything out on the seat…. but it wasn’t there!

Here I was, always with a Plan B, but unable to contain and quieten what was happening in my head. I barely knew this overwhelmed person sitting in the bus without her mobile phone.

I had no addresses of where I had to go. No exact address of where I was staying. No phone numbers of anyone I was to meet. No Uber app. No plane bookings or reference numbers. All were on my phone.

It took me at least 15 minutes to regain equilibrium and then I spent the next hour on the bus planning my strategy for when I reached the airport. My proactive, solution-focused, emotionally intelligent, and resilient self came to the fore.

So what did I do and what did I learn?

Lateral Thinking takes over When Technology Fails.

The first thing I realised was how much of my thinking I allow my mobile phone to do for me. For example, I don’t remember phone numbers anymore. I just tap them on my phone. Yet when we just had landlines, I could recall dozens of phone numbers.

I had to stop and think laterally and ask myself:
If I haven’t the address of where I have to go how do I get it?
Who might be able to tell me?
How do I contact them?
That was hard work. I had to think very differently. I had to consciously focus.

What did I do At the Airport Without My Mobile Phone?

Luckily, I had plenty of time at Melbourne the airport before my flight. I found the only public phone box at the airport, and thanked Telstra for recently making phones calls free from their public phones.

Fortunately, the only mobile phone number I know off hand is my partner’s. I called him as he had driven me to the bus. I had him collect my phone from the floor of the car. It had fallen on to the floor from my unzipped bag on the way to the airport bus.

Knowing he would not be able to navigate my phone and get the information I needed, I had him drive to my daughter’s house with my phone.

I phoned her on Telstra’s public phone and asked her to get the information I wanted. “Phone me on my phone”, she said. “But I don’t have your number. It’s on my phone which you have,” I said. I get a pencil and write it down as she tells me, and I phone her back. That’s 3 phone calls so far courtesy of free Telstra. I can laugh about it all now, but at the time it was a highly organised strategic response, lateral thinking in full use.

I get all the phone numbers and addresses I need for my 36-hour trip to Adelaide from her. I then get her to send text messages to all the people I am to meet telling them that I have no mobile phone and that I will make contact with them during the day by phoning from a public phone box.

It all went perfectly smoothly, and taxis even solved the problem of not having my Uber App. I was everywhere I needed to be when I needed to be there. Three people during the day offered me their phone on which to make calls. Even the people I sat with on the plane to Adelaide gave me their phone when we left the aircraft to call my first appointment. Virgin staff were extremely helpful.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving are Crucially Important Skills.

It’s fine to rely on the likes of Google Search or now AI ChatGPT, but in a world full of uncertainty and unpredictability, these critical thinking and problem solving skills, that are essentially very human skills, are very important in these times when things come out of left field all the time. There is no “new normal”. What we have now is an ever-changing reality that will require us to think and rethink what we do and how we do it.

My experience leaving my mobile phone behind has been a salient lesson. I have all the skills needed to manage such an experience, and I did, but not before I was overwhelmed at least temporarily by what had come from out of left field that I wasn’t prepared for.

I began to see why so many people were challenged by the disruption of COVID. It required us all to think very differently about realities that had been so normal, that we’d taken for granted, that we had never anticipated would happen. Some found that different way of thinking extremely difficult with profound implications for their mental health and well-being.

I have been well aware for many years now that there is a considerable difference in what happens in our brains when we write notes by hand and type them on a computer. That is why I strongly discouraged people using lap tops or iPads to take notes in my workshops or mentoring and coaching sessions. People would not initially like it but later when we reflected together on it, they would acknowledge that there was a  value in hand writing. I suspect many may never experience that difference.

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