the long goodbye
I’m about to get a new phone, you guys. A smart phone. I’m so close I can taste it. And it tastes like… beryllium and lead and zinc, with a dash of brominated flame retardants!
God, it tastes delicious.
[sheepishly removes old phone from mouth]
[wipes off screen with sleeve]
This is a pretty big deal for me, because the last time I got a new cell phone was September of 2007. And man, I thought it was sharp. It was a Motorola Razr V3 flip phone. I thought its inner 1.2″x1.4″ screen was the hugest screen ever. The alpha/numeric keypad was slick. I was convinced I was rolling the Benz of phones, especially since I’d had my previous phone since 2003. I could have had limited internet access for an additional monthly fee, but I opted for the most basic service plan because who needs internet on a phone, anyway? Also, I was 26 years old and completely broke.
Now I am 30 and slightly less broke, and damn it, I can live no longer without internet on my phone. It’s been a long time coming, too. First, we were getting married, so every last dime was going towards the wedding. Then, the beau offered me the cell phone of my choice for my Christmas present, but I deferred making a decision because I wanted to do research first. Now, nearly six months later, I’ve done my research. I’m ready to commit.
But the closer I get to finally ridding myself of my old phone, the more I realize just how much life has been lived with it. At the extreme risk of sounding hopelessly sentimental — it is a phone, for chrissakes — this phone has seen me through going back to school, quitting the first job I got when I moved out to California, floundering, then building a new career. It’s seen me through moving in with a boyfriend, to getting engaged, to getting married. I’ve got texts on that thing from 2007. Which probably explains why I’m constantly running up against a full text inbox, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. They’re part of my personal history! No matter how strange, varied, and out-of-context they are:
”I just realized my underwear is inside out”
– 9:35 p.m. 10/6/07
”I’m not sure how you got so awesome, but I like it.”
– 3:37 p.m. 10/16/07 [note: sent by the beau. Awwwww.]
”I will die alone with ten cats”
– 6:42 p.m.11/26/07
”Bart. Nothing like public transport when you are slowly dying inside”
— 10:17 p.m. 3/08/08 [note: Bart = Bay Area Rapid Transit]
”If i were a 16th century serf, i would have bigger problems than defining my personal philosophy”
– 2:52 p.m. 08/29/08
”Lets never be our mothers”
– 5:08 p.m. 12/10/08
”I just saw some drunk guy ask the cops where the closest bar is.”
– 10:21 p.m. 04/22/10
”My patent papers are at a slight angle, Sam.”
– 4:08 p.m. 03/17/11
”I am the lemon zester of destruction.”
– 6:16 a.m. 03/26/11
”Jan, it’s because I’m in love with you”
– 6:08 p.m. 5/25/11
Then, of course, there are the texts I kept because they were associated with special days. Like these three messages I received just after we got engaged from the three ladies who would be my brigadiers (I love how different they are):
”What!? What!? Oh my god! Call me as soon as you can!”
– 6:02 p.m. 06/13/09
”Oh that is so awesome I am so happy for you both”
– 6:09 p.m. 06/13/09
”OMG!!!! I am so excited for you i have momentarily forgotten how to use phone”
– 6:51 a.m. 06/14/09
A text from my bachelorette party, after I’d temporarily left the dancefloor to walk my cousin to her car:
”We miss you!!!! Bob Dylan and Eminem are calling your name…”
– 11:04 p.m. 08/22/10
A couple of texts from our wedding day:
”CONGRATULATIONS MRS. [MYLASTNAME]!!!!! xoxoxo”
– 4:14 p.m. 09/18/10
”Amazing night!!!! We luvs u guys!”
– 7:59 p.m. 09/18/10
And the day after that:
”I just saw you two on your first husband-wife run!”
– 10:57 a.m. 09/19/10 [Note: yes, yes, I did make the beau run with me the morning after.]
And! Let’s not forget the pictures! The crappy, horrible pictures that I took over the years on this god-forsaken antiquated phone:
Memory is an interesting thing. Why do we keep what we keep? What meaning could it possibly have to anyone but ourselves? And when we die, those memories go with us, so what’s the point of hanging on to them? Is it to help us validate our existence while we’re alive? Is it so that we can occasionally remind ourselves that, hey, we once saw a box of fruit labeled “Sexy Apple,” and so then we can figure out a way to work that into a future conversation in a way that makes us seem clever?
Yeah. I’m going to miss these memories when they’re gone.
This phone? Not so much.
Do you keep texts? Have you ever considered making a scrapbook of your favorite texts? Wouldn’t it be weird to take digital words and make them into physical crafts? How much does it say about our culture that our lives are becoming increasingly tied to various handheld devices — devices that are themselves obsolete after two years? When do you hold on, and when do you let go? How many questions do you suppose I’m going to ask you? Fourteen, maybe? Fifteen?