There are precious few things that can happen when you reach into your pocket that are worse than finding out that your cell phone is missing. Those things include finding a severed body part, getting bitten by a spider, and discovering someone has left you a death threat.

Make that a poisonous spider.

This was my epiphany last Friday night when I reached into my pocket on the way out of Amigos and found only the barren, linty recesses of my coat where a cell phone should have been. It must be how a mother feels when she turns around in a mall and realizes she hasn’t seen her child since parking level B.

After having about seven consecutive heart attacks I proceeded through what I’ve labeled the five stages of cell phone withdrawal:

Panic: Elevated pulse. Sweaty palms. Hypersensitivity to light and sound — similar to Bush’s reaction to public speaking hurdles such as subject-verb agreement and the hard-to-pronounce words “nuclear” and “strategy.”

Desperation: Searching the same small room between 15 and 30 times. Frantically repeating “I had it like two minutes ago and now it’s gone.” It’s usually prompted by friends saying inane things like “retrace your steps” and yelling, “Did anyone find a cell phone?” to a crowd that really doesn’t care.

Anger: Failure to accept that you lost your cell; belief that it was stolen. Warning signs include tearful victim stories and naive confusion as to why you’re such a target; maintaining a quiet rage; giving up the search because the thief has clearly skipped town.

Second Panic: Recounting to friends in rage/tears how your “life” was in the phone. Belief that the numbers are unrecoverable. Certainty that the thief is making long distance calls to Afghanistan on your dime (suspicion that he’s involved with Al Qaeda).

Resignation: Acceptance that your cell is gone. Conviction that you will be socially ostracized when no one can reach you. Assumption the phone will cost $400 to replace.

Letting yourself have a total meltdown due to the loss of a product that’s younger than Li’l Bow Wow is just embarrassing. I’ve lost pets and been less upset. Am I addicted to tech?

Let’s assess. Ok, so I am airport security’s worst nightmare: PDA in the purse, laptop in the book bag, MP3 player in the back pocket, and enough AC/DC, USB and Ethernet cables to rewire the Pentagon.

I can (and do) instantaneously receive real time stock updates, text messages, and minute-to-minute weather updates while electronically paying the bill for my missing (stolen) cell phone. Tivo watches TV for me, Kazaa downloads my music, and my AIM away message is keeping in touch with my friends. If Windows XP could make me a martini I’d be all set.

I know I’m not the only one who bought all those sleek silver electronics because they look like something a James Bond character would use. 9 AM FORMAC, 7 PM YCC meeting — it all feels a little more exotic when it’s scheduled into a platinum palm pilot the size of a credit card.

But at least for me, those dreams of Bond girl cool have all been hallucinations. I am not, like Plenty O’Toole, seductively efficient and always two steps ahead. Instead I get creepy e-nightmares where I am pursued by demonic laptops and digital cameras that are smarter than me and know it. Funny, I don’t remember Holly Goodhead always being beeped at and vibrated by a dozen different gadgets (well, maybe vibrated–)

Let’s get back to the fundamentals of cool. Think James Dean: now there’s a guy who didn’t need a two-way and a Navigator on dubs to get his point across. There’s a guy who used the words ‘hard drive’ and ‘RAM’ the way they were meant to be used.

What I’m trying to say is this: you can’t be a rebel without a cause when you’re all tied up in wires. When our parents were in college, people were tearing their shirts off in ecstasy and rolling in the mud at Woodstock. At Berkeley in 1968 students were staging riots, clamoring against a war 8,000 miles away. And not a single one of them was screaming “Oh my god, has anyone seen a Nokia?!” They had the Carpenters and “Mr. Postman.” We have BSB and “The Call” (which, if you don’t remember, expresses the agonizing emotionality of AJ losing ALL his cell bars in a club).

Is this really progress? Not romantically. Seduction over IM or e-mail is eerily transactional and smacks of insincerity. It’s tantamount to calling 1-800-WE-ARE-18 to form a long-term relationship.

Not in quality of life. All these “helpful solutions” are turning me into a raging basket case. I practically have to breathe into a bag every time my computer freezes and my paper isn’t saved. If I’m not losing something, I’m trying to figure out how to use it or trying to figure out how to afford it. Oh yeah, or it’s becoming obsolete. And I’m painfully aware that my brain is the least efficient processor I own.

For those of you who still think that we are happier for our space-age technology: do you know what research has proven to be the happiest nation? Bangladesh. You know why? Bangladeshi kids don’t have cell phones.

Liz Gunnison can’t come to the phone right now, please leave a message after the beep?