I grew up with a second-rate cell phone. When I over-scrolled, while absentmindedly surveying my contacts or my miscellany, the scroll bar would halt at the end of the list with a dull thump. On other phones, there is a satisfying spring into the ether before the scroll bar recoils back to its bottom-most position. Later, when I played catch with my peers, I could only grasp awkwardly at the ball as it approached me. I would position my hand before the ball and close my fingers as contact was made, but, more often than not, the ball would simply bounce from my palm. “Give with it,” they would say, “go with its movement,” but this did not come naturally to me.
My second-rate phone could only hold about two hundred songs. I listened to these often; I did not want to bring attention to my second-rate phone, but the two hundred songs would quickly become grossly over-played. It was inconvenient to change the songs on the phone, and I did so less and less often as time passed. My mind, which I feel was naturally adventuresome and inquisitive, became accustomed to repetition. Music which once invited excited immersion became a thin screen over which I glided uncaringly. Later, I lost touch with my peers, whose activities often seemed to ask too much from me. I found myself increasingly put off by tasks that were not matters of simple muscle-memory. Now I am most comfortable when an activity is defined by constant petty distractions, such that the distractions became the actual focus of attention, although focus isn’t really the right word.
The screen of my second-rate phone was pressure sensitive, instead of heat sensitive. My fingernails were longer than those of my peers, because I needed them to navigate the lists and menus of my phone. While my peers swept their fingertips across their larger, heat-sensitive touch screens, I became accustomed to sliding my nails across the awkward display of my touch screen. Later, when I became involved with girls, I would brush my uncomfortably long fingernails across the surfaces of their skin. I pressed minute loops against clefts of flesh, but all the girls I met were accustomed to fingertips accustomed to larger, heat-sensitive surfaces. They all seemed put off, except one, whose first love was also accustomed to brushing with his fingernails. She saw a little bit of him in me, and she did not mind the way I passed my fingernails over her. She did not mind either that I was awkward and afraid, and now we live together.
So things turned out okay, but what still bothers me is that I’ll never know if all this is actually because of the phone, because the phone was also very exact in its dealings. When the phone gave me directions, it would calculate the way to be taken by the relative length and expected traffic of each route, given the time of day and the streets to be taken. Marginal adjustments were made for left turns against traffic, the timing of long red lights, and other things which I did not understand. My phone took other parameters from me, such as the relative undesirabilities of traffic and tolls. In this way, it was able to account for my mood. From these variables my phone was always able to decide for me my best route. By the time I got my second phone, I was thoroughly convinced that most anything could be definitively computed from its smallest constitutive variables.