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Thursday, January 20, 2011

ces't la vie

I once had this awesome phone. It had all the trappings of new-generation phones, internet, camera, music storage capabilities and it was a touch screen. The screen was beautiful, it had such high resolution that I would almost prefer surfing on it to a computer and it was a flap.

I’m one of those people who think that nothing better was added to phones than the capability to be flapped open to pick up and flapped shut to hang up every call with a careless flick of the wrist. I loved taking phone numbers with this phone because of the look on people’s faces as they took in what I had in the name of a phone. I loved my phone.

Then it started to act up. In such random and varied ways I had to give it up. The first symptom was the speaker in the earpiece, the volume on it started to reduce so I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying to me. I never picked up my phone on a road or anywhere public, I needed complete quiet at all times. it was ridiculous. Then the button for hanging up stopped working, I could still flap it shut to avoid this but the button for hanging up is also the button for switching on the phone which meant that I had to keep the phone on at all times otherwise it would go off indefinitely. All this happened when I was in a part of Uganda where power rationing from mid -90’s Kenya is still a fashion statement. The phone would go off and then I would twiddle my thumbs in hope.

Soon I realized there were actually things I could do to switch it back on. I had borrowed a phone from a friend to put my sim card in and instead of leaving my phone in pieces I put it back together and right then it went on, except my sim-card was not in it. I quickly put my sim-card back in and it quickly stayed dead that time. This is the phone I was trudging around east Africa with so when I finally got back to Kenya I chucked it in for an upgrade.

Things change.

As I’m writing this the upgrade is laid out for me on the table. Its one of those old nokias, very old. When it was still a consideration for a company in Europe to put in torches in their phones, when did wherever nokia is from last need torches anyway? The phone of course has extra features, in addition to the torch you can call and sms, its still generations away from having we were four set even as a polyphonic ringtones so pretty swanky.

The one good thing about this kind of phone is they’re built like land rover defenders. The bad thing is they often get treated like land rover defenders. I saw a guy kick his around to keep it in the air. This phone has had more falls than the water at Niagara. Its like a paper machete model was made and then pieces were stripped off slowly one by one. It has more gaping holes than the average action movie.

But the speaker works just fine so there’s that.

The keypad is made of rubber and all glued together. There seems to be some air inside because it’s puffed up and proud, jutting out its belly. The button for hanging up works just fine but the red was faded away so long ago people still worried about the hole in the ozone layer. However it had this amazing battery, at least when I started using it. The battery would last for days. I always forgot to charge it and as a result once a week the phone would switch itself off. But then after charging all I had to do was press the memory of red and it would be ok.

Then the battery started acting up. it would charge for shorter and shorter periods of time while conversely getting fatter and fatter till it can’t fit inside its case. Now I’m stuck with a phone that can’t close on itself because it has the battery of an under exercised American kid in the phone of a struggling third world citizen. Eventually the progression happened where the phone began keeping less and less charge till putting it to electricity for days gives it enough charge to stay on and say:

Battery empty.

But I loved these phones, both of them I loved the good and the bad. I mourned their deaths that were slow as opposed to every other phone I ever lost. Usually phones are taken away from me but these two died in my arms. And I loved them not because they were good phones but because I imbued them with memories. Memories of joy at hearing that voice that I had wanted to for so long, or receiving that text that confirmed my most secret hopes. Memories of stumbling upon a website that would bring me hours and hours of laughter. There were also memories of let-down, of disappointment. The phones brought me messages of my hopes being dashed against a wall and made me want to do the same to it. They had been with me through the highs and the lows. And if you think about it nowadays a phone is our most constant companion. More than our books, TVs computers, even more than our closest friends.

You can’t live with something so long and so intimately without at some points being unable to think of yourself as apart from it. Phones become a part of their owners and then owners become a part of their phones. Then phones die or get stolen or sold. I never had a phone that I used to own stare at me dead before now and now the 2 phones I wrote about are right there. Its not that they replaced human contact its that they became a necessary conduit for human contact and affected the way I talked to people and how frequently. The phones changed how I related to people and now they’ll never change anything again.

Ce’st la vie