12/04/2018
pls reply asap ü

My first mobile phone was a Nokia 5110. It was a hand-me-down from my mother, who got herself a Nokia 3310 - a phone that I would later inherit, and then lose on my way home from a field trip.

While I had custody of that phone, it wasn't exclusively mine. It was also my sister's. It was 2001; we all moved to a new school, and the phone was there so we can update our parents on our whereabouts, which didn't exactly work because my sister and I were in two separate buildings, and we don't really cross paths, because, well, why would a high school freshman revisit the elementary school building? Even if that wasn't my elementary school?

Still, I had custody of the phone, which meant everything had to go the way I want it to be. All contacts in the phonebook - remember when SIM cards carried all contact information, and you can only put so much - had to be written in small letters. She had a friend called Sig (I don't think it's short for Sigourney) and on the 5110 it was written as "sig". She was her only contact; everyone else were either my classmates or my relatives.

Mobile phones weren't new in 2001, but it was reaching critical mass: they were getting smaller, and they were getting stylish. Our 5110 had a blue clip-on cover; I don't remember if I personally chose it, but I definitely hated the third-party covers that had outrageous, badly-printed patterns on them. But then, that wasn't the point. You could now text people. You could actually send text messages to people. You didn't have much space - 160 characters, remember? - so you had to squeeze everything in a very short frame.

"hu dis?"

Oh, shit, it's my crush from elementary school! I'm giddy now. I'm really giddy. How do I reply? My crush is texting me! You only have this one shot to make a good impression. And you have to make sure the conversation continues, never mind that you had to pay a peso for every message sent. Make. It. Count!

"hi! msta n? pls reply asap ü"

I have a distinct memory of saying that to a crush via text. Good heavens, was I that clingy? Was I that hungry for conversation that I had to beg people to reply to me? Was I always that hungry for someone to talk to? The precedent runs seventeen years, and it is not a good look. But then, texting someone all those years ago was exciting. There were a lot of new dynamics you never really thought about. We didn't have the concept of being seen-zoned, of leaving someone hanging, or chopping up a long text into sixteen smaller messages to prove a point (or to be annoying, perhaps unintentionally). It felt like every message mattered, because the person on the other end can easily be annoyed and just drop the conversation then and there.

That wasn't the case with a landline phone. Now, that was exhilarating. It took a while before my subdivision had telephone lines installed. I think I was in third grade, or fourth grade, back then. I had this phonebook with the landline numbers of every single one of my classmates - all 45 of them, I think. When you needed to ask someone something about a group project, say, you can bust out that booklet, flip to the right page, and hope nobody is at the phone.

My one distinct memory with that first landline, though, was when we had a project where we had to collect as many old newspapers as we could. Or was it old bottles? Bottle caps? Anyway, this classmate of mine boasted that she had a lot already. In hindsight, it made sense, because her family ran a school supplies store, although I never knew if they ever did good business. Maybe. But that didn't matter. I was annoyed, and I banged the phone on her.

And your responses...

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