Phone Home?

Nokia brick phones are more enlightening than they seem

phone home image

Mum gingerly picks up my old Nokia 2160 from its neglected vessel –  a cardboard box in our garage – and hands it over to me: “here, use this until we can fix your phone.” I run my fingers over the top of the plastic handset instinctively, feeling for a sleep/wake button. There is none.

“Um,” I start sheepishly. “How do I turn this on?”

My conscious self is confused but muscle memory kicks into action and before I know it I’m confronted with the sight of years-old text messages.

Phone Home Image 1Laddu is the name of a yellow, South Asian, ball-shaped sweet. But for Sumaiya and I, ‘Laddu’ meant something else entirely, a covert code name for our mutual childhood crush and classmate, Rahul. My heart aches a little thinking about folded notes passed under desks and excited whispers during compulsory year six soccer practice.

I continue scrolling through the rest of our messages as the 9:10am train from Lidcombe gently pulls into Newtown.  More passengers get on and the carriage is almost full when my phone rings and the opening synths of Flo Rida’s Low cuts through the morning chatter.  

My face is red as I answer the call from my Mum. The past is made up of equal parts sweetness and bad music taste.

Later that day my friends and I are at a concept cultural hub somewhere in Redfern. We’ve already ordered and wait in silence for our food to come. Like clockwork, everyone fishes out their smartphones, performing the pre-meal ritual of flicking through Facebook notifications.

A few minutes later the first round of food arrives. I go to eat mine. Everyone else loads their phone cameras.

“Hey, Lamya, can you wait a bit? I want to take a picture.”

I begrudgingly agree, and let my burger and chips get manhandled into a photo shoot. Usually I’m the obnoxious one, asking everyone else to delay instant culinary gratification for my Instagram vanity. Being relegated to the side, Nokia 2610 in hand, feels like some sort of long-coming cosmic reckoning. I look down at my phone and fiddle with it, absently wondering, if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to Instagram it, did it really happen?

When I get home that night, I decide to take the plunge and message Sumaiya from my computer.

Page 16 Messenger Screenshot

I frown. It’s 9pm; buses aren’t running now.

I’m left with a bad feeling in my gut and a bad phone.

After two days, I’ve reached a different plane of existence. Anyone would’ve felt slighted by what Sumaiya had done to me, but not me – I had reached a greater sense of being.

How odd it is that my sister and I are sitting directly opposite each other right now,  perfectly polarised. My transcendental state versus her, zombie-like, phone in hand. Exactly the sort of person who would still care about being lied to about a Lidcombe bus.

The front door clicks open and in walks Dad. He shakes off his shoes and I notice my freshly repaired iPhone in his hand. The flutter of excitement in my stomach is betrayal, but I ignore it.

He passes me the iPhone and his cursory warning – “this time, be careful with it” – goes over my head as the phone flickers to life and I’m accosted with unread notifications. I read through them one by one, sending back a Snap, replying to a text, finally checking my Instagram.

I hesitate for a second and then load Sumaiya’s Facebook profile.

Vice Chancellor Michael Spence.

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