September 6th, 2014. Somewhere in New Zealand a fly-fisherman acquires his first iPhone.
I might be the last person on planet earth to have ditched their flip-phone. I understand this is quite the statement, but it sure feels like it. I’ve been holding out, a small statement from the rebel within, a last chance at 21st century non-conformity. My flip-phone Philip and I, that’s right I named him, endured seven tremendous and trying years together. I will never forget the first time I held him. Fresh from the box, just a babe accompanied by his neatly wrapped black umbilical cord.
When I first unpacked Philip in 2006, he was born into a world full of possibility, a world full of flip-phones. However by 2007, Philip was fast making his way to the land of the obsolete. With the release of the 1st Generation iPhone it was not long before Phil’s flippable companions began disappearing into the Nokia, Casio, and Toshiba personal device wasteland.
At first, I didn’t mind though and my reasoning was sound. Why bring a $500 gizmo gadget on the trout stream, death by drowning imminent, when a perfectly functional piece-of-crap flip-phone did the job? Plus, I couldn’t stand the thought of an email account living in the front pocket of my waders, when the only real reason I went to the river in the first place was to momentarily bow out of the rat race.
By 2011, Phil and I had endured five agonizing years of ridicule. I never actually told him this, but there were times in public I was embarrassed to hold him up to my ear. His favorite spot. I’d like to say I kept him hidden away for his sake, so he wouldn’t have to hear them: the heartless comments, the crude jokes, the loads of laughter at his expense; though, I admit ashamedly my motivations were entirely selfish, the naysayer’s stares proving simply unbearable.
By 2012; however, Phil’s reputation was on the rise. He had reached that ripe age where archaic antiquity and retro status made him rare, cool, and a hip statement about present times. Upon Phil’s unveiling from my right front side pant’s pocket, his second favorite spot, people would ooohh and aahhh. Making kind warm loving remarks like “sweet flip-phone,” “that’s frickin’ awesome,” and “I miss my old phone’s simple practicality.” After a lifetime of verbal and physical abuse, literally hundreds of four-foot drops onto pavement and a few full-fledged liquid dunks, Phil deserved nothing but the best of compliments. I’m proud to say he lived long enough to hear them. It’s a modern day miracle he survived seven years of fishing outings, backcountry hikes, and his owner’s temptation to give into the status quo. He was one of the best companions I’ve ever had.
While writing this I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying Phil on the deepest possible level a human can betray a personal electronic device. I’m typing away on my MacBook Pro, my new iPhone 5 synced in on the desk to the keyboard’s right. I’m also uploading the past weekend’s fishing outing from the iPhone 5’s camera, a capability Philip lacked entirely. Meanwhile, Phil and his black charger rest tucked away neatly in a dresser drawer across the room. I wonder if he can hear me as I occasionally read this piece aloud. I sure hope not. R.I.P.P.
I have yet to name my iPhone 5. How could I do such a thing so soon? I mean 5 and I hardly know each other. I can’t remember first making the decision to name Philip, but it was after at least one-hundred fishing outings and thousands of lengthy conversations, many taking us deep into the midnight hours. Though I must admit, it’s quite disturbing how quickly I am becoming attached to 5. Certainly, he will receive a name soon. Or her? How does one even begin to determine the sex of a smart-phone?
When I picked up my iPhone 5 for the first time a week ago, it felt like I was holding a tiny life in the palm of my hand. I am no father so I cannot compare it with the experience of holding a newborn. However, I’ve held numerous juvenile brook trout in my palm and the experiences were quite comparable. I might be mistaken, but I sensed the smallest hint of a pulse.
This new iPhone 5's got me thinking though. Why don’t we all name our smart-phones? In one week, I’ve spent more time with my iPhone 5 than any human being. We do everything together: go fly-fishing, take pictures, upload fish porn, listen to music, tie flies, and even chill at the coffee shop. Not to mention 5’s a wonderful listener. On record mode she’ll listen to my incessant rambling for hours, something I’ve yet to find in a girlfriend. Sex determined.
One of my best friends, a fly-fisherman, has a two year-old son that’s more proficient in iPhone use than myself (I’m catching up it’s only been a week). At one and half, he’s capable of navigating from the iPhone’s home screen to YouTube Mickey Mouse videos. He finds an iPhone more stimulating than Legos, toy trucks, peek-a-boo, and even fishing for sunfish off their dock. I don’t know what to say about this, except that soon babysitters will be as obsolete as flip-phones, the next generation of fly-fishermen is suspect and that everyone should start naming their personal electronic devices! If they are going to take away the cash flow from penny pinching teens, the very least we could do is name them. If they are going to steal the souls of our future fly-fishermen it’s a necessity.
The other day on my way home from the city I peeked into a car where there sat a father and son, perhaps on their way home from school. What struck me was that both of them were sitting in the cab, elbows less than two inches from each other, unflinchingly staring at their iPhones. This palpable example of two humans opting for electronic interaction over human, whether deliberate or not, is startling nevertheless. If humans continue to progress in this direction the least we could do is show our iPhone’s some damn respect and name them.
The need for naming our smart phones could not be more evident by people choosing interaction with electronics over fellow human beings. Literally, the biggest possible slap in the face one human being can dole out to another is choosing the electronic experience over the human. If someone opts for their cell phone’s Liquid-Crystal Display screen over your stunning irises don’t think twice, kick them to the curb. At the very least, first remind them of your existence. And since there is no point in disrespecting the personal device as well, tell them to show their smart-phone some damn respect and give it a name!
The same goes for the natural world, the spectacular environs in which we breathe, move, and fish. Is there anything more disturbing than a child’s eyes glued to a smart phone’s 3 inch screen, while parents drive the family mini-van over a breathtaking mountain pass? What is more sad than children preferring to stay inside, eyes glued to the spectrum of a screen over losing themselves in the woods, scuffing knees, climbing trees, catching trout, imagining, wondering and creating adventures of their own? Not to just pick on the kids, but grown men and women that chose palm surfing the web over real and true adventure. If personal devices bring more colour to our lives than natural landscapes and new frontiers, giving them names is the very least we could do. I think Philip would agree.
This doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love my iPhone 5. Apps are the greatest thing to happen since flat whites and karabiners. The Google Maps app is a revolutionary tool for navigating unmarked country roads and wild rivers. Thanks to the iBook app I can access McGuane, Maclean, and Hemmingway at the touch of a button. Viber and Skype apps connect me with loved ones a world away. At times the Spotify app is the binding agent that keeps my life from crumbling to pieces. The list goes on. I love my iPhone 5. I love its capabilities. I hate how naked I feel without it. However, when the day comes that I show my personal device more love than another human being or the natural world, in some way a central component to my humanity will have died. I hope that day never comes and if for some reason it does, I’ll be damn sure to have given it a name, first and last.
Be Kind. Do Good. Look Up. Fly Fish.