Electronics company LG has just launched a new smartphone campaign about "Low Battery Anxiety;" the anxiousness, fear, and dread that comes when your cellphone battery drops below a certain percentage. I heard about it before I actually saw any of the ads, and I admit that my impulse is to side-eye anything that might be construed as trivializing anxiety disorders. However, once I checked it out, not only did I enjoy the humorous tone employed in the ads, (which I find appropriate and successfully executed in this context), but they have a serious and solid point!
I would love to say that I'm not significantly attached to my cellphone, but that would be a boldfaced lie. My phone is always close by, if not actually in hand, and I also ABSOLUTELY get panicky when that low battery notification pops up, like so many of the respondents to LG's recent survey reported.
As I thought more about how I've grown so dependent upon this little device in my hand, and about how much I stomp and rant and pout when I'm in a no-signal zone or my battery is low, I recalled the stages of grief I've passed through at different times when my precious baby is low on juice:
1. “Oh, I’ll be home/near a convenient charger soon, it’ll be fine”
They say that prevention is the greatest cure, or something like that, so I try to have my charger on me at all times these days. Which is actually really annoying. I recall the days when a phone charger was an actual solid thing, a solid phone stand that plugged into the wall and remained stationary in one's home.
Even though chargers are now just the AC cord itself and are not at all some heavy or unwieldy thing to carry around, I stubbornly feel that I shouldn't have to carry it around, and yet I do, which chaps my ass. I also have a power stick thingy that doesn’t require an outlet, but that also has to stay charged to work, which ends up being an additional pressure.
I’m no expert on powering cellular technology, but as the amount of things we use our phones to do increases exponentially, I imagine a battery that could power it all for as long as we would like it to would have to be roughly the size of a jet engine.
So, as much as I use my phone, I'm pretty much prepared to drain it at some point before the sun sets on any given day, so I have my charger handy, which at least reduces the anxiety a little. All I have to do when that battery gets low is plug it in. Which leads to...
2. It’s OK, I have my charger, let me just find an outlet… somewhere… anywhere...
When I'm out in public and I have to charge my phone, I am a woman ON A MISSION. I'll scan businesses through their windows as I calculate the least expensive thing I can buy that will justify me sitting in there for a solid twenty minutes. My cellphone has indirectly purchased quite a few small unsweetened iced teas, or, ironically, led me to “browse” for another cellphone, since cell retailers are one place guaranteed to have chargers and outlets handy.
But did you know that not every business or restaurant has outlets available for public use? I hate to break this horrific news, but through some trick of the devil, there are entire establishments in operation that don't even care when I need to charge my phone, their outlet-less walls mocking me in my fear and desperation.
Just the other day I stumbled upon such a palace of torture. A Starbucks in midtown Manhattan, no less! I flung the door open like a zombie out for brains, my eyes darting along the perimeter of the shop about two feet above the floor, looking for a friendly electronic outlet face to show me and my phonebaby some lovin.’
I try to do this discreetly, so as not to actually appear on the outside as fiendishly rabid as a poorly written junkie informant on the original Miami Vice, but on this day, my facade crumbled rapidly as I swept the entire room and there were no outlets to be found.
I did a full walk around the room, aiming to discreetly find my spot and plug up before ordering the Iced Tea of Lies, but I finally just approached the counter when my search yielded no results.
“Do you not have ANY outlets in here?!?!” I breathlessly inquired of the kind-looking barista, decorum and syntax be damned.
Her face turned serious and she answered with a solemn “no,” her shoulders hunched and eyes averted to the ground, conveying great personal shame. Of course I don't want her to feel shame, yet I can only imagine how many times she's been faced with a similarly incredulous person making this same inquiry, so I made a mess of trying to apologize for my tone while still in the throes of my Low Battery Anxiety-induced fit as I bolted out the door.
The bigger question, though, is HOW IS THERE AN ENTIRE STARBUCKS IN THE MIDDLE OF NYC IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2016 WITHOUT A SINGLE OUTLET ANYWHERE HOOOOOOW?!?!
The next phase had descended upon me:
3. Must. Charge. Phone. NOW.
This is when all logic leaves the building, and the entire world looks to me like either fuzzy blank space or an outlet, the need to find the latter being the only thing that matters. Every building with electricity will have some kind of outlets somewhere, it’s just about finding the ones I can physically reach.
Grocery stores, banks, and other places where it’s suspicious as hell to plug in your own electronics and just squat there for a bit all become fair game in phase 3. Total strangers may be asked to assist; I’ve nervously handed my baby over to all sorts of randoms if they’ve got the juice and will keep her in my line of sight.
One evening a few years ago, I was meeting up with a gentleman caller for a date. It was definitely a date, so there was no vagueness there, but the exact time and location of meeting up were TBD, contingent upon when we each finished with respective appointments.
No big deal, until I went to text him as my meeting wrapped up and saw the dreaded low battery notification. I didn’t have my charger with me.
I walked/ran to what felt like a central meeting area, irrationally preparing for the worst as though it would come to me having to just stand on the street corner and shout his name. Then I spotted an electronics store and I quickly ducked in.
This wasn’t a proper name-brand purveyor, but rather a “souvenir” store with mostly electronics, the kind in Times Square NYC that make up their own prices to fleece tourists. I went in anyway. Two people asked if I needed help, but I ignored them, having spied what I came for—a charger, just lying on the counter within arm’s reach of a pristine outlet.
I asked the guy behind the counter how much the chargers hanging behind him on the wall cost in an admittedly false show of potential patronage, and as he told me, I tried not to stare at the open charger laying there looking like a bag of money.
My battery was critically low at this point, and I would have bought the charger if it came to it, but I pressed my luck instead.
“Oh hahaha would you look at that, I bet that charger right there will fit my phone, may I give it a try, please?”
“I cannot charge your phone, no.”
Whaaaat?! Why would this man shut me down in this way? All the elements were right there, why not let them fulfill their destiny?
He leaned in and said something about me being too pretty to be out alone at night, (ah, the desperation of basic male pickup lines), and I knew then what I must do.
Family, I’m not proud of what happened next. I believe I did what is known as “using my feminine wiles,” one of the only times I have ever done so intentionally.
I slid my phone forward again and said something like, “And you’re too nice to say no to me like that, aren’t you?”
He gave me some story about how his manager would get angry at him, which allowed me to flip my hair as I turned around and acknowledged that the manager was at the other end of the store, apparently texting on his own phone, and couldn’t care less.
He acquiesced, and I—GULP—made small talk for about ten minutes until the meetup text message came through. I grabbed my phone and thanked the guy as I dashed out, pretending not to hear as he said “Wait, let me get your number…”
I don’t feel good about that, but it was a desperate time.
4. The countdown.
This is the unbearable time when your phone shutting itself off is inevitable. You’ve watched the little battery change colors, for me it goes from yellow to solid red, then to blinking red, and then to a sad little outline where the battery icon once was.
This unit of time is measured in tears, and we all respond differently. I had reached this point before sweet-talking Souvenir Store Guy, and I was sending messages as desperately as Rose implored Jack to “never let go” at the end of Titanic.
It’s so sad. And at any moment, the worst could hit you out of nowhere:
5. My phone is dead. How can I go on?
I’m ashamed to say that this has happened to me recently. It was such a feeling of defeat! With all of our tools and prevention, how had I let this happen?
Unsurprisingly, given that they did this survey in the first place, LG has a great solution, which is that their new LG G5 phone has a pop-out battery that’s really easy to swap out when it gets drained. And of course a greater solution might be emotionally detaching from my phone a bit, but… LOL.
At this point, the reality is that I have wonderful relationships and interactions with people in person, I’m aware of my surroundings, AND I also use my smartphone a lot. Sometimes it’s frivolous, sure. Sometimes it’s pure communication. And sometimes, like right now when I’m typing these words on it, it’s serving a purpose and acting almost as a proper computer. Just gotta keep that battery charged.
Images: LG, used with permission.