• Mike Murphey

Flipping off my phone

A couple of days ago, my three-month-old smart phone became despondent and committed suicide. Then today, while preoccupied with the logistics of getting another phone, I accidently cut off half my mustache. I have a choice. I can either go to my wife’s major company dinner this evening with half a mustache or remove the whole thing.

This is not an easy decision. My oldest son is forty-two. He’s never seen me without a mustache. Neither has my wife. Neither has my cat.

I blame my phone.

I’ve never warmed to this modern era in which phones have become an all-purpose appliance. I was perfectly happy when all you did with a phone was call someone. This evolutionary march of the telephone has changed society in fundamental ways, not many for the better.

Over almost two decades among the most hated exercises I’ve endured is going to the phone store to get a new phone. “The battery no longer holds a charge for more than a couple of hours,” I explain to a girl with tattoos and a nose ring who must be all of twelve years old. I hand her my flip phone. “You need a new phone,” she says. “Why can’t I just get a new battery?” Because,” she says, “a battery will cost more than a phone.”

“Okay, how much will a new phone cost?” “Depends. How good a camera do you want?” “I don’t want a camera. I want a phone.” Exaggerated eye role. They’ve warned her about people like me. “Let me show you this phone. It’s got…” “I don’t want that phone.” “Why not?” “It’s too big to fit in my pocket.” “You can buy a holster and put it on your belt.” “I don’t wear belts. Don’t you have some flip phones I can look at?” Even more exaggerated eye role, accompanied by heavy sigh.

She disappears in the back where they keep flip phones in a dungeon. She returns with two or three and hands me one. It looks just like my old flip phone, except it’s multi-colored and sparkly. “How much is this one?” “Ninety-nine dollars.” “Do you have anything less expensive?” Her chin drops to her chest. She hands me a different flip phone. “How much?” “Ninety-nine cents.” “I beg your pardon?” She speaks slower and more loudly. “Ninety-nine cents.” “What will the other one do this one won’t.” “Well, nothing.” “Why would I pay ninety-nine dollars for that phone when I can get this one for ninety-nine cents.” Another eye roll. “Because the other one is way cooler.”

I got the ninety-nine-cent phone. I had it until three months ago. In the meantime, I’ve seen my wife go through at least three iterations of smart phones. She has difficulty getting through the day without recharging. My flip phone could go for days without seeing a charger. “Your book is being published,” people told me. “You have to get a smart phone.” “Why?” “Communicating with a flip phone is too cumbersome.” Why? “You don’t text.” “It takes me too long to figure out how many times I push the key to get to the right letter.” “My point exactly.”

So, while my flip phone worked just fine for talking to people, that is no longer enough. Mankind has evolved beyond talking to texting. We went to the Verizon store a got a $700 smart phone with about a zillion dollars-worth of accessories. I admit I am a technological Neanderthal. I admit I hated the phone. I admit I yelled at it a lot. I didn’t think it would kill itself, though.

We took it to the Verizon store. I told a young woman there about the death. She looked up my account.. “You're in luck because the phone is under warranty.” “Great. Give me a new one, and I’ll be on my way.” “We can’t.” “Why.” “We don’t do that at this store.” “Why not?” “They won’t let us. We are just a retail outlet. I think they used to do that at a service store, but I’m not sure.” The closest one of those was several miles away. “Before I drive all the way up there, can you give them a call and see if they will replace my phone.” “I can’t.” “Why not?” “They don’t take calls at the service store.”

I asked if she appreciated the irony of a phone company not taking phone calls. She gave me a blank look. I suspect she thought irony is something you do to pants and shirts.

We drove to the service store. They agreed the phone was dead. They agreed it was under warranty. “I can’t give you a phone, though. I’ll have to file a report and Verizon will send you a phone.” “How long will that take.” “Well, I think they express it overnight. Let me check.” He disappeared into the back. “I was wrong,” he said. “It will take three to five days.” “Why?” “Because.” “Okay, how about this. I have my old flip phone in the car. How about we just reactivate it, and I resume my simpler life.” “We can’t” “Why not?” “We are forbidden to reactivate flip phones.” “Why?”

“Because then, you ignorant Troglodyte, we couldn’t sell you a fucking smart phone for $700!”

No, he really didn’t say that, but that’s what he was thinking.

So, here I sit with half a mustache, waiting three-to-five days, wondering why do I need a phone, anyway. No one ever calls me.

I hate technology almost as much as I hate squirrels.