THE BROKEN PHONE
What’s your worse travel nightmare? For me it boils down to three main ones – losing my passport, losing my phone, and getting sick. I once had explosive diarrhoea on a trip to Bali (pro tip: you should never eat uncooked sambal made by an uncle who looks like a pot dealer), but even that doesn’t top my latest misadventure. On a recent trip to Tokyo, my phone fell at the market, the LCD cracked and that was the end of its short, two-year life.
There were about four more days until home and hand phone repairs were especially expensive in Japan if it’s not a Japanese product. Losing a phone while traveling is almost like losing a lifeline – you lose access to the camera and the internet, which also means you lose access to roadmaps, travel reviews, Google translate and train schedules.
I was exasperated over this loss. How would I know which train to take from one place to another, in Tokyo, the city of a million train routes? How would I tell the waiter I do not want pork in my Ramen? How do I retrieve that picture-perfect selfie I did by the Sakura trees?
But to be honest, here is the reason why I was really upset; there were things in that phone I was not ready to let go of just yet. Old text messages from someone, old pictures of adventures that seemed a million years ago and feels like a dream now. Having these things in that phone, even though I never look at them anymore, felt like re-assurances that they were real, that they really happened somehow.
It wasn’t about the bloody Google Translate at all.
It is sometimes hard to explain the science of letting go. The logic behind it is simple. Things end, and people move on, as do life. So have I, I think. I can’t really confirm or quantify it, because I have long ago accepted that I am absolutely a weirdo in that front – I take a long time to let go of people, even when I know I should. Most days I would feel like I am completely done with it, but sometimes melancholy kicks in and I would miss a dead dream. I know this is the case for a lot of us too. Before we know it we find ourselves checking in (read: internet stalking) once in a while, or think of people when we do certain things because it was what they used to do, too.
After all, love is never exactly common sense. That’s why mothers can go beyond the extraordinary for their children, that’s why sometimes we yearn for people who are already dead, and that’s why it changes our lives and views in ways we never thought possible. The fact it is never completely comprehensible is what makes it magical. And the process of letting go, which is just another façade of love, is also just as perplexing and complicated.
Somehow, getting rid of things that remind me of the person feels like a cruel way of denying they ever existed, something I absolutely despise doing. So I don’t. And when they’re involuntarily taken away from me, like those messages and pictures that disappeared with the death of that phone, it made me really upset.
When I returned home and took the phone to the phone clinic, the techno expert slash judgmental salesman (“Why don’t you buy yourself a RM300 Vevo phone? You can afford that one, I’m sure”, he said, glancing at my worn out flip flops that I forgot to change out of) confirmed that there was no way to retrieve the text messages or all of the pictures in the broken phone. Really? Are you sure? Yes, he was sure. Best let go of this old model and move on to something new.
It made me upset for a whole day.
“Are you really this upset over a broken, old phone?” A friend asked.
Yes, I answered.
“Well, letting go completely is always hard. Especially if it was something you were fond of.” She said.
It is indeed.