A couple of weeks ago I felt a strange sensation in my ass.

I was sitting down watching television (Flash Forward) when I felt my cell phone vibrate in my left back pocket. But when I reached to it, much to my surprise, it wasn’t there. I shrugged it off. Maybe a passing truck and sent some tremors up though my couch. But ten minutes later my left butt cheek vibrated again. And again. And again. “I must’ve pulled something at the gym,” I told myself, and left it at that.

But the phantom phone just kept ringing. Sometimes a real phone was in my back pocket, sometimes it wasn’t- but every time I felt the sensation my phone wasn’t ringing.

One night the vibrations were so constant that I began to worry. So I did the worst thing anyone can ever do when they’re experiencing strange symptoms – I logged onto the Internet. After half and hour of Googling I was convinced I was having mini-strokes, diabetic neuropathy and Multiple Sclerosis all rolled into one. But after some deep breathing exercises I told myself I was making something out of nothing and decided not go all Code Red. And a few days later the buzzing stopped as mysteriously as it started.

Two weeks later I’m in my doctor’s office for my yearly physical. After the weigh-in, EKG, BP check and annual anal violation my doctor states I’d live another year. “Just lose weight and reduce the stress in your life,” he says. And as my sphincter resets itself from the gloved finger I tell the doc about the other weird sensations in my butt.

“Oh that’s nothing,” he says. “I call it “Absent Cell Phone Syndrome.”

“Are you serious?”

“Where do you keep your cell phone?”

“In my left back pocket.”

“And is that where you have the feelings?”


The doctor laughs. “I’ve been carrying a beeper for over thirty years. And every once in a while I feel it buzzing on my belt when it’s not there. You get so used to the feeling that the body replicates it.”

“Absent cell phone syndrome,” I said. “I like that. You think that one up all by yourself?”

“I should patent the phrase,” my doc said. “Write it up on your blog. See if anyone else has been experiencing the same thing.”

When I leave the doctor’s office I think how different the world is than the one I grew up in. When I was a kid we had TVs with antennas, got the news from three networks, picked up the phone when it rang, played records, sent letters through the mail and had to go to the library to research term papers. Now I can’t imagine a world without email, 24-hour news, blogs, Wikipedia, text messaging, cell phones, voice mail, Amazon.com, iPods, plasma televisions and, especially, laptops. If I had to write two books using a typewriter and carbon paper like they did “back in the day” I’d have become a drunk. All this stuff has become woven into the fabric of our everyday lives and there’s no turning back.

When a person loses a limb it’s not uncommon for them to still feel pain and sensations where their appendage used to be. It’s called Phantom Limb Syndrome. And since electronic toys have become such a part of us, a digital limb so to speak, they’re now a virtual part of our bodies. So it should come as no surprise that I’m feeling mysterious vibrations in my ass – it’s used to my cell phone. And let’s not talk about when the Internet is down. When the power went in my neighborhood a few weeks ago I thought my roommate was going to slit his wrists. No internet! No email! No instant messaging! Our brains seem to crave the endless mental stimulation the worldwide web offers. Me? I read a book by candlelight. But to be honest after three days I was getting itchy too.

Later that night my roommate comes home from work and plops an iPad into my lap. His job lent him one to figure out how to make their business operations more efficient. When Apple rolled out this little gadget a few months ago I thought, “What a stupid device, my laptop can do everything this thing can.” But after a few hours playing with it I found myself sucked into a world of e-books, watching videos and surfing the web on something no bigger than a magazine. It’s just another digital limb – but a really cool one. And when my roommate took it back to work with him the next morning I felt deprived. Uh oh. Absent iPad syndrome!

I have an iPhone, iPod and a Mac already. But as my fingers ached for the iPad’s touch screen my ass started buzzing again.

I’m so screwed.

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