The Universe Gave Me a Smartphone, And Then the Universe Took It Away


Logan Sachon: Mallory. You have you been without a phone for a month and a half. How did that work?

Mallory Ortberg: Oh, man. Weirdly. At first I was pretty disappointed (mostly in myself) and was going to replace it right away, but then time just kept happening.
In the interim, Facebook chat and Gchat have helped me keep in touch with enough people pretty ok—if nothing else I can ping someone to let them know I’m leaving the house and on my way or what have you.

LS: “Time just kept happening.”

MO: I mean the first week or two I had friends offer to give me older smartphones, and I was like, oh great, I’ll just do that. This was my first smartphone, by the way—since every phone I’ve ever had has ended up lost or in a washing machine I never wanted to spend very much on one. Anyhow, then it turned out these phones weren’t compatible with my plan, or something; I kind of stopped listening once I heard “this won’t work because.” And I saw on my [PHONE COMPANY REDACTED] website that if I waited til 11/14 (TODAY) I could get a discounted upgrade. So I decided to wait. 

LS: And how much will the new phone cost you?

MO: I think it’ll be $200.

LS: Any regrets?

MO: Dropping my phone in the toilet. That’s probably a big one. I dropped my six-month-old smartphone in the toilet. I had to touch pee to retrieve it. That’s fairly harrowing, although I’m certain I will encounter worse problems in my life.

And I had to balance two questions in my head when it came to getting a new phone: 1. Can I handle making an expensive purchase, knowing that there is a really distinct possibility I will end up dropping it in a toilet again? (It fell out of my coat pocket, I’d like to clarify, I was not texting while indisposed), and 2. What kind of phone will be worth touching pee to retrieve? Should I just resign myself to being a permanent destroyer of phones and get a flip phone? It’s a lot to think about.

LS: I don’t even think they sell flip phones anymore.

MO: [They do; Logan is completely wrong about that] Well, finally I decided that I didn’t want to go back to flip phones, even though they have been really good to me over the years. I like being able to find out when the bus is coming and use maps when I get lost, even if they are not great maps.

LS: Well, ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, at least it was your pee? And pee is sterile?

MO: Not once it’s outside your body. Common misconception.


MO: Just kidding; turns out it’s 11/14 of 2013 when I’ll be eligible. I’m not sure whether to blame my shitty [PHONE COMPANY REDACTED] website for not making that clear, or my own lack of follow-through and basic reading comprehension. At any rate, I left without getting a phone. Oh my God. Back to ordering delivery with the phone function on Gmail, I guess.


LS: Wait, so Mallory. What are you doing about a phone?

MO: Part of me just wants to let the universe decide. I finally ordered a used $30 clamshell from Amazon, and I’ll…activate it, I suppose? I don’t deserve a nicer phone. I don’t deserve touch-screen technology or built-in cameras.

LS: How are you feeling?

MO: Fine. Empty. It’s been a month and a half now. Part of me doesn’t even care at this point. Clearly I can go without phones for indefinite swaths of time, even though I miss having friends. I think I default broke up with someone because the only way we’d ever been in touch was via phone and I never wrote down their number. I’ve become passively ruthless.

LS: Maybe not having a phone can be your “THING.” Your “QUIRK.”

MO: They already did that with Nick on New Girl. 

LS: Oh.

MO: Plus I haven’t been doing this on purpose! I am genuinely trying to get another phone. On the bright side, I’ve been calling my grandmother a lot more often. She has one of the only phone numbers I still have memorized, so we’ve been talking a lot.


Mallory Ortberg lives in San Francisco.


21 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#22)

This is EXACTLY why I always keep my phone in a ziplock baggie. Even while I’m using it.

melis (#42)

Man, for someone who ruined her phone in a toilet, I sure spent a lot of this conversation correcting Logan, like I know anything.

kellyography (#250)

@melis It’s just important that people understand that pee isn’t actually sterile, and that they stop saying it is.

melis (#42)


Megano! (#124)

@melis I totally text and pee ALL THE TIME. And somehow I haven’t dropped it in the toilet. But I did only just get a smartphone in May, and then it bricked itself randomly in two weeks, but luckily it was just soon enough for me to still get a replacement. And then I dropped the new one in the sink AND TURNED THE SINK ON (don’t ask), but luckily no water got inside, so I STILL WIN PHONE.

@melis you could also get a landline. those are like crazy cheap. but when i’ve needed a new phone and wasn’t eligible for an upgrade, i’ve just bought phones on ebay. just make sure you buy one for your carrier. for example, this phone is a great deal for the next 58 minutes.

Wait texting while peeing would be ok for a girl I think? I usually start the judging at calling while 2’ing. Some people in the office seem to think the restroom is a break room.

Nick (#1,548)

@forget it i quit Guys can text while peeing too. Text with one hand and hold your junk with the other. Or just text with both hands and freewheel the other stuff if you’re feeling adventurous?

DON (#706)

@forget it i quit No. The restroom IS a break room. End of discussion.

Dancercise (#94)

But wait. How are you calling your grandmother if you don’t have a phone?

melis (#42)

@Dancercise The aforementioned Gmail phone function, of course!

sockhopbop (#764)

High-five on the phoneless lifestyle, Mallory! I left mine on Metro-North a week and a half ago now. The good news is that the lost & found at Grand Central has it. The bad news is that I live 3 hours away from Grand Central and the Department of Mysteries and Lost Items does not like answering phones or calling people back or publicly listing their number. It is an ongoing adventure!

missvancity (#146)

But… don’t you have everything from your phone synced to your gmail or whatever Apple product you’d use? When my Blackberry died, I didn’t lose anything, and it all re-synced nicely with my Droid.

Just put the dropped pee phone in a container of rice for a day to dry it out and it’ll be fine.

melis (#42)

@Deb of last year@twitter OH DEB. Sweet, innocent, baby bird Deb. I am well, well acquainted with the old bag of rice trick. Sometimes it works! Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a lot less successful with smartphones because they’re essentially like tiny computers – corrosion buildup on any of their WAY MANY components will cause a short. It’s more like getting water damage to a laptop than a dumb phone where you can just yank the battery out and hope for the best.

EM (#1,012)

@melis I also once dropped my phone in a toilet, and then used the bag of rice trick. IT worked, but my phone was acting strangely (turning itself off and on, accusing me of using INCOMPATIBLE ACCESSORIES at random moments). So I convinced a tech-savvy friend to take it apart for me, dust off each individual piece, and put it back together. Immediately afterwards I had sex with him. and we have been together for two years now, so… sometimes dropping your phone in a toilet leads to true love. Plus whatever he did fixed my phone.

Markovaa (#1,509)

I lost my iphone in a bar a couple months ago and a week later someone miraculously returned it to me. Who says there aren’t nice people in NYC? Anyway, I did a lot of research on replacing it because I had stupidly cancelled my phone insurance after reading an article with incorrect information about Verizon.

Anyway, have you looked into buying a refurbished phone? Lots of places sell them with contracts (cough regular phone companies cough best buy cough) BUT places like Amazon don’t! Then you just need to get your phone activated (verizon) or put in a sim card (ATT). The current range seems to be 350 to 450 dollars and the reviews are mostly positive. Not cheap but chepaer than buying a new phone!

Alternatively, if you have ATT, I used to buy a “GO phone” when my old phone would break and just transfer my simcard. The phones are shit but cost under 100 bucks.

But how is Ghost supposed to reach you??

questingbeast (#2,409)

I just was without a mobile for three weeks, after losing my first smartphone (I also don’t deserve nice things). It was surprisingly fine. My boyfriend found it annoying. But I’d just coincidentally got a landline for the first time, so I used that a lot. I’d forgotten how you used to have to sit on the stairs and look a number up in a book to talk to people. It was quite nice.

wearitcounts (#772)

the alt text on this one made my life.

My Android stopped working like a month ago (it works, but the battery lasts exactly 5 minutes, so it is like a glorified land phone) so I just stopped using it. Boyfriend and boss were not very happy. Boss got me a $20 dollar…not even flip phone, one of those disposable ones that I think only exist in Mexico. I plan on eventually buying another smartphone, but not in the near future.

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