the long goodbye

I’m about to get a new phone, you guys. A smart phone. I’m so close I can taste it. And it tastes like… beryllium and lead and zinc, with a dash of brominated flame retardants!

God, it tastes delicious.

[sheepishly removes old phone from mouth]

[wipes off screen with sleeve]

Seriously hot stuff.

This is a pretty big deal for me, because the last time I got a new cell phone was September of 2007. And man, I thought it was sharp. It was a Motorola Razr V3 flip phone. I thought its inner 1.2″x1.4″ screen was the hugest screen ever. The alpha/numeric keypad was slick. I was convinced I was rolling the Benz of phones, especially since I’d had my previous phone since 2003. I could have had limited internet access for an additional monthly fee, but I opted for the most basic service plan because who needs internet on a phone, anyway? Also, I was 26 years old and completely broke.

Now I am 30 and slightly less broke, and damn it, I can live no longer without internet on my phone. It’s been a long time coming, too. First, we were getting married, so every last dime was going towards the wedding. Then, the beau offered me the cell phone of my choice for my Christmas present, but I deferred making a decision because I wanted to do research first. Now, nearly six months later, I’ve done my research. I’m ready to commit.

But the closer I get to finally ridding myself of my old phone, the more I realize just how much life has been lived with it. At the extreme risk of sounding hopelessly sentimental — it is a phone, for chrissakes — this phone has seen me through going back to school, quitting the first job I got when I moved out to California, floundering, then building a new career. It’s seen me through moving in with a boyfriend, to getting engaged, to getting married. I’ve got texts on that thing from 2007. Which probably explains why I’m constantly running up against a full text inbox, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. They’re part of my personal history! No matter how strange, varied, and out-of-context they are:

“I just realized my underwear is inside out”
— 9:35 p.m. 10/6/07

“I’m not sure how you got so awesome, but I like it.”
— 3:37 p.m. 10/16/07 [note: sent by the beau. Awwwww.]

“I will die alone with ten cats”
— 6:42 p.m.11/26/07

“Bart. Nothing like public transport when you are slowly dying inside”
— 10:17 p.m. 3/08/08 [note: Bart = Bay Area Rapid Transit]

“If i were a 16th century serf, i would have bigger problems than defining my personal philosophy”
— 2:52 p.m. 08/29/08

“Lets never be our mothers”
— 5:08 p.m. 12/10/08

“I just saw some drunk guy ask the cops where the closest bar is.”
— 10:21 p.m. 04/22/10

“My patent papers are at a slight angle, Sam.”
— 4:08 p.m. 03/17/11

“I am the lemon zester of destruction.”
— 6:16 a.m. 03/26/11

“Jan, it’s because I’m in love with you”
— 6:08 p.m. 5/25/11

Then, of course, there are the texts I kept because they were associated with special days. Like these three messages I received just after we got engaged from the three ladies who would be my brigadiers (I love how different they are):

“What!? What!? Oh my god! Call me as soon as you can!”
— 6:02 p.m. 06/13/09

“Oh that is so awesome I am so happy for you both”
— 6:09 p.m. 06/13/09

“OMG!!!! I am so excited for you i have momentarily forgotten how to use phone”
— 6:51 a.m. 06/14/09

A text from my bachelorette party, after I’d temporarily left the dancefloor to walk my cousin to her car:

“We miss you!!!! Bob Dylan and Eminem are calling your name…”
— 11:04 p.m. 08/22/10

A couple of texts from our wedding day:

— 4:14 p.m. 09/18/10

“Amazing night!!!! We luvs u guys!”
— 7:59 p.m. 09/18/10

And the day after that:

“I just saw you two on your first husband-wife run!”
— 10:57 a.m. 09/19/10 [Note: yes, yes, I did make the beau run with me the morning after.]

And! Let’s not forget the pictures! The crappy, horrible pictures that I took over the years on this god-forsaken antiquated phone:

This was taken before Christmas 2007. We were in the suburbs shopping at box stores for presents for my extended family, and we were really depressed about that. So we decided to go to the bar of a T.G.I. Friday's and have a drink and take a picture proving how depressed we were.

Aww. Taken New Year's Eve 2008, at Stumptown coffee roasters in Portland.

I won, britches.

29th birthday surprise: seats right behind the bench!

I don't even know.

If they

Memory is an interesting thing. Why do we keep what we keep? What meaning could it possibly have to anyone but ourselves? And when we die, those memories go with us, so what’s the point of hanging on to them? Is it to help us validate our existence while we’re alive? Is it so that we can occasionally remind ourselves that, hey, we once saw a box of fruit labeled “Sexy Apple,” and so then we can figure out a way to work that into a future conversation in a way that makes us seem clever?

Yeah. I’m going to miss these memories when they’re gone.

This phone? Not so much.

Do you keep texts? Have you ever considered making a scrapbook of your favorite texts? Wouldn’t it be weird to take digital words and make them into physical crafts? How much does it say about our culture that our lives are becoming increasingly tied to various handheld devices — devices that are themselves obsolete after two years? When do you hold on, and when do you let go? How many questions do you suppose I’m going to ask you? Fourteen, maybe? Fifteen?

Fine then.

29 Responses to “the long goodbye”

  1. You can take pics of your favorite texts on smart phones and not only save them for your own crafty scrapbook purposes, but also to humiliate your loved ones on Twitter and various websites. Your life….is about to change. I feel like putting my hand over my heart right now, pledge of allegiance style. I’m that proud of this moment, for you. (I take pride where I can get it)

  2. I take screen shots of texts and download them with my other Photos. Also, I use the Internet more than my actual phone, so smart phone was the only way for me to go.

    • I’m going to have to figure out how this magical screenshot thing is done, because that sounds awesome.

  3. I just let go of my seriously hot LG shine (didn’t move on to a smart phone though – just a slightly less dumb Nokia). The old phone did not, however, contain any memories worth keeping because the damn thing only let me store 40 (!!) messages at a time. I had to clear the memory on a semi-monthly basis and it hurt every time.

    But you know what REALLY hurt? When ICQ dropped off the face of relevance and despite trying to save my chat history, somehow I didn’t do it properly and eventually lost it across various computer changes. KILLS me just thinking about it now. This was before texting and even before we used email very much (gaah I’m old) and it’s totally how our nerdy love got its start. Not to mention all those other middle of the night conversations with friends that you were just never able to have in person. Oh how I’d love to read those now…

    • Oh no! I used to use ICQ, too, and I still search the archive occasionally to revisit long-lost convos. I’m so sorry that you lost yours.

      I’ve lost other records, though, so I know the sting. I try to comfort myself by thinking that, even if we can’t fully retrieve them, they’re still in there somewhere, locked away, slowly being absorbed into our DNA. Science = magic, right?

  4. RamblingRedhead May 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I remember when texting was just getting momentum and my bf at the time was trying to figure out how to text on his phone and just getting so frustrated.
    I’ll never forget the day he figured it out, I was having lunch with my sister and I got a text. It was one word.


    I never wanted to delete it.

  5. RamblingRedhead May 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Ps. Be careful if you get an iphone. They are horribly addicting, I’m thinking of taking my fiance to rehab.

  6. Ohhh how I love this post. We also seem to be on about the same phone schedule, as I upgraded to a smartphone last fall from a late ’07 motorola. I actually had a very tiny memory card in my last phone, so I have a few choice photos (from my first cameraphone) saved — like from the FRONT ROW AT PEARL JAM (!!#*@&!*%) or other amusing friend-caller-ID pics. I should have donated the phone by now, but I haven’t yet, so maybe I’ll fire it up and write down some of my favorite texts and THEN give it to a worthy cause — I definitely had texts that never got deleted, and I’m still carrying about 3 voicemails dating back at least 3 years. Yikes. I’m a packrat of all things, it seems.

  7. ha! i switched from a razr to an iphone and it was brilliant. i was convinced smart phones were the devil and i would never need one…and then i switched over and i could never function again without mine. best of luck crossing over. :)

  8. I have two more embarrassing versions of this story.

    One I read in a magazine where two people getting married had transcribed every text message in their two year relationship and had it printed and boxed. (Personally, I don’t believe every text was in there. ‘We need milk! Buy it!’, ‘I’m so horny, yeah’ and ‘you’re being a shithead’ texts really?

    Then there’s my story. Back when the storage capacity for texts on a phone was really limited, I would write down texts I had to delete from my phone from my boyfriend at the time, especially as I knew we were basically about to implode spectacularly. After we did, I wrote down all of them, every last one, before deleting them all from my phone in the break up purge. I put the text transcript in the bag with all his emails and letters and kept them an embarrassingly long time. I didn’t end up doing anything bold when I finally got rid of them, I just put them out with the rubbish eventually. No grand gesture.

    Don’t tell anyone.

    • Your secret is safe with me. Also, that sounds very similar to things I’ve done in a past relationship…

  9. Um, the words in this post were lovely and all, but I really need answers as to how you manage to look so gorgeous in a crappy phone picture?

    Not fair.

    • Dude, I think it was some kind of trick where the lighting was just right. Last week I took over 30 pictures of myself, trying to get one shot of my new hair in which I did not look like Jabba the Hut. I got one decent one out of that lot.

  10. I have cried every time I’ve switched phones because I sure as HELL keep texts and pictures and those don’t really transfer.

  11. If I had such eloquent texts as yours I would keep them too. Now I have text message envy.

  12. Yeah, Lyn, what Kerry said. Couldja stop being so damn HOTT? You’re makin’ the rest of us look bad.

  13. When I got an iPhone for the first time, it made my video iPod obsolete. But the Beagle gave me that iPod for our first Valentine’s Day and had it inscribed with my favorite quote. He wanted me to sell it, but I couldn’t bare to sell the first Valentine’s gift he gave me! To him it was just a piece of antiquated technology, but to me it held memories. So I ended up selling it to my mom so I can see it whenever I visit her.

  14. Dude. My attic if FILLED with shit like this. I have notes that were passed to me in high school with juicy gossip and insanely crazy high school shit. I have a bag with my stinky nasty marathon running shoes in it as well as the empty champagne bottle I chugged after crossing the finish line (re-carb-onating). It took all kind of will power for me to throw out a bag full of old Christmas cards….some that were over 10 years old. The Candyman was so proud of me.

    So yeah, I feel your pain.

  15. I was going to write a real comment but….what that a MST3K text up there???? I just geeked all over myself. I love that episode!

    • Yeah, it totally is. There’s two of them! Lemon zester of destruction is from Prince of Space. And the patent papers one is from Riding with Death. Two of my all-time favs.

    • Dude, I want to hang out with you and watch MST3K episodes now.

      • yes! oh my god! I can’t believe I missed the prince of space one too! I loved that one. “How many times do I have to demonstrate to you… your guns are worthless against me! ”

        seriously, hang out needs to happen at some point!

  16. Love that you still have texts from 2007. I’ve gone through so many phones since then (I have a really bad tendency of breaking things), but I still physically have every single phone. They are of literally no use – no texts, pictures, anything are still on there.. but I can’t let go. You’re totally right – you associate memories with the phone (and what’s on the phone), and it’s hard to let go! It’s like letting a little piece of you go. So whether you decide to recycle that baby or keep it in a drawer somewhere, untouched.. you’ll always remember your little Motorola Razr!

  17. I finally succumbed to the iphone a few months ago and when I was asked by the dude at the store if I needed to listen to any voice mail first, I paused, sighed and then said no. I had a voice mail on my system from June 21 (my birthday) 2007 only a month after I graduated from college. It was a coincidence but, my brother had asked a local rockabilly dj to call me an wish me a happy graduation. And while it took him over a month to remember what my phone number was doing in my wallet, Leon Burman called me to wish me congratulations. I had always meant to record it onto something else, but didn’t know how. Little did I know when I bought the iphone that it has a whole separate recording system for voice mail, and I’d never hear it again. I’ll always remember it though.

  18. Like your coffee pic. How do those baristas create those interesting looking shapes in our coffee?


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