I… have not had particularly good luck with cell phones. From the ancient Qualcomm brick I used to tote around to my last flip phone, to my first attempt at having a smartphone, my history with these tiny little boxes of joy and frustration has been less than stellar.
As some of you may know, I am an engineer. Like many engineers, this means that I have a particular relationship with technology, and high potential for peculiar technology quirks. In some cases, this means buying the latest and greatest gadget as soon as it’s available, if not sooner. In other cases, it means clinging to a dying piece of technology like racoon clings to a shiny object in a racoon trap. Some folks, like me, hit all over the spectrum. For example, I try to buy every Nintendo major console as soon as it comes out (DANGIT I FORGOT TO PRE ORDER A SWITCH. UGH), but I stubbornly and steadfastly refused to upgrade from my lil’ black flip phone, for years.
While my friends and the rest of the civilized world were calling up maps, web sites and eventually CARS with their magical little wonderboxes, I had to resort to the old fashioned way of remembering a taxi company’s phone number, printing directions in advance or shouting “I NEED AN ADULT” every time I got lost. But finally, the time came, and I made the jump. Mostly because it became necessary for my job. Mmm… delicious excuses to stop being stubborn and to embrace the future….
And what did I do? Well, I decided to be stubborn AGAIN. I got the HTC 8x, the flagship WINDOWS phone. And let me tell you, was I ever THRILLED when I first got it. The phone was amazing. I had a bluetooth earpiece and could give it voice commands! I could answer text messages and it would read them to me. I felt like J. Jonah Jameson giving orders to an employee. It was amazing. The user interface was the best phone interface I’d seen- it was incredibly smooth and supremely easy to figure out. For two weeks. Then the phone died. It just gave up and turned itself off with no warning. Being the kind gentleman I am, I resuscitated it, and it came back to life… for a time. Sure enough, it turned itself off again without warning a day or two later. My beautiful blue shiny phone had betrayed me. After haranguing the cell phone provider a bit, I was able to get them to send me a new version of the same phone. Lo and behold, after two weeks, it killed itself in the same manner. I yelled at the company again. New phone. Same problem. After the fourth or fifth phone I started to think that they only had five of these phones, and that they would keep on rotating them out to me each time one gave up. I should have checked the serial number.
My friends with iPhones mocked me for having chosen a Windows phone. “Get a real phone, Johnny,” they would say. After the 6th time my phone company broke my heart, I called them and demanded they give me a different phone. “Another Windows phone, sure, we can do that!” No, no, you cannot, phone company. I tried. I am done. And after much begging, they said I could get an Android- an old Motorola Razr (pronounced “rah-zur,” if they’re not gonna put in all the vowels, I’m not gonna speak them for free). I asked them for some info on the phone and they said it was great! Phone companies will never let you down, eh?
Well, after trading in my top of the line brand new Windows phone, they gave me a 3-4 year old low to mid ranged Motorola Razr model. I mean, sure, it must have been great a few years ago, but are you kidding me? There’s no comparison. Finally, I called the company back again, using the same phone I would seek to return to aid in its own demise. I politely spoke with them some more, and the “best” they could do was get me a newer model of the same line of phones, with extra letters and names like “HD” and “MAXX”. So be it. I couldn’t deal with phone roulette any more. And I took it.
That has been my phone up until last Friday. I used that lil’ guy from sometime in 2013 until now. That phone and I spent more time together than my wallet. That phone and I were together than my longest contiguous relationship. But I had to replace it. What once seemed passable, and “okay” somehow fell into “clunky” and “about as fast as molasses dripping from a spoon in Antarctica.” Its days were numbered, and you could tell, just by watching how quickly the battery would drain away, how it would refuse to accept input, or sometimes ignore the headphone jack that was clearly inserted properly into the hole. I ordered a new phone. And the awkwardness began.
A friend of mine told me that I was the most “animistic” person they’d ever met. I asked for clarification, since I had no idea what they were talking about. Apparently, according to my friend, Animism is giving thoughts, feelings or a soul to inanimate objects, or plants and such. I kept talking smack about my phone and then verbally apologizing to it. I was losing it. I knew the phone was bad, but I didn’t want it to be “sad.” Even as I type this now, my old phone, turned off for what may be the last time (unless I can figure out how to copy all my contacts out, when I try I get told it’s locked down for “security,” thanks evil phone company) sits on my nightstand, connected to a thin lifeline of electricity by a USB cable.
And just like before, the phone itself was used to call for its own replacement, and loss of number. It had to participate in its being phased out and made obsolete, its number transferred to the new generation. I wonder, is that what it feels like to be a parent? To still have some use, until the next generation is ready to take over, giving up to them your purpose and tasks, until they too do it to the next generation after them, passing on the memories and contacts and whatever knowledge carries over- some, but not all.
Case in point- my applications moved, but not my contacts. Or logins. So I have to redo all that Thanks, evil phone company.
It’s so weird- I traveled the world with this phone. Japan, Italy, the Dublin airport, Puerto Rico…. We live in an age now where we have this piece of technology that is almost a part of us. We’re attached at the hip, for better or worse. The benefits of these devices outweigh the detriments, I think, but it still boggles my mind how much we rely on them. When I was a little kid, I’d hold my breath walking past the Cell Phone aisle in the Circuit City, paranoid that I’d get cancer from them.
And now I don’t leave home without one.
I feel lucky to have lived both before and during the age of cell phones. I can remember what it was like having to find my parents after being let loose on an unsuspecting mall, or trying to get in touch with a friend through their house phone. The ol’ trope of calling a girl’s house and getting her overbearing father? Not anymore! Thanks, cell phones.
And now, I must thank my old cell phone, even as it sits, redundant, upstairs and I look over at its replacement. Shiny, sleek, a new model, perfect in every way, quick and efficient and raring to go do something. I wonder when I’ll say goodbye to this one. I’m sure it will be another somber ti—- AUGH THERE IS A FLECK OF DUST UNDER THE SCREEN PROTECTOR. I GIVE UP.