The Missing Link
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – I lost my BlackBerry. It was scary. I looked in my pocket, and it was gone. All of a sudden, like. One minute I thought it was there. Then it wasn't. Poof. For those of you who don't know, the BlackBerry is a little gizmo that enables you to read and answer e-mail when you're not at the office. Like, if you're in your backyard with a book and a brewsky? You can get e-mail. In a Town Car on the way to the Omaha office? There too. It's really great.

I looked all around my house for my BlackBerry when I realized it wasn't in my front jacket pocket where I always, always keep it. It wasn't anyplace. "It didn't grow a pair of legs and walk away," said several people to me when I told them I couldn't find it. Why do people always say stuff like that? It makes you feel that they're lacking in sympathy for your problems. It's almost as bad as when people who didn't want you to do something would say, "If Joe jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you jump off too?" I never got that either. Maybe I would. Maybe I wouldn't. But who could know until the situation arose?

At any rate, my BlackBerry might as well have grown a pair of legs and walked away. I didn't have it, that's for sure. And like I said, I didn't get much empathy from anybody when I told them. I guess it's true that there are worse problems in the world. You could also misplace your cell phone.

I did that three days later. It happened quite suddenly. I looked in my right front pocket and was amazed at the complete absence of cell phone there. I all but took off the jacket and shook it, looking for the cell phone. The thing about having a certain thing in a certain place is that when it is not in that place you can't imagine where in the world it could possibly be. It wasn't where I had carried it since Motorolas got small enough for everyday portability. Where, then, could it have gone?

One thing was clear. Neither my phone nor my BlackBerry was anywhere in my home per se. I felt confident in this belief, since I had gotten to the point of searching through areas where I knew they could not possibly have gotten themselves, having exhausted those locations where there was some hope they might be found. They were not in the drawers of my bedside table, where I might have put one or both at the end of a hard day's communicating. Nor were they in the mess on the desk in my study...nor between my mattress and my box spring, in the dog's bed, on the roof of our garage, in the flower beds that run along the front of our porch, or in the barbecue pit.

I stood in my kitchen that night, exhausted and confused, e-mailless and out of touch, thoughtfully scratching the interesting welts that were beginning to appear on the side of my face, on my torso, and up and down my legs, and considered where I could possibly have left my electronic friends. Then I went to sleep. At least I think I did. I don't remember too much of the evening after that, anyhow.

The next morning was even a little bit worse. My head had blown up to the size of a muskmelon and I had developed a jitter in my legs that made it impossible for me to sit still without humming.

In my car for the one-hour commute to the office, I felt stripped of the armor I need to function while outdoors. I was in interstitial space, with no hope of connectivity. I didn't have my BlackBerry to give me my e-mail on the way to work and I didn't have my cell phone to check in, as I always do, with Brewster, Schuster, Kolnagie, and Martinson, and all the guys in Skokie and Harrisburg. What was I to do? As I swerved across the road, dodging an inexplicable number of tiny pink badgers that seemed to be everywhere at once, I listened to the radio without turning it on and tried to establish equilibrium, but I was feeling weird...cold and hot at the same time, with a freezing crown of perspiration ringing my fevered brow.

I parked my car on top of a fire hydrant and lurched spastically to the office. As I went, I was aware of the same kind of feelings that beset warriors who lose a leg in a battle. Years later, they still reach to scratch at an itch that is tormenting them in the limb they have long been parted from. I kept reaching for my jacket pockets, first the left, then the right, only to find empty space, if you don't count the lint. There wasn't a lot of lint, don't get the wrong idea. But each time I faced those two voids, this terrible feeling of being at loose ends filled me from top to bottom. I don't like feelings that fill me from top to bottom. I'm generally over those.

When I got to my office, I found that neither my BlackBerry nor my cell phone was on my desk, in my desk, in my credenza, on my credenza, in the cushions of my couch, or even under the wall-to-wall carpet. Man, I can tell you that stuff was really difficult to rip off the floor, almost as if it had been bonded down by some kind of adhesive! Anyhow, they weren't there.

Of course, I was okay when I was in the saddle. I canceled my lunch and worked very hard to eliminate all phone messages and e-mails, knowing that later in the day I would once again be cut off from my electronic umbilicus. The thought of it made me feel kind of lightheaded, which may explain why I found myself dozing at several occasions during the day, my head lolling on my chest, a small bubble perched at the rim of one nostril.

The drive home was a nightmare. Uncontrollable drooling made it difficult for me to keep both hands on the wheel. I was incapable of thinking straight or even in a circular fashion, cogitating in little bursts that would splutter out like wet sparklers on the Fourth of July. At the end of each burst, I would think, "Gee, I'd better phone Bortz about that," or "I'd better pull over and e-mail Thomaschevsky immediately," and then I would realize I had no way of doing either! Then, whatever had been in my head, pfft! It was gone! And it came to me suddenly, as if in the middle of a dream: We have reached the point where any idea that is not immediately communicated electronically might as well not have happened at all.

I stumbled through the door to my home, shaking in every corner of my being. There was an ache deep inside me. I yearned for my BlackBerry. I hungered for my cell. I curled myself into a little ball in the corner of the kitchen and gave myself over to the craving.

"Hey," said my wife. "I found these in your gray suit." She handed over my two wireless toys. "You're lucky," she said. "I almost left them at the dry cleaners."

I held my cool little friends to my cheeks and felt the burning there subside.

"Thanks," I said. "I didn't miss them a bit."

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at