Sinatra Bar at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas with Lysa, Jeff and Alison and a few other people after Mark and Jessica’s wedding. I was loving being enveloped by Sinatra memorabilia and music, but curiously noted hearing some songs repeated. I asked the maître d’ why the selection was so sparse given Frank’s vast recording legacy. He told me that Steve Wynn made three compilation CDs of his favorite Frank songs and they remain in constant rotation.
I couldn’t believe how short-sighted and controlling this was (the idea of the staff getting sick of Sinatra songs made ME sick), so I pulled out my cell phone to text a few fellow Frankophilic friends and share the story. As I tapped my thumb on my Morotola RAZR, correcting T9’s misinterpretation of “Sinatra” as “Phobura,” the sister of the bride let out a gasp, and laughingly exclaimed, “OHMYGOD, look at your OLD-FASHIONED PHONE!!”
My first reaction was to defensively point out that there was no crank, rotary dial or cord attached to the device, and, unlike the iPhone-toters at the bar, I actually had service. I chalked up my phone-derider’s scorn to the fact that she lived in Los Angeles, where anyone who doesn’t have the very latest technology is beyond contempt as a human being (and in all honesty, it would take another year or so before anyone back home said anything about my “old phone”).
See, here’s the thing: While I acknowledge that my phone is now “old” (in the current technological context), I am in no rush whatsoever to get rid of it and replace it with a smart phone, for a number of reasons.
First of all, I have enough distractions in my life, I don’t need to be carting Google and Facebook and video around with me 24/7. The constant pull of media in my home is enough, thanks, I don’t WANT to take it with me everywhere I go. No, really. I probably only bring my iPod with me on treks into the outer world about 30% of the time. I’m aware of my media addiction, and relish the fact that when I run errands or go to work or do social things, I’m forced to step away from the screens and the speakers for a few hours.
The second reason is that my old RAZR still works! Why should I get rid of something that still functions perfectly well (and only costs me about $60 a month)? I have nothing but disdain for planned premature obsolescence in the 21st century. Technology has allowed corporations to finally perfect the kind of marketing begun by car companies in the 1950s, where the consumer is made to feel inferior if they hang onto their out-of-style OLD thing (durability notwithstanding) because this year’s model is so much nicer… and it has tailfins!
Granted, the difference between a RAZR and an iPhone is more than tailfins, but the concept is the same. And we’re much bigger suckers than our grandparents ever were. Just imagine going back in time and telling them that they have to buy a new TV and telephone every couple of years or the neighbors will think they’re Communists! Your ears would get a boxing (still not sure what that means, tho’).
I’m no luddite, but I’ve never been a first adapter. I just don’t get people who are in such a rush to pay tons of money to in essence be a beta tester for new technology. Who gives a shit if you’re the first one on your block with the shiny new toy when we all know that in a year or so, version two will have most of the inevitable kinks worked out in addition to new, added features, all for LESS money? Apple may as well strike a deal with Louis Vuitton or Yves Saint Laurent to plaster their ugly logos all over the first iteration of every new technology. It’s the same kind of conspicuous consumption.
I also resisted getting a cell phone at all for as long as I possibly could, buying my first flip phone in 2004. I held on to that one and its subsequent replacement until they died. I only replaced my first RAZR because I dropped in the toilet, learning the hard lesson: If you’re going to text while peeing, hold the phone off to the side. It’s mind boggling to think that three phones (not counting the pee cell) in eight years is, by contemporary standards, a ridiculously low number.
I picture a giant warehouse somewhere filled with mountains of old, discarded, fully functional cell phones, waiting for some kind of resurrection. I actually think there could be a niche market for “old-fashioned cell phones” in the retro world of rockabilly. For the uninitiated, this particular rock and roll subculture is so ridiculously image-conscious that they make Lady Gaga look like Louis C.K. What’s that, Slim? You’re going to wear your cuffed jeans with your motorcycle boots and your black T-shirt tonight? With the mechanic’s jacket or the leather one? Ah, great choice! Don’t forget the pomade and Marlboros!
These people base every single aspect of their lives—clothes, hairstyles, tattoos, cars, beer, favorite movies, authors, artists and of course music—on the rather narrow parameters set by the Rockabilly Handbook. As such, they generally eschew modern conveniences in favor of the vintage (manual transmissions and Zippo lighters are mandatory).
There are only a few smart phone features that I truly covet. One is GPS. Knowing that you can’t ever got lost would be a really nice feeling, whether on foot or in a car (and I know that the iPhone is behind the Droid in this area). It would also be nice to always have a relatively good camera with me, just in case the aliens happen to land while I’m heading to the Taco Truck or William Shatner ever stops into the bar for a drink while I’m working.
Another feature I wouldn’t mind having is (he admitted, somewhat sheepishly) Twitter. I signed up for Twitter when it first started in 2007, then quickly lost interest partly because it was 90% worthless dross, but primarily because I realized it was a medium for mobile devices, where brief, reactive thoughts can be posted in real time. As I didn’t have a smart phone, it felt kinda silly for me to Tweet (ghad, I hate that verb) from my home computer, so I deleted my account.
I rejoined Twitter this year on the advice of friends in publishing who informed me that prospective authors simply aren’t taken seriously unless they have a solid presence on the major social media sites (ahem. @karlheitmueller, thanks). And so, I’m back to Tweeting (seriously, can we call it Twatting or something a bit less precious?) via my computers, which means that if I think of something worth posting while out and about, I have to jot it on a piece of paper and stick in my pocket, hoping that by the time I get home it won’t have lost any of its crisp, timely perspicacity / sarcasm / indignation / etc (and yes, I still think it’s 90% worthless).
Other than those things, I think I can live without everything else a smart phone has to offer, as I have for, well, all of my life. I have an iPod if I wanna take my music with me, I always carry a pen and a little notebook for moments of inspiration or information, I have my brain, which I prefer to use over Google when trying to remember the name of the girl who played that part in that movie with that guy, you know the one, what was it?
I realize I’m sounding very grumpy Grampa here, but any time I’m with a group of people and a question of historical or cultural fact pops up, it drives me batty that the reflex has become to just grab the iPhone and look it up. If you know that the information is buried somewhere in your brain, doesn’t it make sense to work that muscle and wrest it from the cranial wrinkles? (Of course, if the info was never there in the first place, then Google away, my friend.)
But I’m not kidding myself. I know the day will eventually come—probably sometime within the next year—when I end up carrying a damn mini-computer in my pocket like the rest of the neck-craned masses. And, as with every other modern convenience that I was slow to adopt, I’m sure once I have an iPhone or Droid or whatever, I’ll soon wonder how I ever got along without it. I’ll load it up with apps and I’ll play Scramble on the train or check Facebook in a bar or use the Star Trek phaser app to pretend to stun some self-entitled double-wide Bugaboo pusher on the street.
I just hope that at least part of me will hate myself for doing it.
POSTSCRIPT, June 11, 2012
Well, I made it almost another year.... but after a very busy extended Memorial Day weekend during which I found myself often wishing for mobile technology, I finally gave up. Today, almost a year after this post, I bought an iPhone. Farewell, old RAZR.... you served me well. But I need a phone that can let me know when it's raining outside.