A cautionary account of one woman's loss of an iPhone

I was recently the victim of a dropping-my-own-telephone-into-a-toilet kerfuffle.

My memory of the incident itself is hazy at best – blurred, perhaps, by the emotional pain of recollecting it, or by the party’s Rubbermaid binful of Smirnoff-spiked fruit punch. I do, however, recall the drop. It was tucked in the pocket of a full-skirted vintage dress that I had to sweep up to perch myself onto the seat. My iPhone slipped from the pocket and tumbled. I scooped it out within five seconds of the initial plop – wet, but apparently unscathed.

I was relieved the phone was unharmed and returned to the dance floor. At one point, I sing-yelled about 50% of the lyrics to “Semi-Charmed Life” and fake slow-danced to “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” from Armageddon, a film during which I once shed thirteen-year-old tears. I ate a few cookies, switched to wine from vodka-punch and probably even checked my e-mail on my telephone. My life seemed pleasant, normal, simple, even. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

By the time I arrived home and kicked my party dress toward the hamper, I noticed that my telephone’s screen was black. I couldn’t turn it on. I knew it had power – I had charged it before the party. What was happening, and why?

Standing there, I remembered the toilet occurrence. I turned the phone over in my hand, and saw little bubbles in the camera lens. I hoped my phone would work in the morning and my mistake would be undone. I went to sleep, covered by both a literal blanket and a figurative feelings-of-doom one.

The morning did not bring good news. My iPhone was still suspended in its watery grave, and the gadget seemed wholly indifferent as to whether I was pushing buttons or not. The sticker protecting the screen had begun to peel as if to assure me that, yes, the adhesive had been compromised. That rainy Sunday morning marked the beginning of my 12 hours with no iPhone.

Of course, I did not know at the time if or when my iPhone would function again. I didn’t immediately understand the gravity of the situation - I was suspended by my survival instinct alone.

I knew I had to take action, but I was crippled by the agony of waiting. It is more painful not to know the fate of our loved ones than to have even the worst news confirmed. When that happens, the process of grief can begin – I could experience nothing akin to grief, because I was unwilling to accept the possibility that my iPhone may never turn on again. What I felt was closer aligned to desperation, drifting into a malaise. I was distracted and stressed. I gently lay my iPhone 4G on a tabletop, hoping that its damp innards might do me the honor of drying gracefully. I waited.

I had no way of knowing what time it was. The sky was overcast; my apartment is under-windowed. My phone is the only reliable clock in my life. I had to have faith in my internal timing mechanisms, which are presumably born of the same mechanisms that caused me to drop the phone in the first place, and have thus suffered a blow to their credibility. I knew only that it was Sunday, at some point between dawn and dusk.

There was no way to check in on my loved ones. They were merely a distant memory. I could barely remember what love felt like. I was alone, for now. I had to sustain myself.

I tried to get a hold of myself. “It isn’t so bad,” I whispered. “You can do this.” After all, I’d only had an iPhone for three months. Couldn’t I conjure up memories of life without one? I majored in History – couldn’t I recall at least one historical instance throughout the annals of time that had occurred without an iPhone present? I could not – as far as I remembered, one of Custer’s last human actions was checking into Little Big Horn on his 4Square app. I am pretty sure Gorbachev live-tweeted the falling of the Berlin Wall. Halfway through the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon texted Josephine to ask her to cancel the caterers for his impending victory bash.

And so, I writhed in wait. I had no idea how much time had passed. I curled sideways in my bed, clutching my knees. With a shred of hope, I opened the Tupperware containing my iPhone and pushed every button I could find. I blew on the charging port, like people used to blow on old Nintendo games. No sign of life.

I hoisted myself up and looked in the mirror. I barely recognized myself. I tried to recall the girl on my Facebook profile that I was accustomed to, but I couldn’t. Nor could I recall the faces of my friends. I directed my attention to the top of my dresser lined with my favorite lipsticks. I couldn’t recall their purpose – I only understood they were richly pigmented. I felt an urge to communicate with others. I had a feeling to broadcast; I needed to express the monstrous yearning bubbling within me.

I unscrewed the top of a tube of lipstick and made a single stroke on the bedroom wall. I drew a small girl in bright berry, and a thunderstorm above her in party pink. I knew that if another human should pass through this place centuries from now, they would have a visual representation of my grief.

I opened my mouth and bellowed to no effect. No one came to my aid. Were I to see another human in my state, I doubt I would know how to react to them. I had utterly lost my capacity for language. I growled and rolled from side to side in my bed. I had forgotten to eat. I had no food at home, and I had no way of ordering anything. I knew I had to emerge from my den.

I swaddled myself under layers of cloth to protect my hide from the elements. The earth was soft with rain. My unwashed hair hung in scraggles around my jaw and I searched for something to eat.

I saw something I remembered – it reminded me of something I knew. It looked vaguely like me – it was tall, with longish appendages. It had eyes, level with mine – of course, I thought. It was human-shaped, just like me. I had all but forgotten what they were, what I was. I approached cautiously and sniffed it. I pawed it apprehensively. Our chance meeting unsettled my companion, who brushed me away. As the human continued behind me, I looked back – it removed something rectangular from its pocket. The object was shiny, with buttons – he held it up to his face and began to emit noise. Language, I thought. I remembered what the device was – it was an iPhone, too. I had forgotten what it was like to possess one. I had taken it for granted, and now I was living without one.

Nearly cripped by hunger and aided by the softness of the mud, I began to dig for food. I scraped off chunks of tree root with my fingernails and rinsed them in the water that had collected at the curb. I ate as many of these chunks as I could conjure, but the root was tough and deep – I would need more to prosper. I began to bellow. I ripped up clumps of grass and chewed on them, but it wasn’t enough.

I walked a few hundred meters bent over and dragging. I had no shoes and the soles of my feet buckled over the stones in the street – I would have to allow them to callous, I knew. I saw a small bodega on the corner. I burst in the door, sopping wet and famished. I had no means by which to pay – the idea of faith-based currency eluded me. In the wild, you play by other rules. I roared at the shopkeeper, stormed toward a bag of Doritos and ran back out the door, clutching my libations to my chest and grunting with joy over my impending meal. I did not want to fight the shopkeeper for my meal, so I crouched in a thorny bush around the corner. Concealed, I ate the contents in the bag by the handful. I rested.

I have no idea how much time I spent in the bush, but I emerged some time later, covered with cheese dust and bloody from the thorns. I was in a daze. I was sated, for now, but I knew that I needed something to store for future meals. I needed enough to prevent starvation, should I need to remain in shelter for a long period. I began to tread back toward the direction I recalled coming from – I couldn’t remember my home, but I had a vague sense that I belonged there. I knew that the sticks I had gathered would be too wet to create fire.

On the way home, I understood what I had to do. I needed my nourishment to ensure physical strength. I needed to hunt something to eat. I felt a biological drive to overpower a creature below me on the food chain. I careened home on my knuckles and searched for a vulnerable animal.

A few feet from the front opening to my lair, I saw a small, fuzzy animal with pointy ears and a tail. I paused, planning my pounce. I watched the creature lick its paw and rub its neck against the bricks of my dwelling. I stayed as still as possible – any sound of a cracking branch underfoot could send the animal fleeing. I stared at it. Had it noticed me? Would it fight back? Could I digest it after swallowing it whole, or would I have to chew? I bent down at the knees, lowering myself from my prey’s gaze. I held my breath and propelled myself forward with all of the power I could muster, pouncing toward the unwitting animal. I was not fast enough – seeing my pounce, it ran – and I was left in a heap of failure, curled on my front porch, awaiting my next chance for a kill.

Suddenly, I saw something through the glass of my home. A distant, blinking light, surrounded by darkness. I didn’t understand at first, but my memory came rushing back to me – the light was in the shape of an apple.

I dragged my entire body on my elbows and hands into the living room. I pulled myself up to the table with all of my strength to reach for the light. My arms were stretched further than I believed that they could, and the light was in my hand. I pressed the button below it, and an entire screen appeared.

Like Lazarus, my iPhone was back. I could barely place my faith in the good news, but it was true. My texts, my apps, my twitter feed and facebook notifications, they were all there! I had gotten a voicemail from my mom. I remembered her. I knew who she was. I was a human again. I knew my own name! Natalie! Natalie! With that, I was reconnected to the world.

Memories of my hours-long descent into barbarism without an iPhone feel distant, now. I have changed greatly as a result. I know now that I like having my iPhone, but I can survive without it. You can connect to others and be a part of your universe without a smart phone. The really important things in life do not fit within the confines of an iPhone screen. Like blogging, for example. Have you tried to do that with an iPhone keyboard? Tedious. I think I’m going to break down one of these days and buy an iPad.