I put up a good fight. Perhaps not as good as others who still haven’t become “joiners,” but I did better than some others. I tried, but I just couldn’t resist.
I got a smart phone.
I didn’t plan to do this, or at least not yet. It all started with my first cell phone in 1997. It was a massive analog beast that I got because I was teaching night classes in Manhattan and was getting back to my train stop at midnight. As a matter of fact, I needed it two days after I bought it when my car wouldn’t start. Being stranded at midnight at a train station near a river…? Where I come from, that’s a big no-no. But never fear! I had a cell phone to call for a ride! See? For emergencies, just like I said!
Then I went to Turkey, where cell phones were tiny and colorful, and everyone was texting. It was startling at first, but it made perfect sense. In so many places around the world, the infrastructure for land lines just wasn’t capable to handle the demands for private phones, so many people didn’t have one. When I first visited Portugal, I remember needing to go to the post office to call my sisters who stayed behind in New York. So the cell phone market in these places drove the technology further and faster than it did in the States, at least up until that point. And while voice minutes were pricey, text messages were free.
So I got used to small phones and texting. When I returned home, I got a phone and a contract and happily used it for several years, though there was less texting because here, the voice minutes were cheap and the texting was costly.
Eventually, I decided it was time for an upgrade. Flip phones were popular and there were plenty of choices, so I got one. When that one got dingier than I preferred, I got a shinier one. Then my sister and my friends started texting me more and I finally decided to buy a plan so I didn’t have to pay for each message, so of course I needed a phone that I could type with more easily. I got a phone with a keyboard.
Soon, though, I could no longer deny it: the winds were blowing, and they were all headed towards smart phones. We weren’t given much choice. Many phone companies have been eliminating middle-ground phones, leaving people with either phones that could practically perform alchemy or plastic Fischer-Price toy phones. When I saw that my provider offered a few middle-ground compromise phones, I decided to put on some training wheels and get used to the ride so I wouldn’t face-plant when I had to switch to the bigger and faster smart bikes.
The problem was, that phone was a piece of crap. After a year of buggy performance, inconsistent responsiveness, and a rather capricious tendency of the phone to turn itself on or off, I’d had enough. It was time. I needed a better phone. As it turned out, a friend was about to get rid of her Android phone as she switched to an iPhone. A deal was made; phone and lunch were exchanged and I joined the cult.
It felt strange. The phone itself was easy enough to manage and I adapted to it quickly, but it felt strange even to hold it and know that I wasn’t just playing with someone else’s phone; it was really mine. I felt like everyone knew – like when I was using it in front of other people, they could either tell that I’m faking it, or they thought that I am one of Them.
I felt so strange about it that the very next day when Buzz told me he wanted to go to one of our favorite antique stores to look for a Brownie Hawkeye he could turn into a pinhole camera, I jumped at the chance to go with him. We drove north, had lunch at a classic old diner, and then went to the store. I felt like I was coming home.
He found his Brownie for himself, and then he found this for me:
I gasped and immediately reached out for it. It was in good condition. It was dusty but otherwise well-maintained. It needed some oil and obviously a new ribbon, but it was completely functional. And it was marked down to a price I could easily afford.
It was mine.
It’s an Underwood Junior Portable typewriter, probably built between 1926 – 1936 from what I have been able to find in my research. It even came with a case. I think it may become part of my first-day-of-class shtick. I may force each student to type out a sentence on it and then dare them to complain about the difficulty of writing on their computers. But then I would have to allow someone else to touch it, and I believe I just might take umbrage at that.
In the midst of this all, the new phone felt like a foreign presence, but I kept it out of my purse, in my hand, so I could start reconciling my two sides. I checked an email from my sister on a new portable machine with one hand as I lovingly cradled an old portable machine against my side with the other hand.
Maybe if I can keep myself well-anchored, I just might be able to weather all of these inevitable winds of change.