This is my cell phone. There are, or were, many like it, but this one is mine. It is a candybar style phone. Specifically, it is a model 2600b, manufactured in Mexico for the Finnish company Nokia; the model was released in 2004 and has since been discontinued. This particular phone came to me in the fall of 2007 as a replacement for an even older, chunkier model. Now, in the spring of 2016, a network upgrade brings me to part with it, and I’m forced to admit just how attached I am to this inanimate object.
Why am I so sentimental about a device that for most intents and purposes was e-waste years ago? After all, it drew little but pity and jeers, first from people with camera phones, then from those with smartphones (“Oh, you oughta be shot!” cackled one iPhone user when I pulled out my phone to save his number). And that was when the phone worked properly; for the last year or so, it did not. Slips and falls that it had once easily bounced back from suddenly laid it low for weeks at a time. 7:30 AM alarms going off at 3:19 AM were the first signs of its decline. Then there was the embarrassing episode when, without my knowledge, it spammed the first person in my contact list with a torrent of my draft text messages. More recently, and more painful, was the wholesale loss of text messages from my inbox. In its final month, I couldn’t even get it to charge its battery.
The network upgrade is a merciful chance to move on. But don’t I owe more than an unceremonious discarding to a thing that was present, if not instrumental, for the creation of so many formative memories? Transferring the phone’s contact list before deactivation, I find something like a core sample of my early adulthood, recorded in 610s, 215s, 484s, 267s and a few exotic area codes like 313, 206, and 570. In alphabetical order of Contact Name I see: friends made when I was an employee at TLA Video Bryn Mawr; co-workers during the address canvassing phase of the 2010 Census; a phone number from a dorm mate during my first stint in college that reminds me this device was close at hand for the full eight-year trek of getting a bachelor’s degree—from dropping out and floundering to graduating with honors. I see Marian’s: the morning of Fat Tuesday 2012, I look up and save the number for Marian’s Bakery on Allegheny Avenue so I can call between classes at Montgomery County Community College and reserve paczki. And I was just beginning to get familiar with this phone when Nat and I first met in November 2007. It handled our flurries of texts setting dates and sending silly jokes—it performed beautifully.
Yes, there are, or were, many Nokia 2600b’s, but this one kept the record of my growing up. It’s no exaggeration to say that because of the messages that passed through this mobile device, and the calls it connected, I’ve found my place in Philadelphia today.