Word is out that I’ve joined the twenty-first century. It only took about three months of regular visits to the Apple Store, playing with the button and screen, enduring enthusiastic techies, being sneered at for wanting an iPhone 5 just two weeks before the 5S came out (not everyone is compelled to be an early adaptor) and then sneered at again for supposing a 5S would be in stock just two weeks after it was launched. Finally, I just ordered a 5S through Verizon.
When the device arrived I took the box, unopened, to the Verizon store, set it on the counter, and placed my ancient flip phone next to it. “I’m here,” I pointed to the flip, “and I want to get here,” I pointed to the 5S. The young man of negligible beard spent ten minutes performing elaborate feats of syncing and then gave me ten minutes of rudimentary instruction. I walked out of the store and made my first call to my son, who was pretty surprised I actually made the jump.
Over the last few weeks I’ve learned how to check email, make calls, text, surf the web, take photos, add apps, and even use a few. Several people have commented that my fresh voice message leaves out my signature warning “Do not leave a text.” I now accept texts, and all other forms of newfangled communication.
My progress is erratic. My calendar and contacts sync perfectly from iPhone to laptop, but I have a slew of photos lost in the cloud with no idea how to anchor them. I poke at different parts of the screen but can’t seem to find the sequence that will parachute them to my home computer. Eventually I’ll nag a savvy friend to give me a lesson, which will prove embarrassing because it will be so darn simple, once you know how.
I’ve been having fun with my new toy but it didn’t seem part of me until last night. I had my first iPhone dream. Like all my dreams it was a hodgepodge of reality and fantasy, present and past. My iPhone was not working, and everything I needed to navigate my life was nested in that slender container. Luckily, my former brother-in-law Ross was on hand. Forget that he lives in California and I’ve seen him exactly twice in twenty years; it’s a dream.
Ross is very mechanical. But like most handy men he’s more enthralled with dissection and reconstruction than consistent operation. An array of tiny tools appears, like at the dentist’s, and Ross begins to pick apart my iPhone’s elegant case. In short order the back is here, the glass front there, and the insides are revealed. Microscopic thin slivers of metallic paper, thousands and thousands of them, so light they rise out of my iPhone and flutter like ash around the room. Each is inscribed with a web page, a personal contact, or an email thread. I gaze, mesmerized, at the shiny swirls. Finally, I get to see the physical Internet I always knew, somehow, had to support the nonsense of virtual clouds. Its substance was ephemeral, but nonetheless real.
Suddenly I snapped out of my reverie. “Hey, that’s my life, rising out of that tiny metal case. If it all ascends on thin air, what will be left of me?”
I roused in my sleep, shifted my weight, and resettled into slumber. In the morning my iPhone was on the bureau, intact. I don’t have the slightest idea what’s actually inside of it. But whatever it is, it’s now an integral part of me.
Opening up my inner life.