Flipped out

(An explanatory note: In this column I refer to iPhones, but that’s only as an example. I realize there are all sorts of other phones like that — as opposed to flip phones — I just didn’t want to clog up my writing any more than it already is.)

In many ways my brother is my polar opposite, especially when it comes to our reading material. We each read books, both fiction and nonfiction, but there’s one thing he reads that I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole — newspapers.

OK, that’s not completely true. I read the Enterprise, if not religiously, then at least actively. My bro also reads the Enterprise, but he carries his newspaper habit to extremes by reading the New York Times and Washington Post — daily.

Sure, it takes all kinds, that’s what makes a horse race, and if ya think it sounds better in French, a chacun son gout. But I’ll gladly be put in stocks in Riverside Park on July Fourth before I’ll waste what little time I have left on the positive side of the grass reading The Times and The Post.

Why is that?

I’ve got two good reasons. One is that for about 15 years I read the Times daily, from cover to cover, and all it did was depress the hell out of me.

The other can be summed up by something Thoreau said: “If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?”

Since I’m abundantly aware of wars, famines, eco-disasters, crooked politicians, egomaniacal celebrities, rotting infrastructure, grave injustice and the rest, I choose not to subject myself to any more of it.

And now that I think of it, there’s a third reason: Almost all dedicated news readers actually believe what they read. A recent example, which I learned in a phone call from my bro, proves my point.

In medias res he said, “By the way, you’ve become an urban trend-setter in your old age.”

“How’s that?” I said. “Have all the city panty waists started wearing Pendletons, woolies and Sorels?”

“Sure,” he said. “And beards down to the pupiks, too.”

Then he paused for effect.

“No,” he said. “But they are doing something you’ve always done.”

“Which is?’ “Which is they’re going back to flip phones.”

“Balderdash!,” I said, channeling some 19th century old fart.

“No,” he said. “They really are.”

“And how, pray tell, do you know this?” I said.

“There’ve been several recent New York Times articles about it,” he said, hopeless True Believer that he is.

I knew better than to try to rebut him since it would’ve been a waste of time to him and a waste of breath to me. But still …

Here’s the word on people going back to flip phones: It ain’t gonna happen.

Now I’ll tell you why.

More stuff you never learnedin school

First is the issue of superior technologies. The fact is once a superior technology is invented, what it’s replaced is as dead as all the poor souls on Krypton. RIP.

Take typewriters. Once they were invented and perfected, the scribe was finito. And once electric typewriters came in, manuals started to die out. Next was the word processor, then the computer, which pretty much laid all other mechanical writing devices to waste. And while I’m sure there are millions of typewriters in the U.S. today, I’d bet almost all of them are either being used as anchors, doorstops and avant garde lawn ornaments, or are, like North Elba’s most famous permanent resident, a’mouldering in the grave. But you can bet almost none of them are being used for their intended purpose.

So while outdated technologies might hold a sentimental appeal, they don’t hold a pragmatic one. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you used your film camera, mechanical watch or quill pen?

Another example — a 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood. It had the beauty, the comfort, the chrome and the luxury of Heaven on Earth. But the only way you’d even consider owning one today would be as a summertime, cruise round-the-town vanity. The old cars may have been gorgeous, roomy and powerful, but they were also completely impractical compared to today’s cars. They were far less dependable, efficient and safe than any car on the road today. They handled poorly, went through gas like a Sherman tank, and if you got in a crash and survived with all your appendages and brain cells, you were one lucky duck.

So, back to the Return of the Flip Phone …

Another reason the flip phone ain’t coming back is because iPhones and the like are not strictly phones — they’re computers. And almost everyone today (especially the poor sods who still are workin’ for the man) needs a computer. They’re no longer an option. And apparently, by looking around in any restaurant, bar, grocery store or just on the street, they need it 24-7. A flip phone, on the other hand is — sadly — a phone … and nothing more.

For my purposes, a flip phone is fine. But that’s because it stays in my car and I almost never use it. It’s there to use in a pinch. Period. I have a landline and iPad at home and they take care of all my computer/phone needs. And compared to the average person, my computer needs are no needs at all, so that’s that.

Though peeps try to deny it, there’s another reason the iPhones are here to stay — status.

The sad truth is any groovy Manhattanite who whips out a flip phone will be laughed out of every fern bar, bistro or meat market faster than you can say, “Luddite Loser.”

Peeps don’t need just an iPhone — they need the latest model. And is that because the newest models are light-years better than the older ones? I doubt that (at least in any significant way). No, it’s the same reason men don’t part their hair in the middle and have handlebar mustaches — they’re just silly, and outre remnants of a bygone era. The thing is, today it seems bygone eras happen every couple of years.

Finally, there might be the ultimate underlying reason for cellphone use and why folks can’t go back to a simpler cellphone technology: They are, plain and simple, addictions.

Don’t think so?

Who in their right mind would make 75 phone calls a day just for the hell of it? No one (or at least no one in their right mind). But 75 texts a day, saying absolutely nothing? Ain’t but a thing.

Or how about a bunch of peeps at dinner in a restaurant, sitting around a table, all of them glued to their phones? If anyone were to be at the same table reading a book, the others would think he was either insufferably rude or too weird for words. But staring gape-jawed at a cell phone is just Bizness as Usual.

And if those aren’t signs of addiction, how about texting while driving? If that’s not is a textbook version a rhetorical question, I dunno what is.

Then again, I could be wrong about all of this.

Maybe the flip phone will replace the iPhone.

Maybe flip phones will become the new status symbol, replacing the Rolex as the symbol of class, sophistication and je ne sais quoi.

Maybe the flip phone will be unique in the history of technology, where an older, less efficient invention will replace a newer, more efficient one.

Frankly, those scenarios seem as impossible to me as they do silly.

But I’ll tell ya one thing: If the flip phone once again becomes King, it’ll be the first and only time in my life I’d be be A Man of the Times.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today