Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pocket Change

I used to look with disdain at people who pulled out phones that were dented and dinged, with screens cracked and spider-webbed. I mean, how hard was it to take care of your tools? It showed a callous disregard for one's possessions, an attitude that spoke volumes about the person. Of course, that was before I dropped mine squarely on a cobblestone curb, creating a lattice of cracks that radiated from one corner. In seconds I went from disdainer to disdainee. Or to paraphrase the great cartoonist Walt Kelly, I had met the enemy and he is me.

Still, it worked fine, even with the little piece of tape I put over the edge to seal the cracked glass. I would replace it soon enough, I reasoned: let's wait to see what the next new product cycle brings. Then I dropped it again, crunching the edge further, splintering more glass and necessitating more tape, to be used as much as protection so as not to lacerate my ear. Perhaps the time had finally come.

So I stuck my nose into the ubiquitous cell phone emporium to see the possibilities. I assumed my choice of phone would be determined by its features. Maybe it would be the screen: how easy it would be to read in daylight, how durable it would be when it encountered that, ahem, inevitable fall. Or perhaps battery capacity would be the decider: could I get through a day of normal usage without it having to plug it in? Or maybe some other metric would tip the scales, such as processor speed or storage capacity.  

The one thing that never occurred to me was that which phone I bought would be determined by the size of my pockets.  

In a nod to practicality if not fashion, I had been clipping my phone to my belt since I first got one. With the first flip phones being small but not too small, it was a natural accommodation, even if recalled my wife's earlier chagrin when I had my keys there (once a geek, always a geek). Still, phones were cooler than keys, and I was hardly an outlier in this technological peacocking.

For a short period of time, the trend seemed to be towards the diminutive. The original Star-Tacs were substantial, though not bulky. But their progeny managed to fulfill the promise of electronics in general, putting more stuff into a more compact package. I've lost track of the exact count, but it had to be three or four product cycles where, contrary to Donald Trump's assertions, smaller was indeed better.

But then smart phones started to take over, and texting and surfing became more important than talking. As such, screen size mattered, and each iteration of device has been inching upwards by inches. Indeed, my current device was a relative beast on my belt, getting caught on coats and jackets, and indeed crashing to the ground partly due to its increased size. One could see where this was going, and it wasn't pretty: I walked past a guy on the street the other day with an iPad mini on his belt. It looked like he was carrying a television on his butt.

And so while my browsing focused on technological features, I also had to square it with the fact that this next one might just break the belt. It would have to be pocketed to be carried, necessitating a major reorg of my slacks. No more cash and ChapStick here, and change and keys there. I would have to make room for the phone where it would not get scratched, jiggle against other loose metal items, and be accessible every time I reached for it. And when I bend over, it has to not get broken, as well as not cause serious injury to, shall we say, some tender areas.  

The upshot is that I may have to change my everyday wardrobe. But cargo pants, while they afford extra pockets, are too causal for most situations. Likewise in the other direction: wearing a suitcoat all the time would offer a solution, but is impractical as well. And so I am faced with navigating a new closet order. As of this writing, I've not decided on a phone nor a pair of pants. All I can say definitively is that I've ruled out carrying a purse.

For now.


Marc Wollin of Bedford hates that he needs a new phone. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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