Bummed Out, New Phone.

posted in: Day In The Life, Story 2
Michigan Avenue AT&T store not pictured. Photo: Wikipedia
Michigan Avenue AT&T store not pictured. Photo: Wikipedia

It’s been a tough few days. Battling anacondas. Liquidating a Fortune 500 company. Quashing a pandemic seconds before it’s unleashed on the Earth by a villain. Seriously, though: it’s been a tough few days. 

Canada has been cancelled. Peru has been cancelled. Let’s call it health reasons and leave it at that. Bon soir, Montreal. Adios, Cuzco. (Balls, I say, and that’s plain English.) But life is consistently weird and often lousy and what can you do? Well, fun things. You can do fun things and try to not be as lame as you were yesterday. That’s all you can do — and that’s advanced stuff.

I walked up to a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and got done early. Feelin’ blue, I did what any red-blooded American would do in my situation: I went into the AT&T store to see if I could get a new phone. It turned out that I could, provided that I promised my firstborn child to the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell. Sure, dude. Do I sign with my finger or the stylus? Doesn’t matter? Right on. 

The upside of getting a new phone at the phone store is that you don’t do any of the data transferring. You punch in your password and the tiny magic doo-dads are synched by someone who won’t ruin everything. The downside is that it takes a very long time. If you amble into the phone store and think you’re going to amble on out with a new phone in twenty minutes, you are incorrect. I learned today that “getting a new phone” may be something I procrastinate about when time comes to do it again. It’s not a “Let’s play hooky and go get a new phone!” proposition; it’s an errand. 

That is, unless someone groovy helps you. Then it’s a blast. Bekie, an extremely pretty Hispanic girl with hair that I will never, ever have and could never even fake, greeted me at the door. I told her what I was after and she walked me through my options. I could have a dinner plate-sized phone or a turkey platter-sized phone. I went with the dinner plate, but it was tough choice.

While we waited for Samsung to transfer all the information it has on me from one X-ray spy machine — sorry, phone — to another, me n’ Bekie got to talking. We talked about men. Boys, really. We moved through relationship drama, jobs, other jobs, past lives, patterns, dreams, annoyances. We covered territory like we hadn’t seen each other since college, but I was just a customer, she was on her shift.. 

The tables at the AT&T store on Michigan Avenue are high-tops, so when you’re sitting down you have the feeling you’re in a bar. Several times over the course of my two-hour relationship with Bekie, I had to get over the uncomfortable feeling that our waiter was really slow bringing our drinks. It was just that friendly there in the AT&T store. Bekie told me her eight-year-old daughter recently turned eight. 

“Oh, that’s great. I’ll bet she had a princess party. Is Frozen still cool?”

“Yeah,” Bekie said. “It’s still cool, but she didn’t want a party like that. She wanted to go to this adventure place, like an activity place. I took her. It was really fun.”

When my phone was done, I gathered up all my things and gave Bekie a big hug.

Smartphones: The Rules of Engagement

posted in: Tips 0
Who needs a lecture about the (fascinating) East India Company? Photo: Wikipedia
Who needs a lecture about the (fascinating) East India Company? Photo: Wikipedia

One of the more maddening conversations (or is it proclamations?) that I hear these days are among parents lamenting how their kids are always tied to their phones and video games computers and tablets, how social media sucks up all their attention. Stop buying them these devices, then. They get them because parents buy them for the kids. A parent may protest, saying that life is impossible without these tools, that their kids will be hopelessly lame and isolated from their peers without them. A fair argument; now, parents leave those kids alone.*

As it pertains to my life, however, I abide by one simple rule: I only use my smartphone for entertainment or time-passing if what I’m surrounded by is — without a shadow of a doubt — less interesting that what’s on my phone.

Usually, this means that don’t use it that much when I’m out and about. I do check email, I do respond to texts and things; if I’m getting navigation information, of course I use my phone because it’s made of magic. I’m talking about sitting in a coffee shop and burying my head in the thing, or being in an airport and never once looking up because I’m scrolling through Facebook. In a coffee shop, in an airport, in a hotel lobby and other places like these, I’m confident that what I’ll observe around me is more thought-provoking than playing Candy Crush.* Look at that: the woman eating her breakfast alone. The couple arguing under their breath over by the window. The beautiful chandelier. The bellman who is past retirement age but still working as a bellman. What is the world made of? What is American culture? Someone designed and built this building, someone is about to lose their job today, someone is having sex somewhere, right now, in this hotel! Observing the world leads to wondering how we interact. There’s so much to see absolutely everywhere.

Now, consider an empty doctor’s office with a table of magazines offering Newsweek, Golf Digest, and Men’s Health. I might peruse Newsweek for the 6.1 seconds it takes to go through the entire thing nowadays, but after that, it’s Phone City for me. There’s very little to take in in that situation; anything that might be worth it, I’ve already seen. I feel the same way about standing in a vestibule waiting to be picked up. Looking at Instagram seems appropriate there: pictures of quilts and Madonna’s latest selfie are way, way more interesting than staring at a vase of fake pussy willows.

As always, giving advice feels wrong, but a floating a friendly thought for consideration seems okay: consider the bird, not the tweet.

*I’ve never played Candy Crush, so I could be wrong about this, but I’m gonna roll those dice.