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My smartphone-free week on transit

notes

The tally from my smile experiment

Last week, I was inspired by a link in our latest Links and Tidbits post.

It lead me to try my own smartphone-free commuting week!

Let me give you a little background of what my normal commute is like.

I hop on the bus for about half an hour, then I continue on SkyTrain for another 30 minutes. In the evening, I reverse it, obviously.

I will often just listen to music and check games or idly scroll through my Instagram feed.

For my “unplugged” week, I didn’t allow myself to touch it from the moment I left my house to the moment I stepped into work.

This required one behaviour change for me right off the bat… A CLOCK! I don’t usually wear a watch and use my phone to check the time so for the first day I had no reference of time on transit.

Other than that, I made some observations with my pen and notepad each day.

Here’s what I found out:

Monday:

  • OK, a LOT of people spend their entire trip on their phone. Is anyone concerned about becoming a society of strained-necked commuters?
  • I wish I could read my book. Motion sickness is the worst! Think of all the work I could do if I didn’t get sick reading on transit.
  • I have no idea what time it is. I really depend on my phone for telling the time. Not a lot of others are sporting watches either. Does everyone rely on their phones for the time?

Tuesday:

  • A woman is putting fake eyelashes on while on the bus. I can’t make my makeup look that good sitting still. She’s some sort of make-up wizard!
  • There are such distinct housing development and decor patterns as you cross the region. ie. Vancouver Specials, gated yards with lion statues, colourful stucco East of Main St., laneway house builds.
  • Riders say ‘thank you’ to operators much more often in the afternoon/evening rides than in the morning.

Wednesday:

  • There’s a man who I thought was talking to me but turns out wasn’t. He looked puzzled/annoyed when I said, “pardon?” Apparently it was a conversation for one.
  • It’s so foggy today I can’t even see the mountains. I should really look at the mountains more. Seriously, they’re gorgeous and you have a great view from the Expo Line trains in Burnaby.
  • I sat beside a woman with a purple bag. I didn’t notice the doggy with the matching purple bow until she licked me “hello!” Jazz was very friendly and quiet while we rode together.

Thursday:

  • How hard is it to put the free newspapers we all get handed in the recycling? There are bins at every station! Disclaimer: I sat on one that was stuffed in the side of my seat and wet so, in turn, I then got my whole side wet and I may be a little grumpy about it.
  • I just played with the air bubbles on a SkyTrain window for a good 10 minutes. I should probably wash my hands.
  • Sock fashion is in! Stripes, polka dots, bright colours – men and women; young and old seem to be rocking some funky socks. I’m liking the attention to the space in between shoes and pants.

Friday:

  • Everyone is in such a good mood today! I think TGIF culture is real because this is a total 180 from Monday
  • Someone is doing a crossword. I love crosswords. I feel like they have taken a backseat to Sudoku and I never understood why. I wonder what the ratio of Sudoku players versus crossword puzzlers on the train right now?
  • How many Starbucks drinks are sold in Metro Vancouver during the AM commuting hours? I’ve been on transit for 45 minutes and I have counted nearly 27.

I also conducted a little something I like to call the smile experiment.

Each day I tried to look someone in the eye and smile then I would record if they smiled back.

I think many people were a bit surprised, but the ones that returned the smile looked so happy!

Eye contact & smiles given = 37
Eye contact & smiles received = 11

Overall, though I did miss my commuting soundtrack, it was nice to actually LOOK UP and see the world around me and I’m going to try to leave my phone in my pocket more often!

Now, I put the challenge to you. One week’s commute with no smartphone. Can you do it??

Author: Adrienne Coling


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