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May 24 2011

Can You Say Kaddish For a Cellphone?

By at 11:45 am

How I loved thee!

Back in LA, I was incredibly low-tech. I never had an iPod. I would read books that required actual page turning. And my cellphone was much the way I expect to be 50 years from now–crotchety and decrepit.

So, when I’d see other people whip out their Smartphones to email or text or to find the nearest Starbucks because why should anyone have to drive four blocks in one direction when they could achieve caffeinated nirvana by only driving two in the other, I would roll my eyes.

I’ll admit, I was secretly jealous. I envied the LA masses with their gadgets, and I wanted my finger on the pulse of all that is hip, too. More than the iPod or Kindle, I yearned for a Smartphone. I fantasized about being able to check email while sitting at Starbucks (Grande Vanilla latte and delusions of Grandeur for Sarah!) I wanted to download apps that monitored baby poop frequency, and create personalized ringtones that would make me look edgy and badass (I was thinking a little Gangsta Rap would be nice.)

The Smartphone would be my magic portal, freeing me from a daze of dirty laundry, and subpar cooking; a safe haven from power struggles with the kids–tantrums (theirs), meltdowns (mine), and way too much time spent in front of the TV (ours). Come what may – this phone would keep me sane, connected 24/7 to my real life. My dream phone would make me feel young and au currant because in reality, my screen was scratched, paint chipped, powering down on a whim like a narcoleptic. (And my phone was even worse.)

So when B. called my bluff and said he wanted to move back to Israel, I agreed to go on one condition: we would get Smartphones. That way, I could be on gchat or facebook all the time – constantly in touch with friends and family back home. I wanted quick and dirty email access so I could send pictures back home to Beeka and Bakah (my dad and his wife…) I wanted to download a kindle app so I could read books in English without having to expend energy — heaven forfend! — flipping pages. And let’s be real: I wanted to look all high-tech and whatnot, whipping out my sexy Smartphone and strutting around in high heel hooker boots, way more “LA Woman” than I ever was back in LA.

Thus began my codependent relationship with Shmulik the Smartphone. It was love at first sight: Within seconds of charging the battery and turning him on, I had changed his settings to English, and downloaded Tupac Shakur’s California Love for my ringtone. Whither I goest, he went – through the fields, to the coffee place, to the Hader Ochel, and beyond…Chatting, texting, always connected to my life back home.

And our relationship wasn’t all about looks and cool apps or the fact that he vibrated – although believe you me, Shmulik had that going on. Because no matter how homesick in the Homeland I was, I had Shmulik – and because I had Shmulik, I had Aimee, and Crystal, and Jeff, and Corey, and David, and Alex, and Elana, and Michelle, and Chris, and Beeka and Bakah, and so many others that live on the other side of the world, with me every second.

Until the day Shmulik drowned. In the toilet. Because there is no app to get rid of my inherent klutziness and pathological case of mama brain.

I tried everything to bring Shmulik back to life. I opened him up, and took out his battery, simcard, and SD card. (He felt so light lying there in the palm of my hand, just an empty shell.) Then, I placed him lovingly in a bag full of rice because I had read somewhere that this can sometimes save a drowned cellphone. It didn’t. And I shook my fists and screamed to the heavens…“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” (Because the first stage of grief is denial.)

B. rolled his eyes. “Don’t be such a baby. It’s just a cellphone.”

Enter the second stage of grief: Anger.

I hurled Shmulik’s corpse at B. I shouted. I cursed. And I cried hysterically, while B. looked around for the nearest escape route. (Seriously. In that moment, I done Mel Gibson proud.)

And while I know in hindsight that I may have (just a little bit) overreacted, the thing is, it wasn’t “just a cellphone.” Shmulik was my lifeline–my fast-track to LA from like, a million light years away. And as I try to figure out my place here on the kibbutz –in a home where my daughter straight up refuses to speak English (I swear, it’s like she reads my posts on Kveller and knows how much this upsets me), in conversations where I wonder W.T.F. is happening, like all the time when B. is talking to his mom, or the preschool teacher, or the doctor about something related to our kids in Hebrew, where I am perpetually lost in a heavy fog as I try to figure out a strange word in the middle of a joke, while everyone else is laughing at the punchline.

(At least Shmulik had a Hebrew/English translation app. May he be of blessed memory.)


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