Courageously, sometimes sheepishly, I use a $16.99 clamshell cell phone, while the rest of humanity now has the internet in its pocket.

But, I have sworn not to drink the SmartPhone Kool-Aid. Here’s why I do not want a SmartPhone.

Just today, I saw two infants in their respective strollers mesmerized watching Sesame Street on tiny phones propped up in their built-in sippy-cup holders. I witnessed one young pierced and tattooed mother, her thumbs blurred in a texting frenzy, crossing a busy boulevard while her child toddled two feet behind her popping Skittles and staring up at the Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades.

I see people texting while driving. In my rearview mirror, I watch the eyelids of the kid behind me fluttering between the boring road ahead and the much more compelling phone in his palm. I see bicyclists texting one-handed while pedaling, a jumbo latte in the other hand.

Exactly what ARE those Millennials doing on their phones, anyway? And, why would they hold a bigger-is-better brick up to their ears when they could have a petite little modest fone like mine, a fone that fits snugly into my Levi’s change-pocket?

I call it my “fone” because it is so friendly, so diminutive; who needs that silent “ph”?

Everybody now has a SmartPhone. It has replaced the: to-do list, camera, tape recorder (a term as passé as phonograph or record album or flash bulb or cash or party line), credit card, music player, compass, flashlight, pedometer, alarm clock, calculator, calendar, and stop watch. The SmartPhone is a dieting aid and a dating aid. It can count your calories while alerting you to the latitude and longitude of that horny trick waiting just around the corner.

SmartPhones are causing new physiological grotesqueries — overly-developed thumbs from constant texting, tapping, double-tapping, swiping and pinching; kinked neck tendons from the cocked head clutching the phone between ear and shoulder (for those few not wearing earbuds, further disconnecting from society); frozen downward head tilt from compulsively staring at the personal screen; dented buttock where the phone is stored in the rear pocket of every body’s formfitting denims.

I refused to join SmartPhone’s robotic devotees. I would not surrender to the tool’s seduction. I closed my fists to avoid its sexy hand-feel, closed my ears to its siren song, retained my telephonic sobriety amid the global electronic intoxication.

Despite all my resistance, however, I found myself perversely lingering on the dangerous threshold of actually joining the SmartPhone phenomenon.

My flip-fone pride began to slip, turning into dumb-phone humiliation. I started to feel people snickering as I flipped my little fone open, felt them judging me an old fogey.

My breaking point was in my sculpture class, when the instructor asked how many of us did NOT have a smart phone with a camera to photograph our work in progress, and my lone finger rose into the air like a feeble swamp-weed. That very afternoon, I headed to the maul, I mean the mall.

I sleepwalked into the bright Apple store. There, after confessing my entry-level rung on the technological ladder, I was assured that a $549.99 iPhone whose features I would never use and a monthly bill I could not afford would be overkill. I was directed to Best Buy Mobile, a few doors down.

There, despite all my misgivings, I gave in and bought the most basic “smart” phone, a Sprint prepaid no-contract Motorola Moto-E model, for $39.99. It was just a step above the senior citizen phone with the BIG buttons advertised in AARP’s magazine, the “help-me-I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up” emergency device.

Now, I do a pretty good impersonation of a normal adult. I am an intelligent, well-educated person. I have a good imagination. I am a good student. I am capable of learning. As it turned out, however, my SmartPhone’s learning-curve threw me into blind turns, hairpin switchbacks, head-on collision near-misses. On that information superhighway, I found myself limping along the unpaved shoulder during a lunar eclipse of my mind, without a headlamp, dazed.

I spent a week with the godforsaken phone, determined to make friends with it, to conquer it. Yet, screamingly frustrated, I could possess the phone for only that eternal, infernal week. Actually, I was possessed by the diabolic device.

Problems included: itsy bitsy incomprehensible icons; no discernible notification of received voicemails or emails; repeated pocket-dialing remedied only by a 5-minute powering-off and powering-back-on procedure; fruitless ineffective multiple swiping; insultingly infantile “widgets”; a screen impossible to see in the sunlight; silly apps immediately using up all the skimpy memory — forget watching movies, reading books, or downloading music; sparse and garish wallpaper choices; frequent crashing and rebooting; ridiculously minuscule keyboard for fat fingers; crappy camera.

I could find no instruction book, either on paper or online, real or virtual. My absentee provider Boost Mobile Sprint never sprinted to my aid. Motorola’s tech support number rang and rang and rang. The phone screeched painfully into my eardrum when I accidentally earlobe-activated its speaker-phone. I could not access its many bells and whistles, though I didn’t want them anyway.

The worst problem was that the PHONE didn’t work! Those I called from my new fancy phone kept saying “You are breaking up” or “You’re fading in and out” or “There’s an echo” or “Hello hello I’ve lost you.”

I have a good vocabulary, but all this phone terminology was a wee bit confusing: mobile hotspots (pick-up bars?), ping spam, SIM cards, SMS and MMS and FDNs, PUK codes, TTY and HAC, PUSH messages (sounds risqué), Bluetooth (see an oral surgeon), soft keys, activation, megabytes and killer-bites and giggle-bites, Mbps, SnapDragon processors, Corning Gorilla Glass, burst mode, and more.

Furthermore, why would anybody want to BUY a ringtone? And, isn’t “My Stuff” a rather adolescent phrase? Isn’t naming Android’s OS “Lollipop” a bit childish? Why twist-your-wrist to turn your phone into a camera? Who loves cute custom emoticons so you can design a cartoon of your face? And when did “text” become a verb?

I needed my flip-fone back.

I was so relieved to be reunited with my tiny little fone. It was the size of the sweet intimate compact women used to use to powder their noses, with powder puff and mirror. It was so cute.

I embraced my trusty little flip-fone and recommitted my monogamous devotion to it.



A Sonoma County Collective of News and Views

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