Smartphoneless Across Country

Last weekend I travelled from Gloucestershire to Brighton, mostly by train. It's the first time I've been on a longer non-car journey since going smartphone-less in July.

I noticed some interesting things.

To prepare, I'd written down all my train times and various connections. In the past I'd have relied on train apps my phone, and would have been worried about the battery spontaneously dying / the internet not working / the apps getting a crashy update / the world ending (I'm a recovering catastrophizer). None of that can happen with a page in my small pocket notebook, it was quite reassuring.

However that turned out to be futile. The first trains on both my journeys were cancelled. I took none of my planned, booked, written down trains.

Missed Connections

With trains cancelled, lines closed, and no fancy computer in my pocket, In order to find out what to do, I had to actually go up to the information desk and talk to someone.

I had two conversations with two different people over two days. People I wouldn't ever have spoken to. Conversations I would have otherwise actively avoided. Connections that I still remember - the slightly grumpy but extremely helpful man at Bristol Parkway, the fantastically friendly and caring man at Brighton station. Human connections. Connections I've been missing out on for years. I think there's something very subtle and yet very profound there.

Without staring down at a screen and doomscrolling, I also felt more aware of the people around me. On one train I noticed an older couple in the row in front of me with a couple of large suitcases and a pair of crutches. As the train came to stop, I asked if they'd like any help getting their cases off the train. The man politely refused, but the lady smiled a very big smile. Even if they didn't need help, there was another smile that would have never been smiled had I been plugged in and unaware of the people around me.

During this trip, in order to checkout of my hotel I went to the desk and spoke to the lady there, instead of checking-out online. I asked her about what she was doing with some little pieces of paper - this sparked a brief conversation about a Secret Santa she was organising, and I left the hotel with both of us literally laughing out loud about something to do with diamonds. I had a smile on my face all the way up the road. Another connection I would otherwise have missed.

I wonder where else technology is taking away human connections...