Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Who are these people anyway?
I have taken a huge step in my slow march to habituation. I got a French cellphone. You were expecting something more profound? Until recently, I had been using my iPhone 2.0 with AT&T, which was useful when I could find free wifi, or for the occasional text message, but not good for much else but housing my music collection and making really expensive phone calls.
Now I have another iPhone and an account with Orange, the mobile and internet branch of France Télécom. I pay the same amount I paid in the U.S. for a fraction of the service. Yup, a brand new iPhone, a really fast one, in white this time, with a clear protective shell. A 10-digit local phone number to help navigate my Parisian adventure. Youpi!
Except on the inside, it’s exactly the same as the old one. The same little square icons, the same bookmarks and alarm clock function, the same downloaded applications.
It doesn’t feel all that new.
What made it worse was syncing my contacts to it. Sure, there are a few French people in there, but I also have the long list of acquaintances and contacts that have been in there for years. Names that I thought would be useful once, so I held on to them. A guy I went on one date with who wasn’t so bad, a woman at the L.A. Times who interviewed me for a job then lost the funding to hire me, a saxophone player who I freelanced with for one week in 2003, and whose band I kept meaning to go see. Old apartment building managers, former coworkers, my mechanic in L.A. And there are some names I don’t recognize at all.
I wouldn’t call any of those people now, not from France. Probably not even from the U.S., so why am I dragging along this list of names and numbers that does little more than remind me I used to live somewhere else? Every time I search for a number, 10 years of historical details scroll before my eyes, names and businesses I would have long forgotten if they weren’t digitized.
Since I would have to re-organize the phone book in my laptop, then re-sync it to my phone, it’s actually harder to forget these defunct contacts than to remember them. But I think I’ve clung to them for other reasons. Maybe they are a backup plan, for example, if things changed, and I was alone and desperate, living in L.A. again, maybe that guy would go on a second date with me, or the woman at the newspaper would give me a job. I could spend the evening at a jazz club and feel important because I know a member of the band, or since I’m now car-less, I could see if my old mechanic had a clunker to sell.
But I’m not in L.A., and I’m not desperate, so I should delete the numbers, right? I don’t know if I could face how empty my new phone book would be. A few family members and friends, perhaps the vet, the pizzeria on the corner, my bank. I should also note the French emergency numbers, because there are three different numbers for police, fire, and medical emergency (though they’re not terribly complicated), and of course keep any American friends who might actually call my expensive, international phone number, or even pay me a visit.
Even if I did delete them all, and started a French mobile phone book with clean, blank pages, there is still Facebook. Yet another odd melange of connections and photos. These friends vary in significance, and not all of them warrant remembrance for years to come, but as Facebook is like a living yearbook, reminding you where you are and where you’ve been, I think I’ll keep it the way it is. The contacts in my iPhone can sometimes make me sad, pulling me out of the moment of standing on a street corner wanting to call a friend by reminding me of former bosses or failed connections in another life. But when I am sitting at home on one of my more solitary days, sometimes Facebook the only thing that makes me feel grounded.