Mobile for a Day

by Brad Inman on

Years ago, a friend of mine, who was a Franciscan nun, took road trips several times a year with three other nuns in the parish priest’s old car. They would drive from convent to convent, laughing most of way. Since Sister Sue took a vow of poverty, she brought no money along, except a pocket full of dimes, in case there was an emergency and she needed them for the pay phone.

“I travel lightly,” she often said.

When I was in college in Boston, I would hitchhike to New York City for the weekend to see my girlfriend, a budding dancer with Martha Graham. I would take $20 and my drivers license (often the Connecticut Highway Patrol would harass me and a DL was necessary). Then, there were no cell phones and no credit cards.

Recently, I was sitting in my living room and my son poked fun at me for the stack of devices sitting neatly on top of one another: MacBook Air, iPad, Kindle and iPhone. The little pyramid of modern devices fed the stereotype of the prosperous Yuppie that my son’s generation generally despises.

This past Sunday, I resolved to travel lightly on a day-long trip. I took my iPhone,  my metro card and my sunglasses -- nothing else. (I put my apartment key under the mat and left my wallet at home).

I bought coffee with a mobile payment, walked to Central Park and with my iPhone read the digital version of the New York Times and the NY Post on a comfortable green bench in the shade. I then hopped on the 5 Train from 86th & Lexington to Wall St., where a friend of mine had recently rented a new apartment.

On the train, I read my latest ebook. “Cross Dressed to Kill” by Andrew Lucas, a hilarious English crime thriller.

My friend was out shopping in SOHO and my visit was impulsive, so I awaited her return in a nearby Starbucks, where I bought another coffee. I read my eBook and chatted up a young surgeon (speciality plastic surgery). She asked how I liked reading books on the iPhone.

“When it is a good book, I love it, when not, I hate it,” I explained.

My friend showed up and we looked for a lunch spot that would take a mobile payment, no luck, so I was treated to lunch. That was not in the plan, but she said it was her turn.

For a couple of hours, I tagged along as she did furniture shopping. We ended our time together at  23rd and 6th Avenue, where I caught the F Train to 63rd & Lexington. From there, I walked home, stopping along the way at Nespresso for a hot chocolate. When it was served, I mumbled “oh shit”. After explaining I had no money and determining they would not take a mobile payment, my favorite barista said, “it is on me, you are a generous customer.” (I do have pictures of my drivers license, credit cards and passports on my iPhone, but they were useless in this particular situation.)

Lessons from the day: 1. I tapped into simple pleasures. 2. I read more. 3. I was less tempted by consumption experiences. 3. I spent less money. 4. I felt free, younger and nomadic.

Earlier this year, I bought a new MacBook Air, which prompted me to downgrade the size of my suitcase and my computer bag. All told, I shaved at least fifteen pounds from my load. Lighter, but not light enough.

Mobile is here, get on with it. Liberation.

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