Flip Phone February

By Greg Schwem | March 15th, 2024

The return to not-so-smart phones is going out with a ‘thwack’

three old cell phones on a black background, for article on Flip Phone February. Image by Darryl Brooks

“Baby boomers and Gen Xers recall these devices with a mix of nostalgia and frustration,” says humorist Greg Schwem of flip phones. He notes the downsides of the not-so-smart phones and explains why he didn’t join Flip Phone February.

It was somewhere around 2005. I was at the Miami airport, about to jump into a cab that would take me to Miami Beach for a corporate speaking engagement. A striking looking brunette, late 20s, asked if she could share my transportation.

“Of course,” I said. “Hop in.”

We weren’t in the vehicle three minutes before her purse rang. Removing her phone and unfolding it, she told the caller that, yes, she had landed safely in Miami, yes, she was in a cab with “some guy” and, yes, she could really use a margarita. Maybe two.

The call ended and, with one hand, she refolded her phone. The maneuver culminated with an annoying THWACK, the sound flip phones, the predecessors to iPhones, made when owners closed them too violently. Fifteen seconds later, the phone rang again. The same scene transpired: I’m almost there, see you soon, THWACK!

This continued at least a dozen times. From her conversations, I deduced she was some sort of fashion model. Had this encounter occurred today, I would have labeled her an “influencer,” so often was her phone present. By the time we were crossing the Venetian Causeway, I didn’t care if I was sharing a taxi with the current Vogue cover girl. I wanted to rip that device out of her hand, toss it out the window, and watch her beautiful face as she listened to it THWACK the pavement or the water.

The memory is why I neglected to participate in Flip Phone February.

On the heels of Dry January, where one attempts to abstain from alcohol for 31 days (Confession: I failed that challenge too) comes a month where iPhone and Android users are encouraged to trade in their omnipresent devices for feature-less and less addictive flip phones.

Motorola created the first flip, the StarTAC, in 1996. Baby boomers and Gen Xers recall these devices with a mix of nostalgia and frustration. Yes, it fit in our pockets and, yes, it could send these strange short messages known as “texts,” but that involved multiple key taps. Gen Zers and Gen Alphas, imagine having to press the “5” key three times just to type “L.” I mean, it made texting while driving damn near impossible!

Flip Phone February proponents have been documenting their experiences online via blogs, podcasts and op-ed articles in major newspapers. Their frustrations range from the antiquated technology — downgrading to 2G isn’t as easy as it sounds — to the loss of apps Smartphone users have become so dependent on. It’s hard to immediately answer that Slack message from a co-worker when your phone doesn’t support Slack.

Yet these same users also admit they feel less stressed and more in the moment with their surroundings since their eyes and fingers are not constantly scrolling through Instagram stories, potential dating matches and presidential candidate blunder videos. They sleep better, spend more time with their children, and spend less money on their monthly plans.

But do they THWACK?

I can’t promise I wouldn’t THWACK if I retreated to a flip phone. I do remember owning one and, on occasion, closing it loudly if a call ended in frustration. As Jerry Seinfeld and other comedians have observed, one can’t forcefully hang up on somebody using an iPhone. Slamming down the receiver in anger was one of the great features of landline phones; callers on the other end knew their conversations had been terminated. A flip could do the same thing, sort of.

For now, I intend to keep my shiny new iPhone 15. February is over anyway, so it makes little sense to enter my neighborhood cellphone store and explain to a 19-year-old kid why I want to downgrade to a flip phone. It would be like asking a Tesla sales rep if he had any Cadillac Coupe de Villes on the used car lot.

I wonder what challenge awaits me next month?

Taylor- and Travis-less March?

Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad and the recently released The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian, available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the web at www.gregschwem.com.

© 2024 Greg Schwem. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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