At least the participants on extreme survival reality shows (Survivor, Naked & Afraid, Man vs. Wild, etc.) know ahead of time that they will be without modern conveniences like cell phones, espresso machines, and indoor plumbing.
I had zero notice that I would suddenly be plunged into the wilderness, cut off from civilization as I knew it.
My Samsung 6s which had been my faithful companion and assistant for several years inexplicably began coughing up purple blotches beneath the screen, an inky infection that ultimately blacked out every living image on my phone. For 24 hours it continued to ring with incoming phone calls and buzz with text messages; yet all buttons, icons, and information were veiled. It was if the heart was beating but there was no brain activity. By the way, I’m referring to the phone, not myself.
Disconnected and desperate
Many years earlier we had dropped our home landline, a technological back-up to cell phones akin to having a bicycle to ride to work if your car won’t start. But now my car was totaled and I had no bike at home or office. When it hit me that I was completely without cell service I felt a kinship with Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway, stranded with no way to alert anyone that he was alive. In that moment with a dying phone in my hand, I felt a level of panic rising up in me that I hadn’t experienced since the Saturday morning I feared that my mother had left me in Toys R Us. That was almost two years ago but I remember like it was yesterday.
It was a Wednesday when I took the lifeless phone to the store where I bought it and the representative examined it and quickly said there was nothing that AT&T or Samsung could do to save it or bring it back to life. I believe “Another One Bites the Dust” was playing over the store speakers.
Insurance with no assurance
From the store we contacted Asurion, our phone insurance carrier, to file the death certificate and replacement claim. My replacement phone was supposed to arrive on Friday. It did not. It turns out that Asurion botched the claim. Two weeks earlier my wife contacted Asurion about an issue with her iPhone and she still yet to get a response.
When I learned on Friday that a replacement phone wasn’t even on the way I lost my mind. It was not until almost 6 p.m. on Monday that my replacement phone arrived. I had gone six full days without a cell phone, which I’m sure is some kind of record.
A kindred spirit
The film “127 Hours” is based on a true story in which Aron Ralston was trapped by an 800-pound boulder in a Utah canyon where he was hiking alone. After six days when it became apparent that there would be no timely rescue (he had not informed anyone of his hiking plans or location and had no means of calling/signaling for help) Ralston amputated his forearm with a dull pocketknife, freeing his crushed right hand.
Despite being profoundly weakened from lack of food & water and from blood loss, Ralston made his way through the rest of Bluejohn Canyon, somehow rappelled down a 65-foot drop with only one hand, and hiked 7 miles till he encountered the Meijer family on a trail. Four hours after he amputated his arm Aron Ralston was in a rescue helicopter and on his way to the hospital where he would make a full recovery. Ralston continues to hike canyons, climb mountains, and astonish readers and listeners with his story.
I believe this incredible drama tell us two things. 1) Combined, the human spirit along with the determined will to live is a powerful force that can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and obstacles. 2) After six days without his cell phone even a reasonably sane man will cut off his own arm in order to get to the Apple store before they close.
Having survived to tell my own story, I hope to land a book and movie deal. Six days stranded in the suburbs, surrounded by free Wi-Fi, but with no way to access it. Six days in a densely populated area, but with no way to communicate with anyone except by face-to-face, as if I had been transported back to the Middle Ages.
I do have a phone now. I’m a real person again. But I shudder to think what I may have been reduced to, what I might have resorted to, if a refurbished Samsung had not arrived at the moment that it did.
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson