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Cellphone

My phone’s been livelier than usual lately. I don’t know if it’s related to my 412th update since November 6, but I seem to have uploaded an aggressive strain of nosy.

Everywhere I go, my phone seems to know where I am, and it takes great delight in telling me with a stunning array of sounds. It's like an ex-girlfriend calling from 3,000 miles away to compliment you on the blue sweater you wore to Fred Meyer that morning. The police have told me there’s nothing they can do short of sending tersely worded Nixles or waiting until I’m a PulsePoint notification.

My pocket goes “fft!” as I leave Target. Typically, that thrills me; it means the 12 Fran Leibowitz books I ordered at 3 a.m. after waking up with an urge to defend her at a cocktail party have landed on my doorstep.

This time, however, it means my phone and Target are talking behind my back. Now come questions about customer satisfaction. Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag. By the time I reach my car, four cart attendants have been promoted, and hey, isn’t that a Pizza Hut across the parking lot? Didn’t I order a Meat Lover’s there last December? How was it?

Now I’m at the library, slumbering in a chair. Badonkadonk! Did I know there were seven authorized La-Z-Boy retailers in the mid-Willamette Valley? By the way, the proper body weight/cushion give ratio should always be divisible by four. Also, if I wanted, I could interpret my dreams with the following reference titles available in the second-floor mezzanine. P.S. I suffer from sleep apnea and snore at decibels rivaling Testament’s The Legacy.

Later, I’m at Taco Bell. My phone burbles like R2-D2 with a hangover. I check my screen and up pop a tiny fork and plate, two items I’ve never used at the place. “RATE YOUR VISIT!” it demands, offering me up to five stars. Which begs the question: What constitutes a five-star experience at Taco Bell? Alcohol? Birthday cake? True love? I've never ordered a chicken quesadilla and received duck foie gras torchon paired with a Sauvignon Blanc instead, so what do I care? Taco Bell’s cheap, fast and gaseous — a proudly average two-star operation. If the lights are on and the fans work, great. I submit my info. No one is fired. The building does not explode.

That night I’m at work, monitoring sports scores for front-page skybox text, ready to dazzle readers with verbs like drops, falls, flattens, stomps, destroys, loses, lacquers and swaddles. Since my phone and office computer share me, those lucky ducks, both assume I'm day-and-night jonesing for sports-related updates. So Google thinks nothing of jarring me out of bed with Blazers trades, sneaker deals and LeBron James tweets.

Somehow, I’ve even gone international, thanks to an unfortunate decision to watch an Eric Cantona highlight reel online. As I innocently chuckled at every gushing play-by-play — “And here comes the Frenchman, from 62 quadrants out ... he delivers a deft pass downfield — to HIMSELF! GOAALLLLLL! KING CANTONAAAAAHHHH!” — my phone compiled a dossier on my new favorite team, Manchester United. Within weeks I joined post-match brays of “We’re the boys in red and we’re on our way to Wembley,” gang-trolling haters across social media. While arguing on Facebook with some right-smug Liverpool sod, I remembered I don’t even like American football, much less its superior ancestor. The Smiths and Stone Roses are from Manchester, and that’s all I care to know.

Invasive technology wasn’t always this bad. Once upon a time you could tag a hotel in a complaint about pool temperature, then subtly feel the water grow warm around you. Or retweet Anheuser-Busch and instantly become drunk. Facebook reminded you of birthdays, allowing you to fake more thoughtful connections. Services notified you of nearby friends, so you could mutter strained greetings or avoid them entirely.

But now we travel with endless interrogations and invitations to perpetual engagement, as our phones demand to know more than they already do. Mine just realized I’ve been sitting for the last half-hour and has suggested I walk into oncoming traffic. It’s also recommending I pop my collar and peg my jeans, which means I gotta disable Rockabilly Mode — again.

Sentences appear before I type them, their vulgarities softened by a puritanical autocorrect (which nonetheless allows the very offensive “Zooey Deschanel”). Gmail and Facebook Messenger insist on tailoring my responses to “will do!” and “on it!” and “sure!” instead of “whatever,” “drop dead” and “no hablo ingles.” My online “likes” have become an albatross, tightening my perspective to what’s palatable over what’s necessary.

Meanwhile, my phone and I wander through town (6,490 steps today, according to my LG Health app), pelting civilization with stars and emojis, awaiting the update that renders us as one at last.

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Cory Frye is a news editor and, if you can believe it, a legitimately published author.

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