When A Phone Is Still A Phone: A Reboot, Of Sorts

flat lay photography of red anti radiation handset telephone beside iphone
Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 on Pexels.com

Recently I wondered aloud about when a phone is no longer a phone. I mentioned how I seemed to use my phone for everything but what a telephone was originally made for: making and receiving phone calls. I noted how, in September, I had a combined 6 calls made and received in total, though it feels as though I use my phone constantly throughout the day. I wondered what alternative names we might give to this device that is named for a function I so rarely use. My favorite suggestion, by the way, is what they call phones in the U.K.: “mobiles.”

You can always count on your friends to try to pick you up in these times of confusion and bewilderment. And so it was that on the very first day of October, I received a calI from a friend. I had spent most of the day refactoring a bunch of Groovy code that I had written, and when I’d finished, I felt a needed a walk outdoors to help me come out of my code coma and back into the world of the normally conscious. I headed out under bright blue skies, taking my phone along with me, mostly so that I could continue to listen to the book I was reading, The Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbably Education of Henry Adams by David S. Brown. I was about a third of the way through said walk, with Adams setting about to write his famous history of the United States, when the narrator’s voice faded, and my phone began to ring.

I pulled it out of my pocket to make sure I could safely ignore the call–I don’t answer calls for numbers I don’t recognize, and this tends to be 9 out of 10 calls I get. On the screen, however, what I saw was “Michael A. Burstein.” I answered at once, trying not to sound winded as I walked. “Hey, Michael, what’s up?” I asked.

“See1,” Michael said without any preface, “you do use your phone.” I had to admit that I did, but of course, I recognized the name, one that doesn’t appear often enough on my phone because Michael is a joy to talk with. And this time, he had proven his point: on the very day I published a post claiming that I almost never used my phone as a phone anymore, here I was using it as a phone.

What followed, however, was comic in its irony. Let me use a visual aid to tell this part of the story.

So, (1) Michael called me to prove that I do use my phone as a phone. Note that this entry at the bottom of my call log is “mobile.” Then (2) Michael got the idea that we could do a FaceTime call. For some reason, we couldn’t get the video to work, which is odd because I use FaceTime with family quite frequently. So after some texting (not shown) Michael called me back (3) via phone to commiserate on this technological mystery. There were then several attempts (4) to get a FaceTime call working. Michael tried again (5), but that seemed to fail and it showed up as a missed call. Finally (6) using his daughter’s phone, Michael was able to connect and we could see one another. I had stopped short of the 7-Eleven I usually walk to and they could see the parking lot and the bright blue sky in the background. After the call, I stopped in the store for some ice cream and started my walk home.

We continued to text, however. Michael was trying to figure out why his daughter’s phone worked but his didn’t. He tried again (7), and I saw nothing–another missed call. Finally, I saw a FaceTime call come through and answered it (8). It was Michael, on his own phone and the FaceTime call succeeded. The solution to get it all working: Michael rebooted his phone.

I’d like to point out for the record here that 2 of the 10 calls on the above list were actual “phone” calls where I was using my phone as a phone. The other 8 calls (and several text messages) were attempts of middle-aged men trying and failing to use technology on their phones far beyond the powers and abilities of mortal phone calls.

I’d also like to point out: I don’t recall ever having to reboot the phone attached to the wall in our kitchen when I was growing up. I’m not even sure the term “reboot” existed at that point.

It was wonderful talking with Michael, as it always is, but man, the technology was wearing me out. Between the coding and trying to get FaceTime to work, I needed a break. When I finally got back home, I tossed my phone on my desk, headed out onto the deck, and poured myself a drink. Or two.

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  1. I may be paraphrasing here.


  1. I love this story, but of course I do. 🙂

    And yeah, we never had to reboot our kitchen wall phones. But my point was that even though our new mobiles (see, I’m using the word) do so much more than phones, we still use them as phones! 🙂


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