It began somewhere south of Big Sur. My precious iPhone, which I cradle like a premature infant and which, in gratitude, rewards me with non-stop information, entertainment and love, stopped getting a signal.
Discreetly, when we pulled over for pictures, I turned it off and turned it back on. Nothing. Mile after mile, I was in the desert. No WiFi. No cellphone signal. No working map. A slow horror crept up on me, kind of like in that old movie where you find out that the phone call is coming from inside the house. My beloved was turning on me.
I coped as best I could. I read things on actual paper. I spoke to my children. I looked up through my tears every once in a while and saw that there were sunsets and landscapes appearing. I survived. Barely. It was like being in solitary confinement. No news. No Real Housewives gossip. No YouTube videos of cats and Donald Trump.
Then I got home to the land of milk, honey and perfect WiFi. All was good in my world again.
Except… my iPhone’s 6’s screen, which had been cracked since San Francisco (I will bore you with the tale of its injury at some other point), stopped working. STOPPED WORKING. Altogether. Just a wicked flicker and an end of life a couple of days after I got home.
I was beside myself, overwrought, devastated. My iPhone and I have not been apart in years. YEARS. We’re like those couples who brag about never spending a night separate from each other since the day they met (you know the kind, the nauseating ones who wear matching clothes to parties). I sleep with it next to me… sometimes on the bed. Worse than any chain-smoker, it’s the first thing I reach for in the morning. I use it to entertain me at doctors’ offices, cafes, and – yes, I’ll admit it – even red lights sometimes. It is my oxygen. I love it more than I probably love most humans.
In a mad scramble, I went to the Apple website. Disaster. The earliest Genius Bar appointment was a week from the moment when my iPhone slipped into its coma. I felt the walls closing in. If they’re such geniuses, how could they not figure out how to make more appointments available? How was I supposed to go on? A whole week without my iPhone?
But go on I did, as one does when one’s civilization crumbles. Limping. Afraid. But alive. I reached for it a thousand times a day. I connected my old one to WiFi so I could at least check email and news on SOME device, even if that only meant inside the house.
My phone’s screen was cracked and dark, but otherwise the phone went on. I heard it vibrating as phone calls came in that I couldn’t answer or even see. I heard texts that I would probably never get to check from people who must think I’m ignoring them. It was like hearing murmurs from beyond the grave. At first they filled me with a dark loneliness.
And then a weird thing happened. I can’t say that I got to LIKE not having an iPhone, exactly, but I looked up one day and realized that I was okay. That the sun somehow managed to make it into the sky, that I magically had more time to read. I didn’t stop missing it, but I stopped feeling so bereft. I’ve lost husbands and lovers. I’ve lost jobs. I’ve lost friends. I’ve been fine every time. It was refreshing to realize that I could lose my little device and that the earth would continue on its axis.
As I realized this, I saw the date of my repair appointment drawing near. And I did a weird thing. I rescheduled it so I could spend this coming weekend without the phone. I did this ostensibly for practical reasons – apparently they can’t service your phone unless you turn off the Find My iPhone app, which you can only do when the phone turns off or dies (I can’t turn it off because you need the screen for that). With the screen not draining the battery, the phone is living its long, zombie existence day after day, refusing to let the last of its life drain away, preventing me from turning off Find My iPhone on iCloud. That’s my “official” reason for rescheduling for next week. My real reason is probably more complicated, and it has to do with enjoying the realization that I can be free of even my most intimate attachments.