The year is 2006. I have just graduated — “graduated” — from eighth grade. Goodbye, Catholic school. I will not miss you. I will not miss compulsory daily mass. I will, a little bit, miss the plaid.
To mark the occasion — and possibly as penance for the years they forced me to spend with a religion teacher who would often begin weeping mid-class, declaring she’d been blessed with “the gift of tears” — my parents give me … a cell phone. This is a big deal. Some of my friends already had cell phones, but 2006 was somewhere in those weird liminal years where phones were around but not quite ubiquitous yet. Plus, it isn’t just any phone. It is a pink Motorola RAZR. The pink Motorola RAZR.
The thing, by today’s phone standards, is garbage. The camera takes pictures so low-quality they’re like standing with your face two inches away from a Seurat painting. I can send something like 25 text messages a month. Typing involves T9, the predictive text keyboard we were all chained to before we got fully QWERTY keyboards in our pockets. It does not have a headphone jack. It holds something like ten voicemails before I have to delete them. And if I don’t delete them, my parents give me the, “We didn’t give you a phone to not be able to reach you” lecture. So, naturally, I never clear out the inbox. All this is to say, I love this phone. I download Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” as a ringback tone. I play a lot of Tetris. I make everyone I know call me, “Just so I can add your number easily, you know?”
But the other thing is, looking back, the phone wasn’t actually garbage. I didn’t know it then but that damn pink phone would be the most utilitarian, cost-effective device I’d ever own. It just worked. Texts sent. Calls went through. The flipping motion was incredibly satisfying and made me feel like the high-powered executive I would not grow up to become. God forgive me, the hand-feel was good. The battery stayed charged for a respectable amount of time. It fit in women’s pants pockets. And there was only so much time I could spend with my face glued to it before I’d get bored and return to the world of the living to, I don’t know, read something or have an actual, human conversation.
Which is why Motorola finally confirming the worst-kept secret in tech – its forthcoming foldable phone – has me wondering if I’d actually like to use one. The “I Gave Up My Smartphone For a Dumbphone and All I Got Was Existential Dread” piece has been written, at this point, to death. But something about the feel and flip of my teen years, paired with the not-shitty technology of the present, appeals. (Preliminary design specs and comments from Motorola VP of Global Product Dan Dery indicate the phone will look strikingly like the old-school RAZR.) Honestly, it would have to come in pink.