My attempt to respond to my friend’s exciting text message failed miserably when the screen froze, then blackened. It did this frequently. I pressed my thumb into the upper right edge where the power button was and waited for it to turn back on as it usually did.
I pressed again, harder this time.
Although not the greatest of cellular devices, my little Andriod had always done me the common courtesy of turning on, but this…this was different. Concerned now, I gently rapped the edge against a nearby counter, hoping that perhaps this jolting motion would shake it back to life. When that failed to elicit any response, I reverted to digging my thumb nail into the power button. An invisible hand constricted my throat as the device continued to lay dead in my palm.
Maybe it’s out of power?
I knew that couldn’t be the case, because it finished charging the hour prior, but hope pushed my hand into my bag to extract the charging cord. The black screen denounced that scheme as ‘useless’ a few minutes later. Panic settled in as I realized how not having a phone would negatively affect me. Normally my boss texts me the facts, whereabouts and instructions of each patient that I tend to as part of hospice care, and then I use the phone Maps to direct me there. My coach uses an app to let the team know when and where practices will be held, what we’ll need to bring, and what things we need to work on individually. The girls I visit teach can only reach me via my phone, and my many friends and family members text and call on a frequent basis. Often I complete homework and turn in assignments on my phone while at work, a trick that opens more time for other tasks. I almost always have the constant hum of music singing in my ear because of Pandora, or Spotify, two little underrated joys that I have yet to dedicate shrines to. When about to make a purchase, I’ll typically pull out my phone and check my bank account balance to make sure there are sufficient funds. And then there’s the entertainment factor: Netflix, Facebook, Unlock Me games, pictures, etc. All gone.
The smell of burning rubber pulled my thoughts away from the still carcass to the iron that fell face down on the hem of the pants I had been ironing. In my gleeful response to the last text message I received, I accidentally knocked the ironing board over, and with it, the iron.
“Oh no!” I quickly snatched it off the pants and groaned at the large hole burnt through it. “Shoooooot.”
Janet, the owner of the pants, was none too pleased with the disaster when I showed them to her. I hardly listened to her acrimonious words, however, because my mind was severely distracted by the dead weight in my pocket. This issue would need professional help.
Repair shop woes
After several painful hours of work I buckled into my PT Cruiser, hit the gas, and wrenched the wheel towards the only phone repair shop I knew of. A few minutes later I entered the store with the phone cupped in my hands. The man behind the counter glanced up as I walked in, a bitter expression playing across his weathered face.
“Can you help me?” I asked, placing the phone on the counter between us. “It died on me and I don’t know why.”
He barely glanced at it before saying, “This is an Android isn’t it?”
“Well, we don’t fix Androids. We only serve iPhones here.” His face remained stony, untouched at the dyre circumstance.
I rocked on the balls of my feet, unsure what to do. In my mind I had just planned on dropping it off here, having them fix it, me pulling out my savings to pay for their services, and then hopping on my jolly way. I never entertained the notion that perhaps they couldn’t, or in this case, wouldn’t fix it.
“So…is there another place I could go to that would be willing to help?” I asked.
He turned his chin towards the back of the shop where a girl with multiple piercings stood shuffling through a cardboard box. “She knows.”
The girl spat in the box before coming over to give me directions since I couldn’t just look up the place.
“Go down State street going north, then take the second left after you pass like this gas station or whatever,” her voice had a grainy quality to it, as though she swallowed sand. “Then go until you see a really big tree, turn right, go down that street for a few blocks, then it should be on your left. It’s really small and kinda looks like a run down house, so if you don’t see it by the time you reach Walgreens then you’ve gone too far.”
I didn’t have anything to write down her instructions on, so scribbled them on my forearm instead. The drive was somewhat precarious because I kept twisting to check my arm to remind myself where to go. Eventually, by some miracle, I found it. Its faded paint, crooked windows and weed infested parking lot made it look more like a drug house than a phone repair shop.
A skinny boy looked up when the bell announced my entrance. He had heavy powder caking his face, dark eyeliner and bright pink lipstick. His hair was so spiky it could have been used to stab someone. A faded blue shawl wrapped around his thin shoulders, and a stud sparkled from the side of one nostril.
“Um,” I coughed. “Could you please help me? My phone died for no reason today.”
He sniffed and lifted the nostril with the stud in it. One pinky raised, he pinched the edge of the phone and held it up to his heavily penciled eyes. “Android?”
Sighing, he put it down and pushed it with one finger back at me. “I can’t help you,” He continued at my silence. “We only repair iPhones here, so you’ll have to take,” he waved a delicate hand at my phone “…this, somewhere else.”
I swear I could hear the ghost of my phone whisper curse words in my ear.
His directions to another phone shop were even more confusing. He kept pausing to consult his phone, then repeat half the information over again while flicking his hands back and forth. With no more room on my left forearm I scribbled the directions on my right, a feat that made me jealous of anyone ambidextrous.
I thanked the boy and left, grateful to exit the creepy little shop.
One last try
On the road once more I passed the next location twice before finally seeing it tucked between an ice cream parlor and a car wash. Panic gripped my throat when I saw the ‘Open’ sign shut off.
No, no, no, they can’t close now!
Frazzled, I rushed to the door just in time to grab it before it closed.
“Wait!” I gasped, pulling the edge open. “Could you take a look at my phone real quick?”
The man standing behind the door sighed, then pushed it open far enough for me to slip through. “What’s the issue?”
I placed the little dead device in his hand and quickly explained what happened.
The man ran a tattered hand through what was left of his thinning hair. “Well, we’re closing right now, but I can take a look at this first thing in the morning. We’ll email you when we find out what’s wrong with it.”
Angels sang the man’s praises as I left.
The following day was more difficult than I expected. Typically in my art classes the teachers demonstrate for the first half hour or so, then let us put in our earphones and listen to music while we draw. Instead of the lulling hum of Vivaldi, however, I listened to the cold sound of pencils scratching on paper. It grated on my ears, a continuous reminder of my situation.
The long awaited email from the phone repair shop did little to calm my nerves:
Unfortunately we were unable to find a solution to your phone issue. In fact we were unable to do anything at all. At this point not even God could save it. You can come pick it up anytime before 5pm when we close shop.
My heart sank.
I have to buy a new phone.
The man blinked apologetically at me when I returned to the store to pick it up. I nodded back in response, waved goodbye and drove directly to BestBuy.
The man who greeted me grimaced at the phone when I held it up to him.
“Oh, you have an Android?” he sounded disturbed, as though I had presented him with a dead toad. “Did you want an upgrade?”
I debated the extra cost, then decided that would probably be the best call. “Sure.”
“Great! Who’s your server?”
“What company covers your phone service?”
“Oh, Project Fi.”
His brows knit together. “What?”
“Project Fi? It’s got a little picture of a lowercase ‘fi’…green and yellow…any of that sound familiar?”
He shook his head, “I’ve never heard of that.”
Several minutes later after he looked it up, the man said that their store didn’t sell phones that that particular service plan covered. “You’ll have to order it online.”
My knuckles turned a milky white as I gripped the steering wheel on the drive home. I could feel the cold weight of the lifeless phone in my lap, it’s black screen peering at me with a sullen expression. I stuck my tongue out at it. Then felt bad and gave it a little tap on the head as an apology.
“You did serve me well little phone,” I said, “But it’s time for me to bury you.”
And without further ado, I unstrapped my seatbelt, carried the phone to the dumpster by my apartment, and chucked it inside. It landed with a resounding THUD that echoed around the empty walls. I lifted myself on my tiptoes and peered inside to see it laying on the moldy floor, it’s cracked turquoise cover shimmering slightly as if waving goodbye. I twiddled my fingers at it and scowled.
Awaiting a new phone
I bustled inside and pried open my laptop, grateful I had some working technology to depend on. With the BestBuy employee’s words echoing in my mind, it took me several minutes to figure out which phones would be covered under my service plan, but eventually I found a website with three phone options. The prices made my jaw drop. The cheapest one was well over my budget. Trepidation gripped my stomach and I felt the air in my mouth turn sour. Finally after several minutes of internal debate, I bit my lower lip and ordered one. I heard the financial gods in my wallet scream at me. Gratefully, I noticed the delivery date was only two days away, and decided that was comfort enough.
Five days later, however, I began to panic. When I checked the delivery status again it said it was still in “transition.” My blood began to boil. Lack of communication nearly got me fired, removed from my sports team, and had offended more than a few friends. I hadn’t realized life without was so difficult without a phone.
At last, on day six my mother sent me an email with a picture of a phone-sized package. I let out a yelp of excitement and shuffled my schedule around enough for me to return home and pick it up. A swell of hope rose in my chest, lifting me from my melancholy mood.
The new phone was beautiful. It’s clean surface winked at me the moment I pulled it from the wrapping. The swell in my chest inflated all the more, nearly rising me from my seat. It burst, however, a few minutes later when we discovered the SIM card wasn’t included. I didn’t know that when purchasing a new phone one must take the SIM card out of the previous device and save it for the next one. The company I bought it from failed to mention this, and since I didn’t know any better, I simply chucked the old phone and hoped the new one would solve all my problems. My thoughts returned to a week ago at the sullen image of the dead phone sitting at the bottom of an empty dumpster.
A curse word flitted across my mind, slow and steady like a slug meandering through a vegetable patch.
I knew what I had to do.
The next morning, at my apartment once again, I adorned myself in the proper attire for battle: Polkadot pj’s, snow boots, massive garden gloves, and a plastic grocery bag tied around my head to protect my hair. I looked like a confused martian trying to fit into normal society.
Dramatic music filled the silence between my ears as I approached the overloaded dumpster. Heaping bags of trash filled the entire compartment, some of which had split open and strewn their filthy contents over everything. I grimaced, took a deep breath, and hoisted myself inside. Something crunched under my feet when I landed, and I looked down to see the moldy carcase of a carved pumpkin grinning at me. My foot had punched a large hole into it’s hollow head where an ear should have been. Sickened, I shook my leg violently until the holiday decoration let go and thudded into the side of the container. Already I felt woozy from the fetid smell of week old garbage. Resigned to my fate, I bent down and picked up a bag right in front of me. It was much heavier than I expected, so I hugged it closer to myself and heaved, not noticing that there was a large rip on the bottom. Garbage flew everywhere as I chucked it over the edge onto the asphalt below. I looked as though I’d showered myself in someone else’s salad because several pieces of old lettuce clung to my pj’s as though determined to make a new life there. I shivered until the slimy pieces fell off, then bent anew to pick up the next bag.
I carried on like this for nearly an hour; picking up bags and flinging them over my shoulders until I had nearly emptied the entire dumpster onto the ground below. A few people walked by and gave me questioning looks. I felt their eyes linger on me the longer I worked, and at last I couldn’t take it any more. Turning, I stared one of them in the eye and shouted in fake Swedish, flinging my arms spastically until she turned and hustled away. Pleased that that worked, I returned my focus to the pit of trash I had dug for myself until I at last reached the bottom. I couldn’t remember exactly which side the phone was on, so I cleared out a space in the middle and then knelt down to slide my hands under the debris and feel around. It was hard to distinguish anything with those massive garden gloves on, so I removed one of them and slipped my bare hand along the bottom of the dumpster. Cold slime met my fingers, much like stroking the back of a frozen reptile. Garbage is so much more real when you’re actually touching it, and I suddenly realized what I was doing. Bile rose to my lips. I twisted my head to the side and spat it out, avoiding the temptation to hurl. I decided my previous course of action was better and hurriedly shoved my hand back in the glove.
Needle in a haystack
Twenty minutes later I gasped. There it was. Half obscured by a piece of tinfoil, and smudged with a brown slime, my old phone had never looked more beautiful. I plummeted to my knees and picked it up, quickly brushing off the goo that dripped from the edges. Hugging it to my heart I lifted my throat and let out a yell of accomplishment. A voice next to me gasped in surprise and I heard footsteps hurry away. I can only guess that someone was walking by just then, didn’t see me, and freaked out when an empty dumpster suddenly cried out in victory. Normally I would have laughed, but I was too drained to care. I let the triumph settle over me for a few more seconds, then carefully crawled out of the dumpster and hid the phone under a nearby bush. I had to put all the trash that I’d taken out of the garbage back in, and didn’t want to accidentally throw the phone away again.
At long last, exhausted, oddly dressed and covered in unspeakable filth, I carried my prize up to my apartment and set it carefully on the table. After changing clothes and washing my hands vigorously, I extracted the SIM card and placed it in the new phone. I didn’t breathe during the few seconds it took for the new phone to read the card. When it turned on and started working I could have died with relief. Weight lifted from my shoulders and I felt my limbs relax. I cupped the precious device in my hands and held it up to eye level, admiring the clean shine of the untarnished surface. Eager to charge it, I tried to stand up, but the sticky floor grabbed onto the pegs of the chair, tilting me backwards instead of sliding back smoothly. In an effort not to fall over, I tossed one hand up for balance and slammed the other on the table to correct myself.
Are you kidding me?
A sharp CRACK made my ears ring. Glancing down, I saw my BRAND NEW PHONE lying on the hardwood floor. Silence choked the kitchen. I stared, hardly daring to pick it up to survey the damage. When feeling reentered my fingers at last, I reached down and scooped it into my palm. The back of the phone looked as though someone struck it with a hammer. It resembled shattered glass petrified in place. I ran a finger over the blemished surface and felt to my surprise that it was still smooth despite the horrific scars. The screen was unmarred, thank goodness, but the back was so badly impaired that I feared it may have broken the phone in its entirety. Numb with shock, I plugged it into the wall and dug my thumb nail into the power button, holding my breath once again. After a few interminable seconds the screen flashed and turned on.
Truly I bring these disasters upon myself, but alas what can I do when technology and ignorance conspire against me? At least in the end it all worked out, and now I am the proud owner of a functioning cell phone.