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12 August, 2013

My Sporadic Ritual of Cellphonicide

My flip-phone may be gone, but this shirt is forever.

It would be easy to blame the occasional destruction of cellphones on my work. If I just told people that it was dropped into a bottomless lava tube, or drowned in a Cascadian stream, or even dropped in some remote spot where the next person to see it will be an excited archaeologist (who happens to be a cousin of President Bush VI), they would believe it.

Other than one that was swampified on a wapato hunt (I'd held a camera over my head for hours, while the phone was in my pocket, in the mud, so it was a stupid waste), however, the culprit has generally been the washing machine, into which I'd thrown the phone, again in the pocket. Maybe if I'd had one of those phone holsters, accepted awkward accoutrements in the name of protecting the phone, but no, I liked the pocket of my fake Carhart work pants, the skinny one on the side that's so convenient for a phone. Two fingers reach in and chopstick the phone up, an instant of weightless apex, then it falls into my palm and the thumb flips it open. Tactile satisfaction that became one of those small rituals we don't even recognize as rituals.

That one will be no more, because after destroying my most recent phone, the cheapest phone they have now is the kind with the little keyboard that slides out. Not as fun, so far. I mean, it's not smart and there's no touch screen, so I can still embarrass my kids with it, but it's just not the same as flipping, which for someone my age is so layered in meta and ironicool. As a kid, Star Trek's communicator was the future. As an adult, the future arrived, and a huge percentage of first-calls on first-generation flip-phones included a Shatneresque pose and the words "Beam me up." Now, those times and tech are archaic (the actual flip-phone era, that is, the Trek ones still being acceptable on a certain level to younger hipsters). But I digress, and recognize that I am in way over my head trying to talk Trek.

No telling how long this phone will last. I don't think I'll miss it like the flipper, which is not all that much, to be honest, flip-phones being a flimsy substitute for the old Nokia brick.

The Brick, in Period-appropriate Resolution
Compared to the flip-ritual, the less frequent (and thus, more momentous) ritual of cellphonicide embodies much more. Like the drift into reminisce I got into above, a lamentation that the consumption economy leads always to new models, more features, more intrusion, a big shallow network in which nobody is worth more than a few seconds' attention and the ads will not cease. Killing the phone may have been an accident, but as with any religious act, retroactive imbuement with significance is allowed, and it can be ruled a sacrifice. The disdain for the dead phone, stripped and recycled (resurrected, perhaps, in some 3rd World place, but that's not my doing) is also a statement: I don't care about this gadget and its demise.

Of course, I do end up going out and getting another phone. I'm no John Henry (especially since I have no more Nokia, which oculd be used to hammer a jack). At the store, I subject the young staff who actually feel sorry for my backwardness to a cold luddite demand that they get me something that's cheap as shit and goes on my prepaid plan. No contract, no data plan, no upgraded phone. No small talk foreplay to the upsell, get me my archaic phone so I can get back to embarrassing my kids.

Losing the phone means losing the numbers stored up on its card, and though I could just ask the NSA to tell me, getting a new phone means I'll seek out people again. Contacting them some other way and asking for their number again, renewing the connections, and talking with some people whose voices I've not heard for a while when I do finally find them. It used to be easier, because I used to remember numbers instead of making my phone do it, or, if you can believe it, I would write them down. Also, there are the connections that don't continue. For one last time, I think about that person I don't think about anymore, or someone I do think about turns out to be out of reach, no number I can get at. That's the difference between evanescent reminisce and a fistful of wistfulness.

So, here I go again. My number's the same--in case you're reading this and know me--give me a call. I'll reconnect, and enjoy that. I'll celebrate the death of another phone (forgot to mention how this one went: it fell out while I was at the county landfill, never to be seen again), and shake my fist at the demons Verizon, 4g, and Smartphone. I'll have fuzzy nostaligia for old tech.

Then I'll wait til next time.

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