The Universe Gave Me a Smartphone, And Then the Universe Took It Away


Logan Sachon: Mallory. You have you been without a phone for a month and a half. How did that work?

Mallory Ortberg: Oh, man. Weirdly. At first I was pretty disappointed (mostly in myself) and was going to replace it right away, but then time just kept happening.
In the interim, Facebook chat and Gchat have helped me keep in touch with enough people pretty ok—if nothing else I can ping someone to let them know I’m leaving the house and on my way or what have you.

LS: “Time just kept happening.”

MO: I mean the first week or two I had friends offer to give me older smartphones, and I was like, oh great, I’ll just do that. This was my first smartphone, by the way—since every phone I’ve ever had has ended up lost or in a washing machine I never wanted to spend very much on one. Anyhow, then it turned out these phones weren’t compatible with my plan, or something; I kind of stopped listening once I heard “this won’t work because.” And I saw on my [PHONE COMPANY REDACTED] website that if I waited til 11/14 (TODAY) I could get a discounted upgrade. So I decided to wait. 

LS: And how much will the new phone cost you?

MO: I think it’ll be $200.

LS: Any regrets?

MO: Dropping my phone in the toilet. That’s probably a big one. I dropped my six-month-old smartphone in the toilet. I had to touch pee to retrieve it. That’s fairly harrowing, although I’m certain I will encounter worse problems in my life.

And I had to balance two questions in my head when it came to getting a new phone: 1. Can I handle making an expensive purchase, knowing that there is a really distinct possibility I will end up dropping it in a toilet again? (It fell out of my coat pocket, I’d like to clarify, I was not texting while indisposed), and 2. What kind of phone will be worth touching pee to retrieve? Should I just resign myself to being a permanent destroyer of phones and get a flip phone? It’s a lot to think about.

LS: I don’t even think they sell flip phones anymore.

MO: [They do; Logan is completely wrong about that] Well, finally I decided that I didn’t want to go back to flip phones, even though they have been really good to me over the years. I like being able to find out when the bus is coming and use maps when I get lost, even if they are not great maps.

LS: Well, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, at least it was your pee? And pee is sterile?

MO: Not once it’s outside your body. Common misconception.


MO: Just kidding; turns out it’s 11/14 of 2013 when I’ll be eligible. I’m not sure whether to blame my shitty [PHONE COMPANY REDACTED] website for not making that clear, or my own lack of follow-through and basic reading comprehension. At any rate, I left without getting a phone. Oh my God. Back to ordering delivery with the phone function on Gmail, I guess.


LS: Wait, so Mallory. What are you doing about a phone?

MO: Part of me just wants to let the universe decide. I finally ordered a used $30 clamshell from Amazon, and I’ll…activate it, I suppose? I don’t deserve a nicer phone. I don’t deserve touch-screen technology or built-in cameras.

LS: How are you feeling?

MO: Fine. Empty. It’s been a month and a half now. Part of me doesn’t even care at this point. Clearly I can go without phones for indefinite swaths of time, even though I miss having friends. I think I default broke up with someone because the only way we’d ever been in touch was via phone and I never wrote down their number. I’ve become passively ruthless.

LS: Maybe not having a phone can be your “THING.” Your “QUIRK.”

MO: They already did that with Nick on New Girl. 

LS: Oh.

MO: Plus I haven’t been doing this on purpose! I am genuinely trying to get another phone. On the bright side, I’ve been calling my grandmother a lot more often. She has one of the only phone numbers I still have memorized, so we’ve been talking a lot.


Mallory Ortberg lives in San Francisco.



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