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Sunday, August 8, 2010

For Natalie, Who Said Even Rants Were Fine

Hello to anyone who might stumble here. Apologies. Regret. Reality television has sucked my brain and stolen my attention for quite a while, as well as lack of good ole' fashioned motivation, ambition, will, hmm...I could go on. All the stuff that makes one susceptible to reality television's whims. Distraction. Fear and loathing. Snack foods. etc.

I am in a terrible mood and have not been able to shake it for the majority of the day. This happens often on Sundays, but usually some sort of food treat, outdoor adventure, television pablum, or mindless task accomplishment can push me over the hump and into the week. Today, however, I have been stewing a bit. Why not stew like a fish in a crockpot? I don't even think the fish at the top of the page are interested any more! Anyway, I decided, presuming I'd be lying awake for a bit, to return to the crockpot. I give credit to Natalie Kranz who, upon seeing me recently at her gorgeous home with her gorgeous kids and gorgeous quiches where she was hosting a divine baby shower, suggested I write something as she was "sick of LA!" being the leftover post of this crock page.

How true. The Lakers aren't even the biggest story in the NBA anymore since the Heat set about making a boy band. Backstreet's back - all right! And so too, should I be.

Maybe I'm back because somehow my unease seems to have a need for reckoning at its thematic core. Today I felt as scattered as Waffle House hash browns and I don't quite enjoy it (though I enjoy hash browns, though not as much as cheese n' eggs), and I am certain that is due in no small part to having to replace my cellular telephone. Since arriving in Los Angeles, I have had three definite instances of phone loss or failure. All three have resulted in immediate and existential angst of varying degrees. It is interesting, however, that the angst has changed in its causation.

The first time I was cell phone-less, I had been thrown in a fountain while the phone was on my person. I had not been in L.A. for a quarter of a year yet. Though my brother and sister-in-law were visiting that weekend and physically in my presence, I felt panic as though I'd been irreparably severed from my life and loved ones on the east coast. Panic panic panic. I believe that entire weekend was a watershed "maybe I'm having adjustment issues" moment.

The second time I was cell phone-less, I dropped it at a concert venue when I'd switched to a new, smaller purse to have a non-bulky purse at a concert and believed I'd put it in a pocket of said purse. I'd put it on the outside flap of the purse. Ready to fall. Then, as with this most recent instance, my phone loss occurred when I was participating in a new and fun activity. Though both evenings in question were fantastic, the realization of phone loss the next day made me feel like I'd forgotten the penalty for new fun. Like, whoops - you can't go doin' that and not expect a tariff. The 2nd time I again had panic about not being able to contact, or be contacted, by people who might be trying to find me. But L.A. people too, not just east coasters. That had a happy ending and an "Oh L.A. does have fine and upstanding individuals" as both someone returned the phone to the lost and found portion of the venue, and someone in that office used my phone to contact my parents, who they assumed would track me down. They did. The next night I drove across town to retrieve my phone and had to battle my way through a line of rather rowdy, mostly pleather-clad individuals who were excited for the venue to open the doors for admission to, I believe a nigh S&M performers' ball. Looking like I'd just walked out of the pages of the Babysitter's Club series in my t-shirt and jeans (and original bulky purse), the white-faced-makeupped transvestite in a leather girdle and thigh-high boots very easily believed that I was not in fact trying to worm my way past the security, which they believed to be inadequate for the crowd's enthusiasm, but rather HAD lost my phone the night before. I needed to go to the business office on the top level. A back office lackluster security detail (girl in a black t-shirt with a flashlight who worked there and happened to be passing by) was kind enough to escort me upstairs at the behest of the doorman/woman. They found my phone. They gave it back. My niece's tiny face was smiling on the front. Numbers were inside. Connection! Phew. And what nice people to understand losing one's phone sucks. And to not make me pay the $5 cover to go inside to get it.

This weekend's phone loss occurred in downtown L.A. as a Friday happy hour morphed into a bar crawl. It was fun! I downgraded to a smaller purse for the evening! And soooo the story repeats itself. I realized my phone was missing in the middle of our fun. Backtracking spots and coming up empty, I tried again the next day, calling, texting, leaving email addresses at a restaurant - hoping that my good fortune in the face of bad phone retention might also repeat itself. Saturday it was ok. I actually liked the freedom from the phone, as I tend to cling to its possibility on weekends. I hadn't lost hope that it would physically return to my sweaty palm, and could enjoy a day fast and loose. Unhindered and unchecked.

Sunday things turned south. Quickly too. I realized that I had to suck it up and replace the phone and did not want to head to the phone store on a weekend. I realized I'd probably missed absolutely no calls in the absence of my phone. No one was looking for me. And worse, would people even write to give me their numbers? It was like a crystallized symbolic mental retrospective of contacts I was, well, a little out of contact with. Somehow having a name in your phone, even if you never use it again, seems important. The name of the limo driver from your best friend's bachelorette party. The friend you only text regarding one sports team one season a year. Your old landlord. Just in case.

Somehow this phone loss marked the enormity not just of distance from loved ones on a different coast, but of the passage of time in a whole new way. Here I was, out of touch. Off the grid. In a city where I hit a traffic jam at midnight that brought me to a complete stop the night before. And would the college friends I see once every 2 years even bother sending me their number to replace?
(this sounds super depressing! I don't mean it with quite as dire a tone as it might seem to convey)

I was assisted at the phone store by a gentleman named Njall. Or Nihall. Or hm...the second one looks more accurate. He was definitely not originally born in America. He was also like, the best and most non-salesy, non- B.S.y phone store guy I'd ever met. Here was the efficiency I wanted when, after getting coffee, I decided to do what felt like impulse shopping and suck it up and head to the phone store, lines be damned. I needed to know what I'd missed and if someone was using my lost phone to make the phone calls that would keep their long-distance relationship with their bon hunnybun in Paris going strong.

He explained things. He told me the price point for unlimited texting. He showed me the phones that did the things I wanted and nothing more. I pointed. He went and found the box. It worked.
I loved him, and somehow (again, perhaps I woke up with more emotional turmoil than I gave myself credit for) his efficiency and kindness made me want to cry, because I wanted him to be recognized for taking care of business, business that I had failed to take care of myself. I love the TCB feeling. Scattered self - not so much, though it seems to be my default setting.

When I got home, I realized I hadn't shopped for the phone at all. Aside from rejecting a phone as a conceivable option because its display font was Comic Sans, I had really just taken his word for it. I had no idea how this thing worked. No idea.

It rang. I panicked. I hated the ringtone - the default ringtone that only those over the age of 65 keep, so the ringtone you always hear as the ringers are often turned up really loud. I couldn't unlock it. I didn't know if I was answering the call. It was my Dad. He said I seemed to be in a bad mood. I confirmed I was. After I hung up, I sent a text message reply to an automated 900 number unintentionally. I couldn't see my sent messages. I couldn't believe the new keyboard thingy that was supposed to set my world on textual fire did NOT adhere to standard typewriter letter order. QWERTYIOP motherf*cker! Do I look like I can learn a second keyboard? Where were the punctuation marks? Was I being charged for email I wasn't using? Oh God. I don't even know my best friend's phone number. And if I do, I won't be able to save it. I didn't get the insurance, despite being there for a totally insurance-plan-is-smart-based reason. The screen would probably shatter by week's end. All of this I pondered as the sun dropped a little lower on the weekend.

How is it back-to-school time? How is there an NFL game on? How am I ever going to figure out this phone, much less what to do with life?

An oversight in the story...
When I came back home from the phone store, I am foolishly sharing with the readership, my door was wide open as if I had just stepped outside to get my mail or do laundry. The kind of wide open for when you are coming right back. No big whoop. Oven isn't on, but it could be and it wouldn't matter.

I had left my apartment in such a state of distraction that I didn't even shut the door behind me. Maybe that speaks to the necessity of coffee in my life, but that threw me for an even bigger loop than my phone. I wasn't just losing my phone, I was losing my mind.

The great part of the phone confusion is that I now have an even greater appreciation of my dad's new confusion with his newly acquired cell phone. No, it's not a new model - it's his first ever phone. He and my mother had been sharing one phone previously. She'd been mission control on the tech side of that one. He'd just talked into it.

His newly acquired phone gifted him, not only the capacity to let my mom know when he's taking a detour to the grocery store because he might need neosporin and the nectarines are on sale, but also a fairly good run of phone bumble anecdotes. He thought the cell phone was the alarm clock one morning, and got out of bed only to later discover the beeping had been a text message. He wrote out the words "question mark" in the first text he sent me, having no idea how to make punctuation marks appear. Hearing these tales I'd laughed and laughed. Teased a bit and assured him he'd get the knack sooner or later. Recommended he switch from the awful default ring tone and thought he was being too picky when he said all the pre-loaded ring tones were crap.

One more moment of being the apple at the base of the family tree for me today. Where were good ring tones? Where was the button to talk? Where was the text menu? Where, for God's sake, was the question mark???

I suppose Dad and I will have to learn the tricks of our new phones on phone calls to one another. Assuming I can hold onto mine and he can find the snooze button on his, we might just be the technologically out-of-touch keeping in touch. We'll see. I've got minutes with his name on them. And well, about 2 other contacts.
My former landlord could call any day now, letting me know he's also unable to reconcile with change, but finally ready to return that deposit.

If he does, I'll put it toward the phone insurance.
Or a new ring tone. Maybe my Dad can suggest some good ones. I'll call him, if I can figure it out.