the district sleeps with its phone

counting the cars

i don’t have an iphone or whatever. a “smart phone?” a “data plan?” my phone just does phone stuff. and i wonder how many years i have before this paragraph is utterly incomprehensible (rather than just largely incoherent).

graham willoughby

i’ve been traveling a lot, for work and comics and things. i know a lot of folks for whom that’s just life. they still manage to answer their e-mails and pay their bills and call their moms and pregnant cousins. these are tasks i find almost impossibly daunting on weeks when i don’t leave my apartment; out in the wild, i don’t stand a chance.

matt hertzburg

“you should get an iphone,” someone advised without looking up from his or her own. we were in a production van on our way to conduct an interview in d.c., and you know how movie people are. needless to say; i was the only one of us (aside from the driver, who often went several minutes at a time between screenward glances) looking out the window. their thesis, bolstered by a seeming obviousness, is that i would be able to attend to my various obligations if only i had the necessary apparatus. the theory is not without merit; to be sure, scheduling meetings and sending invoices is a more productive use of one’s time than counting the cars on the new jersey turnpike*.

* [unless, of course, you’re paul simon, which, to my constant consternation, i am not. ]

but i suspect people are just being generous, and knowingly reversing the cause and effect in their diagnoses. anyone who knows me knows full well that, rather than being irresponsibly unreachable because i don’t have an iphone, i don’t have an iphone because i’m irresponsibly unreachable, and not the sort of person who’d return your call promptly even if i did. so considering, it hardly seems a justifiable expense.

i’m not immune to the world’s processions, and accept that it’s only a matter of time before i find myself telling myself “this is not my beautiful phone / child / pair of crocks.” i’m no longer the idealist who swore never to tweet, or carry a phone in his pocket, or stop writing letters on paper**; i’ve been here a few decades, and know resistance to be futile.

** [ i am still the idealist who insists he’ll forever demand his books be made out of book, but i’m probably the only one i’m fooling. ]

i’m just not in a hurry to get where we’re going. i don’t get out enough as it is. and i nurse the suspicion that, soon, there won’t be anyplace left to go.


what i do have is a sketchbook. it can’t give me directions to coast city comics or reproduce the sound of frank black’s voice, but, as travel accessories go, it does have some notable perks. it’s small and light and state-of-the-art. its battery never runs out. it can’t reproduce the sound of my clients’ voices.

more importantly, it doesn’t preclude me from being where i am. unlike a camera, it doesn’t allow me to save sights for later; what looking i intend to do must be done there and then. unlike a phone, it won’t permit me to swap the strangers i’m with for anyone more comforting or familiar. and while it most definitely contains a map, i concede it to be far less practical than the gps mounted against the windshield. it can show me the road i’m on, and the roads that carried me to it, but it knows nothing of roads to come.

that kind of ignorance gets harder and harder to come by.

on the new jersey turnpike


  1. Heather says:

    A beautifully written post, thanks!

  2. Lexitudinally Unique says:

    I like my books to be made of book and I don’t have a fancy phone either. I could call Dot on on my phone, or I could just sneak onto his website and see what he’s been thinking about lately. I also happen to prefer plush companions and puppets to pets because I find that the conversations are more lively. I think I’m in the minority there, but I usually am. Particularly in an economy of smartphones, I find the mental real estate is more affordable in the minority anyway. So much more space where people’s thoughts usually aren’t.


  1. […] 2 years in America, my phone contract is up for renewal, and I am coming to realize that I just don’t want an iPhone, or any other “cool” phone. Maybe I want a Razr, they were cool phones once. It’s nice to know that my friend Kenan doesn’t really want one either. […]