She is not permanently attached to her iPhone, at least no more than I am to mine. It serves so many functions: alarm clock, camera, runner-tracker-via-GPS, music-and-podcast-and-video player, text-message lifeline, video device, Internet reference library, email handler…and is even, occasionally, used as a telephone.
She knew that her phone’s battery was nearing the end of its usable life. Replacing the battery wasn’t really a viable option, as she’d been rubbing up against the phone’s 16-gigabyte memory limit pretty regularly–especially with the multi-year iMessage stream between us that she didn’t want to part with. We hoped the battery would hold out until January, when her contract permitted her to have a discounted rate on a new phone.
When such a device works perfectly, it is simultaneously thing of beauty and a thing almost not to be noticed: it just works. When it fails, it needs to be repaired or replaced. And when such a device fails on the night before arguably the most valuable fund-raising night of her professional year, replacement must be swift and decisive.
“I’m going to buy a new phone after work,” she said, in one of the few messages between us yesterday that reached its recipient before the battery expired again.
“Why not come home, and we can go to the store at the mall?” I replied, thinking that a suburban shopping experience might be a little less crowded and noisy than the Times Square AT&T store on a matinee-day evening.
She agreed. Her phone died again on the way to Grand Central, as we rushed to meet for the earliest train possible. We made it, by seconds and found seats, but seats without power outlets. No work for her on the ride home. No knitting, either, she realized; her sweater pattern was stored in her useless phone, too.
I realized we didn’t have to go all the way to the mall, as there are two AT&T stores in our town. Unfortunately, both closed early. It was just past 8 PM.
“Ridiculous suburbs,” she said, or maybe it was something less refined. I restrained myself from reminding her how much she usually likes it here. We made it to the mall in record time. Knowing stores would close at 9, we raced up the escalators to reach AT&T. While she waited for a Customer Service Representative, I dashed to the nearby Apple Store to find out what was in stock there, just in case. (She would, it turned out, have her choice of any iPhone she wanted, so long as it was silver and had a 64-gigabite memory capacity.) I nearly bowled over the young man hawking skin-care products from a kiosk between the stores. Twice.
I returned to her just as she began a conversation with the sales rep–unfailingly politely and cheerfully, as she always is. But she began with the wrong question, and lost a valuable minute-thirty before learning that no phones were in stock there. “Thank you,” she said sweetly, nearly dragging me out of the store behind her.
The Apple Store was busier, but the Specialist who’d given me the stock report was free soon enough and happy to see me back. She worked through the phone-purchase process as quickly as possible. I was reminded how much faster it used to be, when all you had to do was buy a phone, any phone, and plug it into the wall. If Mom or Dad had been there, they might have been reminded how the phone company would simply bring the only phone they had and hard-wire it into your house. What Grandma would have thought, I’m not sure.
Once their process was underway, I turned to other errands: since the case she wanted for her new device wasn’t in stock, I purchased her a not-quite military-grade screen protector; I checked to see if the new eyeglass lens I needed had arrived at the optician’s shop; I picked up a piece of nerve-calming chocolate for her at Godiva; and phoned the Perfectly Adequate Mexican Restaurant to make sure they’d still be open to grab take-out on our way home. By the time I finished, the Specialist had installed the protective film, and we made our way to dinner, home, and sleep.
It was not the relaxed Night Before the Big Event that she’d been hoping for, and it wasn’t exactly the season finale of The Amazing Race, but it was full of twists and turns, setbacks, detours, and delays–and a happy ending. She is now the proud (if somewhat poorer) owner of a shiny new phone. Ingrid, as she calls the phone, carries all of her important information for today’s event, all of the photos that are important to her, even her knitting pattern–and, most importantly, has plenty of battery power.
When the Big Event is successfully completed, and after she has had a long nap and shower, I might even ask call her to ask what the name means. Assuming the battery holds out, I’m pretty sure she’ll answer.
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