Learning life in the 1700s: Philadelphia without a Cell Phone

I’m so not a religious person. It’s really rare that I discuss G-d or Faith or anything ever, let alone on my blog. But, this story? Fate had a hand.

what happens when you misplace your cell phone on a field trip to the city?

We were due to school at 8:15 that morning. After a quick run to Wawa for coffee and donuts, we arrived about 2 minutes early, parked and began walking towards the school so that I could, against my wishes, chaperone a field trip as for this unique trip, every child was required a chaperone. As always, I checked my bag about 10 steps from the car only to find that, oddly, my iPhone was not inside. While my friend dialed my number, I returned to the car, searched under the seats and all the usual spots, threw up my hands and said,

Well. We’re just going to do Philadelphia without my cell phone.

That’s right. We were heading into a city, a city that entertains it’s fair share of terroristic threats, on a big yellow school bus, leaving my other two children in school and preschool about an hour away, without a phone. A phone that has so much become a part of my body that I practically use GPS to walk across the street. I called my husband from the classroom phone, telling him I’d be communicating through a few friends, should there be a problem.

As the teacher called role, a some friends wandered in from another class. There, we were informed our class of about 24 students, plus each child’s chaperone, plus about a 8 more children and chaperones, plus a teacher or two, would all be on our bus because, ahem, only three busses were ordered.

Now. I know a thing or two about ordering buses. And I know that it’s code to fit 3 children in a seat; 2 adults. It is not code to fit 3 adults in a seat, nor two children and an adult. But. We did. And, as it turned out, it would have been fine to take the train or drive to our city as there would have been more room on the bus. (I offered it to Big. I reminded him that if we chose our own transportation, we could go home and grab my phone. He shook his head. It was the bus or bust. Next time, I’m driving.)

Big and I did not sit together on the bus. I sat with a friend, my son smooshed in with two. We arrived to Philadelphia, attended a fabulous introduction presentation at the Constitution Center, and went on our way.

While Big and I had a few objectives planned, we found two of his buddies and their dads and decided to spend most of the day together as a group. We skipped the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (having done this trip before, there was no need to rush through it again.) Instead, we walked around the Ben Franklin home archives, through the nation’s first post office and, later, explored Betsy Ross’s house (where we met “Betsy!”)

Before breaking for lunch, one of Big’s friends’ fathers suggested we visit Christ Church. I thought it odd, but figured we’d quickly walk through, perhaps see some of famous graves of our country’s forefathers. Instead, we sat in the pews and learned of so much more history than I ever would have imagined. We learned that Ben Franklin and family sat a few rows towards the middle, because his family didn’t have the money that others had–and only the wealthy sat up front. We saw General Washington’s very own pew. And Betsy Ross. And William Penn. We sat, learned, thought and some of us prayed in the same place as people we’ve all only learned about.

And it was gorgeous. Absolutely breathtaking. I looked around in awe of the care and intricate detail put into this building over three hundred years ago.

I was inspired. I was reminded to look beyond the expected and the planned.

Hungry, we debated our lunch plans. In the big city of Philadelphia, we could have nearly any foods. But without my phone to guide me, could I find a place to eat?

I like to think of my brain as a rolodex. When I need something from the past, my brain can search through and find the appropriate card. That day, I needed my knowledge of Philadelphia without a phone. Without GPS directing me south or west and where to turn. And without a Google or Siri search for the “best pizza” in town. My mind-rolodex took me to 2nd and Market Streets, where a walk of a few blocks took Big and me down memory lane. Big reminded me of places we’ve been as a family, and I pointed out restaurants and hot-spots of my days before phones. The days where we’d wander in to a restaurant without reading Yelp! reviews or checking Open Table for table availability.

We wandered and Big and his friend decided on Sonny’s Famous Steaks, where Big and I went against the grain and ordered what might have been the best burgers we’ve ever enjoyed. And fries. It’s ironic to think we’d likely never ended up there had I had my smart phone directing me.

After lunch, we caught up with more friends and walked through the grounds of Independence Hall, taking pictures on a real camera (where they still sit on an SD card) and enjoying the time together.

When we returned to the bus, which I found, once again, without GPS, many parents were checking in at home, checking emails, and texting each other. People posted to Facebook and twitter. They instagrammed their pictures from the day.

These are all things I would have done, had I had my iPhone. I’m certain I’d have filled my own newsfeed with pictures of our adventure and quick stories and suggestions. I would have seen fun pictures of Big’s friends at a different landmark or restaurant, as I browsed Facebook from one tourist stop to the next, and thought “oooh! Look what they’re doing! Let’s go find them!”

But, having no smartphone with me, I lived in our moment. I enjoyed our day. I let the day happen, uninfluenced and unaffected by others.

And I survived.

When we returned to school, I checked in with my husband using an old-fashioned wired phone, checked my boys out of school and raced to the car to get to preschool pick-up. Upon opening the car door to load the boys’ backpacks, there was my cell phone, sitting under my passenger seat.

I want to remember this day. I need to remember this day. Something kept me from bringing my cell phone. And that same something gave me a gift. A gift to enjoy my son and our experience–without the normal distraction of the phone.

image credit: Jennifer S. | Making Our Life Matter

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2014, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

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