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The Sprint Phone Post

SBN signed a contract with Sprint. The blogger incentive was a free Palm Pre and free Simply Everything service. I received the phone before I decided to opt out of SBN's sponsorship program, and so, at the eve of giving the phone away, I feel obligated to write something about my experience.

I opened the package and leafed through the reassuring booklets. This was a good purchase. It would make my life easier and more complete. Like any warm-blooded American male, I gave the instructions no more than a cursory look before tracing the edges of the phone in search of an ‘on' button. It was on the right hand corner, prominent but tactful.

This is a toy, I thought.

"This is a toy, honey."

The opening tutorial brought me up to speed. I had never owned a cell phone before. No, I am not a Luddite. I am not a troglodytic primeval man. I relish technology, if you will, but have never needed it.

Here's a quick background. I was never a nerd. That term has been reclaimed, polished and worn as a badge of honor. People say "I'm a nerd" with a giggle and a smug smile. I guess saying I'm smart and successful sounds arrogant. No, I was a small town kid. I lived the wholesome lifestyle represented in a political campaign. All fresh air and hi jinks.

Our family computer ran DOS. I first encountered video games over George's house. It was a twist-your-arm, neighborly playdate arranged by my Mom. I think. He had Super Mario Brothers hooked to a Game Genie. He proudly showed me how he could jump over an entire level. I pitied him. We never hung out again.

I spent my childhood ‘out': Riding bikes, egging house, starting fires, trespassing, swimming in the reservoir, making bows and slingshots and bolos and slings, out. Outside. My friends were, well, kind of cool, and I was kind of cool too. I had routine about Trouble and his brother Fuck You. It killed in the second grade.

My father and I escaped New Hampshire with my mom's school computer. It was a Mac. It was from the era of computers before CD drives were standard. We saved the fifty bucks and went without.

It was all but useless.

After working at Jack in the Box for half a year, my roommate Ian and I pooled our money, supplemented from Christmas bounty, and bought an emachines from Incredible Universe. It was the hot-damndest thing I ever owned. I loved it. Music, internet, Diablo 2. I didn't know better to know it was a piece of crap. It worked.

I am not anti-technology, but it was not an intrinsic part of my childhood like so many of my generation. It was always a novelty. And so, after grasping the intuitive interface, making a victory call or two, we got home, I went into my office, set the phone down and forgot about it.

The next time I noticed it, it was beeping because the battery was dead. Eventually we figured out a use for it. Alanya took to work and called me during her breaks. Neither of us is particularly fond of phone calls, and though it was nice to break up my day talking to my wife, it had an awkward and forced feel to it. We were making an excuse to use the phone.

Protective, parental types, of which I've amassed a few, pity them, always wanted us to take the phone whenever we were out. It was a lifeline, I guess, and a perfectly logical lifeline. I never argued the fact but never used it for that purpose. The calamitous hypotheticals, stranded, flat tire, stranded some other way, stalked by a murderer, remained hypothetical.

In fact, once Alanya found out she could call home from the receptionists desk, the phone again fell out of use completely. 

After a few weeks, I found myself self-consciously pocketing it even on routine trips. There was a desire to squeeze use out of the thing, and moreover a bit of vanity. Growing up on the flint side of the technology spectrum, it gave me a little shameful joy to pull it out, play with it idly, look up from some never started task and give an "I'm important" look to whoever matched eyes.

That didn't last very long either. Sometimes you can do something, and being able to is satisfying, but once done, you feel like ashamed for having done it. The phone was returned to a state of ever charging, never used.

I have no idea how the features on the Palm Pre compare to the sea of competing products. As I said, I found the interface intuitive, and as someone that's never owned a cell phone before, I had no trouble accessing its many features. It really was a toy to me. Sort of the modern equivalent of the Swiss army knife: It could do so much, and yet, when will I really need four different lengths of blade? A sewing eye? Personalized wallpaper?

My definitive experience with the phone came on Christmas Day. I was with my closest-friends family, my family in light of the Burton-Morgan Diaspora, and was in the middle of one of those crushingly boring periods in which people that might otherwise have fun and be comfortable instead assume a ceremonial stiffness and enact perfunctory tradition. The TV was on, but no one was watching. The house didn't have cable and I wanted to watch Chris Johnson continue his sprint towards history.

I tapped the phone on, wandered down menus I had previously ignored, found out that my phone could play the NFL Network and for a brief second felt, damn, this is some cool technology. And then, after the snap, Johnson just breaking away from the pile, the stream became a jumbled mess of giant pixels and blur. It would recover eventually but again turn into pixel mud whenever there was something worth seeing.

That about ended my experience. I took it to Lakewood and used it briefly before moving back home. If I were another person, on the go, or perhaps more attuned to a modern lifestyle, maybe I would see the phone as indispensible: phone, address book, calculator, web browser, email, etc; kind of a giant lever making all my daily chores easier.

That's not me.

So I found a use for it, finally.