That Pesky Phone

My phone keeps pestering me to update to Apple Pay.

I’m sure it would be convenient to just hold my phone over the grocery store contactless reader and have the cost of my marinated mozzarella, crackers, and bag of apples magically be deducted from my bank account. And I’ve no doubt that at some point I will succumb to my phone’s nagging. I’ve already got the Venmo app, the PayPal app. But honestly, I’m a little reluctant to have every aspect of my life tied up with my phone.

I remember a moment sometime in the early nineties when Dixie and I were walking the beach in La Jolla, California and were appalled to see that in such a beautiful place, with such gorgeous natural ambient sounds and smells and sights, that eighty percent of the people we passed were glued to their phones. “God, I’m glad we don’t live here,” I said, “everyone is addicted to their phones!” It wouldn’t be long, though, before this trend made its way up the coast to Santa Cruz. A stroll along the bayside bike path of our beautiful West Cliff looks much like La Jolla did back then: people talking on their phones, texting on their phones, taking photos with their phones, listening to podcasts on their phones, listening to playlists. For all I know, they’re balancing their checkbooks, or doing day trading. And I get it. I do. Not long ago there was a phone call I needed to make that I wasn’t looking forward to, and it occurred to me that if I did it out by the ocean, it would make me dread it less. So, I hopped on my bike, rode out to the bay, found myself a bench, and made the call. It worked! The pelicans wheeling past as I engaged in the awkward conversation really did help. There have been other times too I’ve found reasons to be on my phone at the beach. Texting Dixie to tell her my bike had a flat, facetiming my mom from Younger Lagoon, a place she loved to birdwatch, and will likely never do so again. So, I’m not anti-phone. I’m not. Really.

In fact, there are many aspects of my iPhone that I appreciate. My GPS for instance. For people like me with no sense of direction, it’s a godsend. And being an information junkie, I love being able to look things up! But sometimes, I also kind of resent that knowledge is now so easily accessible. No more searching out the wizened old woman at the edge of town to learn the history of a given building, or enlisting a friendly librarian at the cozy library for help. Now you just Google it. Which brings me to my favorite Roz Chast cartoon, which, ironically, I just found by Googling.

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Now, of course, we’re stuck to our phones even more due to Covid. And I’m thankful, I am, to be able to text and FB with people I love. Still, I can’t wait until I can get back to real people. They’re so so soooo much better than their screen personas. So much realer. Like a trade of goods is realer than a cash exchange; like handing someone cash is realer than handing them a check; like a check feels realer than an ATM card; so an ATM card feel realer than a swipe of my phone. I swear, the abstractions just go on and on.

But don’t listen to me. I just bought a new CD player. I know, right? But the old one died. And yeah, I have music on my phone, I have my playlists, my Pandora, my Spotify, but Dixie and I also have a huge collection of CDs that we love. I’m sure, someday, we’ll have to let them go, like we did years ago with our cassette tapes, and like we each did with our vinyl records before we even met. And I’m sure someday, I’ll be swiping my phone at the grocery store. But I’m going to hold off a little longer. At least for today.

So, that’s it for this third Wednesday of the month. Thanks for listening. And remember, live the love! It’s all we’ve got.

And happy Thanksgiving. May you find a safe and joyful way to celebrate.

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