I Was in No Hurry to Open My New iPhone

It sat in its box for weeks — and that drove everyone in my life nuts. What's the big f'ing deal about these things, anyway?

About four years ago, my husband started telling me I could get a free iPhone whenever I wanted to. A couple of weeks ago, I finally did.

You can probably tell I’m no early adopter. It took me a really long time to get used to my flip phone. It’s partly because I didn’t use it much. I don’t like to talk on the phone, so I mostly used it for texting my kids and my husband. I did like to take photos of my garden and occasionally post them to Twitter, which is what made me finally break down and get the iPhone. The camera on my flip phone stopped working. I didn’t mind so much in winter. But when the full panoply of my tulips came out this spring and I couldn’t share it, I was bummed.

By then, I had an iPhone. When my son was home for spring break, he took the bull by the horns and, over my protests, ordered me one. He went back to school, and my iPhone arrived at the house a few days later. I didn’t bother to open the box. I knew that learning how to use it was going to be a huge pain in the ass, and except for the camera that didn’t work, my flip phone suited me fine. I didn’t need any apps to help me figure out what restaurant to eat at or what wine to pair with lamb chops or what dress would match my nice new apricot-colored sweater. Fifty-eight years of life experience was taking care of all that just fine.

So the phone just sat in its unopened box on the dining room table. Meantime, one day I was using the flip phone and noticed a piece of fuzz stuck in the camera lens. I extracted it with an X-acto knife, and suddenly the camera was working again. That made me even more unhappy that my son had ordered the iPhone, which I now didn’t need for anything.

My husband, who is very patient about living with a Luddite, let the iPhone sit there for a few weeks. He didn’t push it. Then, one night while we were watching a Phillies game, he asked, “Do you want me to show you how to text on an iPhone?” I made a face, but I let him show me, since I knew he really didn’t want to watch the Phillies and would have liked to watch The Longest Yard for the 18th time instead. I didn’t pay much attention. “I think you’ll like the iPhone,” Doug said gently. “It’s very intuitive. Very user-friendly.” Whatever. I patted my flip phone where it sat in my pocket, promising it silently: I’ll never betray you.

A couple nights later, another Phillies game. “Do you want me to show you how to make a call on an iPhone?” Doug asked. The Longest Yard was on again — it’s always on—so I said yes. He showed me. Whatever again.

Meantime, one of the young people at work — they’re all young people at work these days compared to me—found out I had an iPhone at home in a box on the dining room table and started asking: “Have you opened it yet?” When I texted my kids, they asked: “Are you using your iPhone?” They all seemed very disappointed when the answer was no. I didn’t know quite how to explain my reluctance. I’m smart enough to figure out a smart phone, I think. I just didn’t see the need.

I finally broke down, of course. One Sunday afternoon, Doug took me to the Verizon store, where an extraordinarily patient young woman wasn’t fazed at all by my tears as she activated my phone, transferred my photos and contacts (all six of them), and walked me through setting a password and all that crap. I wasn’t crying out of nostalgia. I was crying because I had a hard, frustrating time typing on the tiny little keyboard. I hadn’t even sent a single text yet and I was hating that phone.

But the patient young woman also sold me a really pretty flowered cover for my new phone. Granted, she charged me $35 for it. But seeing the phone in the pretty new cover made me hate it a little less.

So I switched over. I still get flustered when my phone rings — how am I supposed to answer it again? — and I still have trouble with the keyboard. But my son told me to slow down and wait to see what words the phone suggests I might be typing. I’m intrigued enough by the combination of this algorithm and my inept typing — really, iPhone? You think I might be texting about a cyclone? An ottoman? Mussels? — that it doesn’t annoy me. I like the whimsy of seeing texts in those little balloons, back and forth, like real life is some kind of New Yorker cartoon. I still think the cover is really pretty. I remember to charge my phone, most days. And I find Doug’s right—it is intuitive. Today I needed to look at a calendar, so I tapped the little calendar icon for the first time ever, looked at the options for what to do next, and managed to tap the right one. Those Apple dudes are smart.

I’ve taken several photos of the garden, though I’m not sure where they went when I took them or how I’m supposed to get them onto Twitter. But there’s no rush. One step at a time. The best thing about my new iPhone is that all the young people I know have stopped asking me whether I’m using it yet. Finally. It makes them happy that I am, and there’s something to be said for that. I suppose. Also, people don’t snicker at me in the elevator when I’m checking for texts.

But my new phone hasn’t changed my life. I worry about losing it, and about it getting stolen–two things I never gave a thought to with my flip phone. I wouldn’t stand in line for a newer model for 20 seconds, much less days. I don’t like that this phone is so much bigger than my flip phone, which used to slip so neatly into my pocket and stay there without banging against my thigh. I do like that I can check my email at odd moments and click all the spam away.

But whenever I use my new phone, it’s with a sense of foreboding. I know that now I’m finally on board, everybody else is going to move on to the newest Next Big Thing and leave me behind again. It’s only a matter of time. The only upside is, that will present a whole new opportunity for me to malinger and piss off the people who love me most. That’s only fair, though. In the wake of Mother’s Day, I suppose I should thank my kids for prodding me into the future–and should also note that my big complaint about this iPhone is the same one I had about my flip phone: They never write, they never call . …

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.