I went to work the next day and thought a lot about my phone. It felt like I had this ever Seeing Eye watching over me, reporting on what I was up to.
I wondered what it was telling Mel. I wondered if, perhaps, it somehow knew more than my location. Perhaps it told her about how I got a headache around 11AM, so I shut my door and took a nap in my office for 20 minutes. Did she know about that? Did she know that I went to the gym today? Did she know that I had a stressful meeting with my boss? Did she know that I drank five cans of Coke Zero? What if I wanted to surprise her… or something? Would she look at her phone, see that I was at a florist, and know that I was buying her flowers? Or perhaps she was looking at her phone and wondering why I wasn’t buying her flowers. I started to think a lot about my privacy, our marriage, and how much freedom I was allowed to have.
I know that these are paranoid, strange thoughts, but sometimes that happens when my mind wanders. And sadly, I never once considered that Mel probably had better shit to do than just sit around and watch what I was doing.
I wanted to shut the app down, but I didn’t want to try and explain all of this to my wife. So instead, I just shut off my phone for a little while.
That evening, we were supposed to meet at Subway for dinner, and then go shopping for approaching Norah’s birthday. I was at Subway, waiting for Mel. She was taking much longer than I expected, so I gave her a call.
“I had a late start,” she said. “I’m still 10 minutes away. Why didn’t you just use Find a Friend?”
I thought about that for a moment, and realized, even though I’d been thinking about it all day, I hadn’t even looked at the app on my phone.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just called you because that’s what I’ve always done. I also like to hear your voice, but apparently this app is making it so I don’t get that as often.”
Mel exhaled into the phone. “I like to hear your voice too, but I’m driving with the kids in the back, and we live in Oregon. I’m risking getting a ticket right now… and killing the whole family. Is that what you want? For us all to die?”
I didn’t respond.
Mel hung up, and I looked at my phone for a bit. I tapped on the app. A map came up. I could see Mel’s Facebook photo inside a little dot. She was traveling down the freeway. I zoomed out, and could see my photo inside another dot. I will admit, it was really cool to be able to see her traveling closer to me. I understood how practical all of this was, but I still had my questions of privacy.
Over the next few days, I checked Find a Friend regularly. I expected to find out something new about my wife. Perhaps she went out on crazy adventures with the kids. Maybe she took them up to the city for ice cream. Maybe she had a man on the side, although I doubted that. Not that she couldn’t get another man. She is amazing. I just have a lot of faith in our marriage.
What I found out was much less interesting.
It was evening, and we were both home. Mel was changing into her pajamas. I was in mine already, and was sitting up in bed. The kids were asleep.
“I’ve been using Find a Friend,” I said.
Mel smiled. “It’s really cool, isn’t it?”
I thought about her question for a moment.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s cool. But I’ve started to realize that we are really boring people. Every time I check that thing, you’re at home. And I’m at work. Sometimes I’ve seen you at Safeway down the street, but mostly you’re at the house. We’ve kind of grown into boring old married people. I don’t honestly think we need this app. It would make a lot of sense if we were world travelers, or something. If we had more autonomy. But sadly, we don’t.”
Mel look a little shocked. Then she said, “There are a lot of things that app doesn’t show.”
“Oh really?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. She went on to list the exciting things that happened in the house that day. Tristan’s front tooth started going loose. Aspen had a blow out, and then she fell asleep on her own. Norah learned how to read a few new words.
“A lot of really exciting things happened today within our family. A lot of individual development. Just because what happened didn’t show up on Find a Friend, doesn’t mean it wasn’t important.”
I thought about what Mel said, and realized that although this app showed where we were going, it didn’t show that much about our lives. It didn’t give all that much detail. In fact, it turns out that although I was looking at Find a Friend, and thinking about how boring our lives were, there obviously were a lot of things that went un-noticed. Suddenly this app seemed silly. Like it didn’t show nearly as much about my life as I thought, and obviously I had nothing to worry about.
“Sounds like you had a very exciting day,” I said. “I had no idea.”
You would also enjoy, Telling Mom About the Washington Post.
Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley