On Tuesday, Donald Trump gratuitously revealed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number to an audience in South Carolina. He did this hours after Graham implored Trump to “stop being a jackass”; Graham, himself a Republican candidate for president, responded to the campaign-trail doxing by tweeting, “Probably getting a new phone. iPhone or Android?” I thought this was sort of funny, but when I read that Graham still uses a flip phone—and, moreover, that he chooses to memorize phone numbers rather than store them in his phone—I was shocked. I still use a flip phone, too—and, what’s more, I also choose to memorize key phone numbers rather than store them in my phone. Am I actually Lindsey Graham? It’s very possible. What I can say for sure is that flip phones and memorized phone numbers are the best, and unless the day comes when I literally have no choice but to do so, I will never, ever change my ways. I hope Graham doesn’t, either.
My willful Luddism may not come as a surprise, given that I’ve previously blogged about how I still use Winamp, and how I like to write out my blog posts longhand in a notebook. My insistence on using a 12-year-old flip phone might be the apotheosis this antediluvian tendency. I use a Motorola v60s flip phone that dates back to at least 2003. It’s a great phone: It both sends and receives phone calls and text messages, and it makes a very satisfying “click” when I shut it. (Seriously, you can’t put a price on that click.) Like cockroaches, plastic six-pack rings, and the Canyonero, my phone is virtually indestructible. You cannot break it—and I have tried. What’s more, it’s a conversation starter nonpareil. The following scenario plays out about once a week: I’ll be sitting at a bar, fiddling with my phone, and some talkative lush will see me and say something like, “Wow, I had that phone back in 2004.” And then I say something like, “Ha ha, yeah, I still do,” and inevitably there’s a weird pause as my interlocutor tries to decide whether my telephonic primitivism is interesting or just plain weird.
As an icebreaker, my phone is great. As a telephone, the v60s leaves much to be desired. It doesn’t really get reception indoors, which means I have to stand on the street outside my apartment if I want to talk on the phone. It only stores 200 text messages at a time, and tends to freeze up whenever I receive several texts in rapid succession. Sending texts is a chore, too; for one thing, I have to press the number 1 exactly 17 times in order to get an apostrophe. My phone doesn’t have any games. It can’t connect to the Internet. It loses its charge after like 45 minutes of use—and now that RadioShack is out of business I can’t easily buy a replacement battery.
And yet it’s among my most cherished possessions. I am an easily distracted person who spends about 12 hours per day in front of his computer, and usually wastes about 10 of those hours frantically refreshing his email or looking up meaningless baseball statistics —Did you know that 36-year-old Eric Davis had a surprisingly good year for the Orioles in 1998? Neither did I until this morning!—or otherwise drowning in the digital deluge. I love the Internet very much, but I’m well aware that 20 years of prolonged exposure to it has decimated my attention span and my capacity for sustained contemplation. The only opportunities that I actually have to think are when I’m walking around in public or taking a shower, and if I could bring my laptop into the shower with me, I probably would.
Having an extremely dumb phone allows me to walk around in public and think without feeling compelled to check my email or keep up with sports scores that I don’t actually care about. If I had a smartphone, I’d lose that built-in respite from the state of perpetual connectivity in which we are all encouraged to live. Sticking with my old-ass flip phone is a means of mental self-preservation. The same goes for my insistence on memorizing important phone numbers. I’ve got about 15 or 20 of my most-called phone numbers committed to memory, which isn’t very many in absolute terms, but which makes me a regular Kevin Trudeau compared to most of you chumps. Doing so isn’t hard, and it makes me feel slightly less reliant on technology, and slightly more able to manage and control my daily life.
In a very minor way, it also makes me feel good about myself, much like figuring out directions based on instinct and memory rather than relying on GPS does the same. Figuring out street directions isn’t hard, people! Most street systems are grids! And don’t get me started on Venmo. Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned checkbooks?
I don’t know what Lindsey Graham thinks about street grids or checkbooks. (The Lindsey Graham for President 2016 website is surprisingly devoid of information about his policies on those issues—and definitely does not accept Bitcoin donations.) But I truly hope he doesn’t actually upgrade to an iPhone or Android. Being a senator and presidential candidate is probably even more stressful than being an online journalist—and even more so than I am, Graham is probably overwhelmed by the myriad pieces of information competing for his attention. If anything, more public servants ought to create opportunities for themselves to take periodic mental breaks. Plus, I’m just saying, Graham’s flip phone will make a really great conversation starter on the ol’ campaign trail.