I recently broke down and bought my first smartphone (a Motorola Moto G5, if you really have to know). To most of you, this probably carries the same psychological weight as did ordering your first tuna melt. But as a 61-year-old who regards the tubeless roll of toilet paper as the height of progress, this was a major hurdle.
Put it down to perverse pride. While everyone was lugging around a brick-sized device that seemed to be designed to do everything but make calls, my old-school cellphone could be easily mistaken for a waterbug.
The 10th Electronics Commandment
Yet over time, I found myself breaking the 10th Electronics Commandment (“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s iPhone”). Too, I’d marvel at my then 16-year-old daughter’s ability to jump from app to app, site to site, all while texting and talking to friends with the speed of a mako shark closing in on a hapless prey.
I had to admit, the thingamajig was pretty darned cool. After musing about getting one for myself, my daughter informed me, “Dad, you’re not smart enough for a smartphone.”
While such a wisecrack would enrage most fathers, all I could do was mumble, “Yeah, you’re probably right.” My daughter is nothing if not observant.
Envying My Dumb Phone
At least I had culture on my side. As years went by, smartphone friends started to envy my simple device. “You know,” they’d say, “that actually looks pretty good. I’m getting tired of lugging this thing around.” They’d complain about their smartphone’s size and weight, and apps that were either redundant or a distraction, always adding, “All I want to do is call and text.”
Over the course of a decade, I’d gone from being hopelessly out of step to retro-fabulous. This old-timer, it seemed, was on the cusp of the next communications revolution.
Getting Smarter About Smartphones
That was before I became a background actor in New York City. While I had no problem checking emails regarding possible work when I was home, I found myself out of luck on location. If I received a text from a casting agency asking me to reply to an email in order to confirm future work, I’d have to ask the friendliest-looking colleague if I could borrow his or her smartphone just this once.
Boy, talk about feeling old. And out of it. And annoying. If I wanted to be professional, I needed to ditch the waterbug for the brick.
Not that it was easy. Being superstitious, I was afraid if I got a smartphone, the work offers would stop. And once I decided to tempt fate, it took another six months to choose the right smartphone for the best price.
How to Answer the Call?
Then I had to ask my carrier representative the kind of questions — Will I be able to access the Internet? Can I keep my same number? — that probably make her wonder how someone like me even knows how to answer the phone.
And guess what. When the smartphone finally arrived, I didn’t know how to answer it! In fact, I had to ask my wife to call me a half-dozen times before being forced to consult the instructions. Maybe my daughter was on to something after all. (But, in my defense, did you ever think you’d see the day when you’d need instructions to answer a damn phone?)
Registering Ringtones, Adding Alerts
Still, I took this whole smartphone business seriously. I mean, it took less thought to choose our daughter’s name than my ringtones. And alerts? Sure, how many you got? You never know when New York is going to get hit by a hurricane. (Actually, it’s supposed to be every 75 years, but a heads-up never hurt anyone.)
I at last felt part of the 21st century, no longer obliged to bum a phone from work colleagues. The waterbug was relegated to the top bureau drawer as a future heirloom, a charming antique not unlike myself.
Ifs, Ands and Butts
Within days, however, my undeserved self-satisfaction took a hit when my wife told me she ran into our super. “He said that he’s been getting phone calls late at night from you, but that when he picked up, you didn’t answer. I said you probably butt-dialed him.”
I vehemently disagreed, explaining that since I carry the phone in my front pocket, technically it was inner thigh-dialing. I’m not that stupid.
Still, the point was taken. Over time, I’ve learned the tricks of the smartphone-user trade. And despite my fears, the background work hasn’t stopped; I can now receive and reply to any job-related emails all by myself. Best of all, I’ve figured out how to answer the phone!
Now if only someone would call me.
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