I have spent the past two weeks with a burner flip phone as my only source of communication and successfully became a unicorn in modern society.

This wasn’t a social experiment or an attempt to protest Apple products. It was merely the byproduct of a software update gone sour. Two weeks ago, I fell asleep with my iPhone X updating, and when I woke up, the only life left within my device was the blinking apple logo. After hours on the phone with Apple customer service, several trips to the Apple Store 30 minutes from campus, and 14 strands of hair pulled from my scalp the dust finally settled. My phone’s fate: death and no afterlife.

But it gets worse. This phone that suddenly died of a circuit board failure was not backed up. All of my photos, contacts, notes, and countless other items from my first 18 months in college — poof — gone. However, there was a way to recover my content, but the only locations for the service are in Nevada and the Bay Area. Luckily for me, I was heading up to Berkeley the very next day for the USC versus Cal game.

I planned to get a burner phone for the weekend so I didn’t get lost, then I’d get a new one with my old information after the weekend was over. Looking back now, I missed on every cylinder.

A $30 flip phone, microSD card, and a call to Verizon later and I was heading up the coast making non-stop burner jokes and prank calling friends on the anonymous Los Angeles phone number.

Finally, my roommate’s six hour trip behind the wheel ends… and mine begins. I grab the keys, write down the phone drop-off address on hotel stationery and head into the car. Well, to say San Francisco has poor signage throughout the city is an understatement. I had a series of three turns I needed to make to get there and I could not for the life of me find the first one. I drove around in that hilly city for 45 minutes asking strangers on the sidewalk if they can point me in the direction of 101 North. I took everyone’s word as gold, as the great American people did in the flip-phone-days.

No one’s directions were correct. I called my roommate, got directions back to the hotel, and planned to make the trip Sunday morning before we went home, this time with a friend’s smartphone. In the end, I dropped off the phone and the data was extracted, but my dabble in the flip-phone era will remain a laughable and humbling time in my college experience.

Just last week, it poured in Los Angeles for the first time in a while, and per usual, the whole city lost their minds. People whipped out the umbrellas they packed for the one day per year it rains and USC students skipped class because they didn’t want to get rained on. I spotted a student crossing the street across from me riding his unicycle to class. In the rain. 

Thinking it was hilarious, I laughed to myself and grabbed my phone to take a quick picture. I flipped it open, pressed the button that has an icon of a camera, and then it hits me: What’s funnier, the guy on the unicycle or the 19-year-old laughing to himself taking photos on a flip phone?

Walking to classes every day without earbuds in my ears or the ability to file through social media allowed me to live a disconnected lifestyle where I could really take in my environment. During that time, I realized that every second spent on a smartphone is a second not spent enjoying where you are and who you are with. And, being in such a lively environment as a college student, I’m enlightened on how I’d like to engage with my community in ways that don’t include gluing my eyes on a smartphone. People rely on their phones as crutches in social situations too often, and when you remove the phone from the equation, you become human again.

I’ll be getting my new iPhone this week after 15 days of using that beloved flip phone, and I’ll still probably be answering the new one with “Hey, it’s the burner.”


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