New Orleans, LA–The strange thing about New Year’s Eve is that it’s the only form of pre-planned fun that succeeds for me. There are an endless number of holidays that are supposed to be fun, but never live up to the hype, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Cinco De Mayo (which is actually somewhat fun when it spawns ecstatic bouts of Tequila drinking by people who wrongly believe they are celebrating Mexican independence), Easter and Halloween Then there are personal holidays, such as birthdays, graduations and anniversaries, which are undoubtedly some of the most underwhelming and tragic moments of human existence and no reasonable person should attach any significance to.
But New Year’s Eve, for some freakish reason, sits in a category all by itself. It seems to be the one night that people really act freely, conducting themselves with the reckless whimsy of sailors with a sole evening in port. It is less of a celebration and more of a ritualistic cleansing, which may be due to the fact that at least subconsciously one can attribute everything that happens on New Year’s Eve to “last year.”
This, along with a number of other reasons, is probably why I haven’t had one bad New Year’s Eve in the last decade. Rarely, if ever, do I make any sort of elaborate plan for New Year’s and 50% of the time I have no plans at all. On many occasions, the night has started out languidly and I have wondered if the streak would die, but it never has. Yet this year, my yuletide felicity was threatened by an adversary so grotesquely powerful and omnipresent that it would make even Dick Clark cringe. It was the only force, outside of the police, which had the clout to isolate me from everyone I know and stuff me into a pocket of self-reflection where I stumbled helplessly throughout the streets like a lost dog.
Of course, I am talking about my Iphone.
The Iphone and the corresponding meteoric rise in “smart phones” is arguably the most influential development of the last decade. It’s become ubiquitous and ordinary at such a breakneck speed that it’s shocking to think that three years ago you were novel (possibly even cool) for having an Iphone. In my life, owning the Iphone has changed a number of things, the most important of which are that (a) I can settle any trivial argument instantly and (b) I never have to ask for directions. It is also an incredible device for looking preoccupied and vaguely important in situations that are socially awkward (mostly election day parties).
But there is a downside to so much technological privilege: dependency.
There are now people in this world who have become incapable of even simple navigational skills without a digital map accompanying them. Furthermore, there are people who appear to be unable to experience any part of human existence without translating it to the rest of the universe via Twitter. But, to be honest, most of these people likely had serious life problems before they bought Iphones.
Fundamentally, the Iphone is just an extension of the cell phone and the home phone as it simply makes it so much easier to communicate in and navigate the world and, when it is occasionally unavailable, makes the world seem like an impossibly complicated place.
This is what happened to me on News Year’s Eve in the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, when AT&T users (the only company to service the Iphone) congregated in such mass that for two hours nobody with an Iphone had service. Thousands were stranded and transformed into refugees of the digital world. Lost in transit between groups of friends, I walked down the Riverwalk, slaloming between clots of revelers and facing the fact that I might spend the entire night alone.
I have been alone a lot this year. I have been alone on three different continents and in a dozen countries and I have not minded at all. But nobody wants to be alone on New Year’s Eve, when the ball or the baby or some piece of illuminated machinery drops from the heavens and drunken single people under thirty wonder which borderline unattractive person they’ll regret making out with.
Of course, the Riverwalk was flush with interesting things to see. There were white people and black people and a number of people from Florida and Ohio (teams who played in the Sugar Bowl) and a multitude of tough-looking teenagers wearing wife-beaters and flannel and drinking malt liquor out of water bottles. There was an excess of cleavage, an excess of knee-high black boots, a scarcity of kazoos that almost caused a fistfight, and an odd number of people who appeared to be suffering the same fate of Iphonelessness as me.
The baby fell, the fireworks exploded, the protracted makeout sessions climaxed and a number of people from Ohio attempted to drive down pedestrian walkways in their mini-vans. It was 2010, a new year and a new decade. My phone reception picked up within minutes and I was soon reunited with a pack of friends, many of whom had spent the last two hours floundering in the same state of abject loneliness.
We were filled with a desperate energy–a frenzy incited by isolation and cemented by the compulsion that we had dodged a bullet and needed to make up for lost time. I gestured feverishly, explaining my plight, while a friend answered a build-up of text messages. As he tapped away, he whirled toward me and his phone careened off my fingers, into the air, and then onto the cement with a thud. The LCD screen was cracked like a glass spider web.
I was strangely jealous of the carnage. In fact, at my basest I wished I had broken my own phone. This feeling–the idea of hating the evolution of technology simply because it breeds dependency–is likely something one could only experience in the most recent millennium. I doubt that in 1920 anyone whined about the nuisance of “having to do everything with the lights on” and forgetting how to work under candlelight. Although maybe I’m wrong. I simply know that the idea of living without a phone that can track my progress toward a 7-11 with a light blue GPS ball feels boring and primitive regardless of how pathetic it is, which is probably why I resisted the temptation to smash mine next to my friend’s.
Instead, we shrugged, picked up the pieces and walked on happily to a party featuring a giant tree house, which I didn’t leave until 7 a.m. Thus, my streak of epic New Years continued (three in a row, since I’ve had my Iphone).