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Imagine it. That little electronic friend that you keep close to you and knows all your private information is nonexistent. You’re living life without a cell phone. Gasp! What would life be like? Well, folks, there was a time not long ago that this was the reality. People figured out how to live and breathe without their trusty cell phone. So in honor of National Day of Unplugging on March 4 and 5, here are some truths about that time before the cell phone takeover.

Related From Vivala: Why I Stopped Sleeping With My Cell Phone


The agony of memorizing numbers!

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That’s right. Before everybody and their mama had cell phones, we actually had to memorize phone numbers. For example, if you were single and met someone they’d have to write down their phone number or the contact may be forever lost. If the world were being extra cruel you’d notice the last digit was missing on the torn piece of paper they wrote it on, and if you really liked them, you’d dial each combination before getting it right.

Phone books

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If you had too many numbers to memorize you kept them written in an alphabetized phone book. Dudes often carried what was called their “black book,” or the holy bible of lady’s numbers. If the new woman in their life were to find the holy grail of possible random hookups, it would likely be burned or torn to shreds. If you didn't have a person's number you were trying to locate you could always search the white pages of your local phone book that could double as a weight for some strength training. 

Pay phones

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It wasn’t uncommon to hold on to lots of change back in the days before cell phones because if you were out and about and needed to make a call you used a pay phone. Hopefully it was a local call that could cost anywhere between 10¢, 25¢, or 50¢. If it was an out-of-towner you were dialing, you better have come prepared with a bunch of coins that you could stack up on top of the pay phone so you can keep feeding the beast while you chat. “Please add 10 cents to continue this call” the operator would demand.

Answering machines

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Beep! This little machine held the key to knowing who was trying to reach you while you were out. If you’re really old-school you’ll remember the ones with the tiny cassette tapes you had to actually turn over when one side was full. Later the electronic versions sans cassette tape were introduced and upon arriving at home would blink the number of the messages it held.


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Oh, how lovely it is to simply plug in an address and in a matter of seconds your journey is nicely mapped out with guided directions all the way to your destination. Before cell phones came equipped with GPS, travelers relied on paper maps that were usually really big and awkwardly folded. I don’t know about you, but I could never manage to figure out how to fold the map in the way it was when purchased. Map or not, if you got lost, you had to actually stop, ask for directions, and write them down.


Precise meeting times

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When making plans with friends and loved ones, you had better have been prompt because if you were running late there was no way to inform them. It was easy to appear as if you were standing someone up in those days, especially if you were someone who was typically punctual. You didn't want to let the one time you were late be when you’re meeting someone you fancy. It wouldn't have been a good first impression.


Blind dates were really blind

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So you’re friends hooked you up on a blind date and the big night arrives. You get all dressed up and are smelling good and set out to meet who could quite possibly be your soul mate. But when you arrive at the meeting place you can’t find them. Better start asking around because you won’t have a trusty selfie to help guide you to their precise location.


People actually looked at and talked to one another

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We’ve all done it. We've seen a group of our friends all in close proximity to one another and all of them are staring at their phones without uttering a word to each other, so you take a photo of it to laugh about it later. In reality, it’s a sad truth about the world we live in today. Our cell phones are an easy distraction away from everyday life, including those who are important to us. So it was sort of nice to think about a meal with friends when cell phones weren’t an option to draw their attention elsewhere. It was almost as if living in the present was more easily attainable before cell phones occupied our minds with what calls we missed or how many FB likes our last post garnered.


Books, newspapers, and magazines — oh my!

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Before smartphones made news accessible at our fingertips, commuters using public transit were often spotted reading books, newspapers, and magazines. If often left the subway trains pretty messy for commuters who didn’t pick up after themselves and let the pages of the newspaper fall all over the floor. And while it was likely better for our eyes than staring at a small screen to read or watch our news, it was not better for the environment.


People stopped to smell the roses . . . well, kind of

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Or at least to look at them while they walked by instead of having their face buried in a cell phone. While technological advances have offered nice conveniences, it’s also robbed us of basic human enjoyment like going for a walk without feeling the tug of having to check emails, pick up phone calls, or reply to social media reactions. It’s up to us to work each day to find a healthy balance so we don’t end up gazing at animated flowers in HD.