This is an article I wrote 14 years ago. I hope you enjoy.
Please note, back 2009, the word for a smart phone was ‘cell phone.’
I love cell phones. Who doesn’t love cell phones? Sure, we complain about them all the time. The endless distractions, the instant temptation to check out of the present moment if there is the slightest possibility of not having anything to do for a moment, we are all familiar with this.
We also are way too familiar with being in the space of the checked out person on their phone, madly tip tapping away…or lost with a vacant zombie-like stare at the screen. Or talking outloud to nobody present as if they and their friend are the only people on earth, though they sit, stand, walk among a group non-de script fuzzy sorts of objects which could otherwise be described as people.
These are the common cell phone stories.
But how about this story?
Have you ever had a massive break through moment on a cell phone?
I’m talking about a major epiphany–on a cell phone!
It happened to me just yesterday, here in Portland.
It happened at the end of a full day of walking around with my saxophone and randomly breaking it out at various locations for spontaneous musical expression.
By the time of this story, I was sitting on a park bench at NW 24th to rest my tired legs.
I was relaxing myself into a reptilian sort of state, when my phone rang…or rather, it vibrated since I had it on vibrate.
I looked at the screen.
It was my man, Ryan.
I had been wanting to talk with Ryan, so I, very uncharacteristically for me, actually picked up the call.
Why would I break my habit of no phone calls? There was something I wanted to discuss with Ryan.
Something was troubling me deeply and Ryan was just the man to talk with about it.
My brilliant day of hiking and music had been kind of like as if I were wearing a perfect and gorgeous shirt. It looked fabulous alright… but….it had one stain on it….
My day had been all rainbows and magic, but there was this one sad trombone in the background, and I needed to get it off my chest.
Our conversation started sweetly with lots of laughs and back and forth, as usual, until we got to ‘the issue’ and then I started feeling heavy and sad.
I told Ryan about a romantic interest that seemed over.
My love interest had inexplicably dropped out of communication with me for no apparent reason.
Ryan paused after he heard my sad tale.
He reflected: “I guess it’s hard not to take that personally.”
As I continued my sad story, I began to feel even heavier, sadder, more self-pitying. The beautiful park in front of me, the kids playing on the grass, the lovers on blankets, the others hanging out on park benches, all this faded into the background as the gloomy feeling came forward.
Also, the beauty of the day shriveled up next to the sad and sudden abandonment of this woman. My whole imagination reduced itself to this one fact, and it wasn’t a pretty one.
I explained that I wasn’t really angry, I just felt out of control and disappointed.
Ryan remained silent, just listening, so after a breath, I added: “I am not taking it personally. I just miss her and would like some…”
Just then, before I could get out the word “completion,” something completely out of the blue happened.
It was my cell phone epiphany moment.
A homeless man, or at least I assume he was homeless, walked right up to my park bench until he stood directly over me.
He was like a character out of star wars, or maybe better yet, tibetan mythology; A cross between Jabba the Hutt and a wrathful deity. His massive frame was hunched over an old shopping cart, his hair was long, dirty and scraggly. He had a self-rolled cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth, emerging out of the chaos of his beard, making it seem like a part of his face…except for the continual plumes of smoke..
Then there were his eyes. Oh, the eyes. Actually, as I think about it, after he turned to face me, I only noticed the eyes. They were on fire! It is no exaggeration to say that his eyes resembled these:
I was spellbound.
After a moment of silent staring, he demanded, with a raspy angry voice, that I recite to my friend on the phone the following message:
“Say to your friend that I am a homeless no good bum. I stink. I haven’t showered in days. Also, I HAVEN’T HAD A DRINK IN OVER AN HOUR…” He screamed this last part.
Without hesitation or fear, but just transfixed in a kind of wonder, I became his secretary and dutifully repeated his dictation to Ryan.
So Ryan heard something like this: “No I am not taking it personally. I just miss her and…and…and…one second…and…I am a homeless no good bum. I stink and I haven’t showered in days, and I HAVEN’T HAD A DRINK IN OVER AN HOUR…”
Then he stopped talking and the 3 of us were dead silent.
That was when it happened.
The entire feeling and emotion of this sad romance story vanished in an instant. The story, most concrete, real and painful just a moment before evaporated, never to return.
We remained silent, and I focused on this man in front of me. We connected. Our eyes met and like recognized like. At that moment, there was only joy. The joy of recognition.
In that moment we both were enlightened.
I laughed out loud and declared both to Ryan and my friendly wrathful diety: “And ACTUALLY there is NO PROBLEM AT ALL!!!”
Ryan, who felt the love as well, laughed out loud right along with me. The homeless man, harrumphed in satisfaction, and, without another word, he turned his shopping cart went on his way.