Into the Seventh Circle of Hell with the Other Lemmings

24 May

My Blackberry finally died.  She had threatened to die several times before, but I had always managed, through sheer force of will I believe, to pull her back from the precipice.  When her little Blackberry eyelashes fluttered and strange error messages appeared on her screen or the keys refused to work, I was willing to shock her little Blackberry heart again and again (i.e., take out the battery and reboot the phone) until she came to.  There were days when I spent an entire hour huddled over the operating table (my desk), pulling her Blackberry heart out, counting to sixty, and shouting “Clear!” as I re-inserted it into her Blackberry chest.

But after an entire morning of attempted reboots, I had to acknowledge the sad fact of my Blackberry’s demise.  She had given up the ghost.  Gone to the great cell phone case in the sky, taking my 17 saved voice mail messages and hundreds of pictures of the cat with her.

I thought briefly about just not replacing the thing.  About unhooking myself from the ever-tightening digital leash.  But I feared that my children would never speak to me again.  Sure, if we would happen to find ourselves in the same room, they might grunt a few syllables in my direction, but they are teenagers, so those happy occasions are both infrequent and fleeting.  And once there’s so much as a door between us, the only way they communicate is via text.  They have been known to text me from their bedrooms, when I am in the kitchen fifty feet away, to ask what time we’re eating dinner.  I’m not sure they even realize that you dial can a phone number, put the phone up to your ear, and have a conversation.  Without a cell phone, I feared I would cease to exist for them.

So I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and accepted my grim fate: I needed a new cell phone.  Which meant I would need to enter the Seventh Circle of Hell.  In other words, I would have to go to the mall.

As I have previously mentioned, I hate the mall.  But now, twelve days into my month of doing with less, the mall had become, in my mind, more than a place I hated; it was my nemesis.  It was the consumerist beast I had dedicated my month to battling.  And I would have to descend into that very beast’s belly.

From Alanna Andes’s blog

I drove into the parking garage with my heart in my throat.  Would the beast know I had arrived?  Would it sense my presence, recognize me as the enemy, and set out to destroy me?  Or worse, would I be unable to resist the siren song of The Gap and Nordstrom’s and my most favorite, Anthropologie?

Would I find myself, an hour hence, drunk on Teavana, doused in Sephora perfume, and the proud, new owner of a half dozen scented candles from Bed, Bath and Bodyworks?  As the elevator whisked me up, up, up from the parking garage, I thought to myself that this all would be much easier if I could lash myself to a mast and sail to the Verizon store. 

The elevator doors dinged open, and I stepped out into the clean, well-lighted place.  I walked quickly and with purpose past American Eagle, Gymboree, Footlocker, and a host of other storefronts, while a steady chatter of wants buzzed through my brain.  Twelve days of retail abstinence had done nothing to dampen my desire to consume.  But I kept my body moving forward, with purpose, even as my eyes and heart wandered.

Past the handsome young Israeli men offering to swab my crow’s feet with their magical wrinkle-erasing elixir, past Godiva and Delia’s and J. Jill – oh, dearly do I love J.Jill! Purveyor of absurdly expensive shapeless garments that warm the heart and forgive the figure flaws of the middle-aged woman – until I arrived at the Verizon store.

I wanted to remain faithful to my Blackberry, and get another just like her – with real, albeit microscopic, keys, a cute little button nose of a track pad, and a tiny, useless screen that made surfing the web not only difficult but actually unpleasant.

“My Blackberry died,” I said to the young man behind the counter, pulling out her sad, corporeal body to show him.  “I want another just like her.”

He gave me an odd look, a combination of pity and contempt with just a sprinkling of oily salesmanship.  “We don’t carry Blackberries any more,” he said.  “No one buys them.  You can probably order one online, but it will take a few days to arrive.  If you just want a phone with a keyboard, we do have some other kinds in stock.”

He led me to the display area, and showed me the other, non-Blackberry “Smart” Phones with keypads.

But I hadn’t been prepared to choose a new style of phone.  I’d wanted another of exactly what I already had.  If that wasn’t an option, I was stuck.  Frozen.  Helpless.

When it comes to technology, I am not an Early Adaptor.  Nor am I an On-Time Adaptor or even a Late Adaptor.  What I am is a Luddite.  A believer that each new fabulous technological invention brings society one step closer to complete annihilation.

I am married to an Early Adaptor.  Peter believes each new fabulous technological invention brings humanity one step closer to Nirvana.  He has an unshakeable belief that each new piece of technology is smarter than it appears, even when our GPS is telling us to get off of a perfectly good highway and drive through the center of a city that we do not want to visit and that intelligent people know they should be driving around.

I stood and stared at the “Smart” phone options.  I had no idea what to do, panic rising inside me like bile.  I called Peter.

“I can’t get another Blackberry,” I said.  “They don’t carry them.  I don’t know what to do.”

“Just get the iPhone,” he said.

I had been determined not to follow the lemmings into iPhone ownership.  I had wanted a real keyboard, not some virtual keyboard beneath a sheet of glass that would cause me to type “co nobe” when I wanted to type “go move,” and then “correct” my typo to “goobe.”  But the combination of the long, difficult walk through the mall, the no-Blackberry roadblock, and twelve days of not having to make even the smallest purchasing decision had broken me.

Reader, I got the iPhone.  With Siri.

On my way out, carrying my Verizon store bag with iPhone like it was a radioactive rock or a ticking bomb, I walked into Nordstrom to use the Ladies’ Room.  “You don’t need any of this,” I reminded myself as I passed displays of brightly colored, lace-trimmed slips of fabric called lingerie.  “And you don’t even want it.”  That latter part was not exactly true because, of course, I did want the tiny purple thong underpants that were probably selling for $73.  They were so pretty!  And purple!  But it made me feel better to lie to myself.

After I had availed myself of the Ladies’ Room, walking out through the home goods section, I couldn’t help myself.  I reached out and picked up a scented candle.  It smelled delicious, like grapefruit and burnt sugar.  I inhaled the sharp, sweet smell, glanced at the candle’s price ($36 dollars!  For a candle!), set it down, squared my shoulders, and made my way out of the mall.

A picture of my cat, taken with my new iPhone.

A picture of my cat, taken with my new iPhone


7 Responses to “Into the Seventh Circle of Hell with the Other Lemmings”

  1. Bear Barnes May 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    You are getting funnier and funnier. Hundreds of pictures of my cat. Retail abstinence. Lashing yourself to the mast. Goobe!

    • Cathleen Barnhart May 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

      Thanks so much for the always appreciated positive feedback, Bear! And just FYI, I’m not yet loving the iPhone. She’s no Blackberry.

  2. Louis Greenzweig May 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I, being an extreme techy, loves the iPhone. I wish to thank all the anti-luddites who enabled me to have angioplasty 13 years ago and most recently arthroscopic surgery of my right shoulder. Change is a constant in life. If you don’t change you do not move forward. I remember when I was a educational supervisor I would ask the staff, “have you been teaching 30 years or have you taught one year thirty times”. Your progress is slow but it is still progress! Have a great time using the iPhone.

  3. bronxboy55 June 18, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    I know what an iPhone is, sort of, but have no idea about Siri. Great post, Cathleen. Close call there with the candle.

    • Cathleen Barnhart June 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      As always, thanks for reading!

      Everyone swears I will “love” my iPhone, but I’m still feeling a mild irritation at best, and often just plain annoyance.

  4. Jayne June 26, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Hi, I came across your blog while looking for mine (keep losing it!). Mine has the same name but the number 50. I live in South West Scotland so I’m going to follow you to see how 50 hits the American woman!
    Best wishe,


  1. Ideals, Idealism, and Responsibility « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci - July 22, 2012

    […] Into the Seventh Circle of Hell with the Other Lemmings ( […]

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