Issue: August 2011
BYPOINTS: The Phone That Came Out From the Cold

Not long ago, to the great amusement of my so-called friends and alleged family, I misplaced my iPhone. No, that in itself was not particularly funny. Here's what was funny, to them: I misplaced it in the refrigerator. . . . Yeah, yeah, go ahead, laugh it up, hardy-har-har. Let's hear all the gags, about "cold calling," about the "chilling effect" on my social life, about the sandwich in my pocket. I've heard 'em all. Go on, get it out of your system. I'll wait. . . .

Are you done? Okay, so here's the thing: It's a huge pain to lose your iPhone. Just for starters, there's the unrecoverable forfeiture of no fewer than seven ongoing Scrabble games--which is no laughing matter, people, especially when in one of those games you're just one wide-open e away from spelling "inveigle." I ask you, how many times in one's Scrabble career can one expect to spell "inveigle"? So there's that. And there's the expense and headache of replacing the phone, only slightly offset by the hypnotic shininess of the replacement. And there are those several days of feeling untethered, cut off from your own life, unable to order pizza or contact your family or friends from, say, a remote anchorage or the middle of a cornfield, assuming said anchorage or cornfield has good AT&T coverage.

What troubled me most, though--when I thought the phone might be lost for good, not just chilling in the fridge--was that I'd lost the squiggly little line I'd etched onto Kent Island the previous weekend with an iPhone app called Trails. It's a hiking-biking version of a feature that most maritime GPS chartplotters have: the ability to record your track over a given period of time and save it, as a squiggly line on a chart, for future reference. Well, this is what I had in mind for my recent boat-and-bicycle adventure on Kent Island, which you can read about in the September issue. I'm not sure why it appealed to me so, this idea of having a precise, satellite-tracked record of my bike-trail exploits. The Kent Island trails aren't all that complicated; one of them goes east-west and the other goes north-south. It would be easy enough to just draw a line on a map. With pencil and paper. Remember those?

That's the irony, the underlying absurdity, of many iPhone apps: they're cool not because what they do is useful, but because they can do what they do. As often as not, the low-tech method is easier or better, sometimes both. Indeed, pretty much anything our art department can whip up in the way of a Kent Island bike-trail map will beat the pants off a screen shot from my iPhone.

And here's a last little bit of irony: After I found my phone in the fridge, you'll never guess what I did--I mean right after I went out in a cornfield and ordered pizza. Can you guess? No? I accidentally deleted the Kent Island bike-trail track that I'd created with Trails. Grrr.

On the upside, I'll always have Scrabble. And a sandwich in my pocket.


Tim Sayles, Editor