I despise my phone.
They say that smart phone theft is one of the most common crimes. Having had my iPhone stolen, I should know. But that was ages ago.
Getting a new iPhone was not realistic. The replacement that I ended up with was a purple LG Optimus S. The fact that it is purple should say something. What kind of enterprising thief steals a purple phone?
Ages later, that phone has descended into something not worthy of theft. Let me start with the gunk that I can’t seem to get off the screen no matter how much cleanser I use. Then there is the matter of how I have had to uninstall nearly every app just so the whole thing wouldn’t die on me from lack of space. I kept Maps and Pandora because they are necessities — the former for navigation (my sense of direction is woeful) and the latter because, hello, music. And yet, I can only despise my phone with the same arm’s length that a mother’s misery for her children exists insofar as not very long.
It’s been a faithful little bugger. I’ve dropped it, nearly cracked it, and twice I have left it in a public bathroom and returned quickly enough that no one had swiped it — not that, as I’ve said, anyone would want to. Another reason: the back case is starting to get loose. If that goes, then the battery goes, and there goes the whole damned phone. I don’t know how to fix it. I’m on the verge of applying tape.
I was at church yesterday when the phone spontaneously erupted into music. This is not unusual. The routine is that sometimes I’ll put the phone to sleep and slip it into my pocket but for some reason it doesn’t always go to sleep. Unbeknownst to me, it stays lit up in there, which means that the screen is active, which means that sometimes it has placed calls on my behalf (butt dials), sent texts on my behalf (butt texts), and, as was the case yesterday, launched Pandora.
The pastor, standing at her usual lectern, widened her eyes at me. Her mouth formed a tent somewhere between smiling and grimacing.
"Is that your ring tone, Joe?" she asked. My heart was racing too fast for me to decipher the sweetness dripping from her question. (Actually, my pastor is pretty cool. The reason why my heart was racing is because I’m easily embarrassed and, also, because I hate my phone — have I mentioned that?)
"It’s not supposed to do that," I said, breathless with embarrassment as I hurriedly took out the phone and directed my words at the thing as if it were capable of processing my scold. (It’s barely capable of processing anything, much less sentience.)
Pandora was, indeed, launched. The song it happened to be playing? This one.
The app had been closed for most of the afternoon. I do usually enjoy listening to music when I commute, but I’m really behind on my homework, so I was reading on the bus instead of listening to music. So I took a little walk before I actually got to church, because I needed to clear my head, since even homework plunges me into existentialism.
I daydreamed, as I am wont to do, about all the various scenarios of meeting you. ”Oh Tim, you show up to my church on the one day that I am dressed like a bag lady?” said myself in one daydreamed line of dialogue.
In reality, I was actually dressed rather crappily. I’d left the house in the same t-shirt from the night before and huge sweat pants that I sometimes like to call my fat pants. Also, I even nearly wore my crocs but, even though I love my crocs — they are shoes that get a lot of flack for how they look, but when you slip them on, sheer comfort cancels out all of that — I came to my senses and figured they would be pushing the whole careless look. But the song was not one of the ones that played during that walk.
* * *
Hours earlier, I’m emerging from the bathroom. Clutching a corner of the wrapped towel in one hand, in the other I have my routine bag of toiletries plus the little radio, now switched off, that I routinely bring with me to ballgames.
Clara is standing in the hallway and I automatically assume that she has been waiting. Before I can apologize, she says brightly, “You’ve been listening to a lot of sports radio lately, huh?’
I get cold easily, Linc, so as soon as she lets off that she is in no rush to get into the bathroom, I hurry past her to get on with my grooming.
"I always listen to KNBR,” I tell her, setting down my stuff and beginning the hunt for the products that maintain my skin in such condition that sometimes I’m asked by older folks about my plans for college.
"Well of course you do," Clara remarks. "But I’ve been hearing it a lot more lately. Are you waiting for news about Timmy?"
Yea I’m waiting for news about you.
But since 2009, sports talk has been very instrumental in helping me better understand baseball. Plus some of the radio personalities are wonderful — sometimes I think that I tune into Giants games because of Jon Miller just a little bit more than to listen to the game itself. And since there is really no such thing as a radio station that talks just about baseball, I have been educated about sports in general, so much that I am almost like these guys. (Maybe not.)
I explain most of this to Clara, and it seems to satisfy her curiosity to such a degree that she giggles and disappears into the bathroom, closing the door behind her to do her business.
* * *
I, for one, am not going anywhere.
Sometimes it does help to frame my life in the context of a baseball player, especially when I come to a point when I have to look for a new organization. When I have to make a fresh start. But I’m no baseball player.
I keep toying with the idea of moving back to Maryland. I have even discussed the possibility with Pop and Ma. What I would be leaving behind here in San Francisco is an entire life of lasting relationships, relationships that took time to build: friends, church, colleagues. But the missing link is good, steady work. It’s tough out here, Linc. It’s tough out here when you aren’t a pro ballplayer.
I feel inexplicably bound to this place. What’s more, more often than not, the binding feels voluntary. Even though I left the bookstore, I’d still like to end up working at one, possibly for the rest of my life, and being that crazy old fart who has been there forever who the locals simultaneously revere and fear. This strikes me as a reasonably insane aspiration as being your husband.
The interesting thing about being a fan is that, if you’re not crazy, what ends up happening over time is that the person you are a fan of starts to become more humanized. You read things about them, you hear things about them, and even though the two of you inhabit worlds so wildly disparate that you can never hope to fill in all of the blanks, you don’t necessarily need information about the actual person to make a good guess about who he is. You start to accept that he is not, in fact, this larger-than-life persona you’ve made him out to be, the mysterious recipient of letters that will never be sent. He’s just a guy.
After church last night, I found myself at home alone for about an hour while Clara and her fiancé went out to do some grocery shopping. I was doing my homework when, as these things end up happening when you are doing homework, my mind wandered.
I looked upward, to the ceiling, and also past the ceiling.
"Is he a good man, though?" I asked. Prayed.
The thing about prayer is that I don’t always have faith that God is listening — and the thing about not always having faith that God is listening, is that I don’t disbelieve that God is there. At the end of the day, I’m a Believer. It’s just that sometimes I desperately want for Him to respond literally: a burning bush, you know, or, even better, for a sick friend to miraculously get well. I want fireworks. I want something huge and dramatic — just the kind of failing that the Bible railed against, in that part where someone says that they, the people, will lust for signs and wonders. (Some elder I am. I can’t even remember verses.)
At church, the pastor selected me to lead community prayer. She had actually asked me over the week if I wanted to do this, so it was not recompense for my unruly phone. The time for community prayer routinely goes long, just because so many folks have so many stories to share, so many burdens to lift, so many things to get off their chests and share with the community, with God. But this time, we were pressed for time, and the pastor advised me to try and wrap it up as gracefully as possible.
After two people shared, some other hands went up.
"In the interest of time, let’s just go ahead and pray together," I said to the church. (Mind you, I was standing up there in my bag lady clothes.) "I’m sorry if you were not able to share tonight but take heart that God is always listening."
Leading community prayer is not an act of speechmaking, so I did not script those words. But even though the words came easily to me, I felt like a fraud saying them. Maybe God exists so mysteriously that it’s not our job to prove His existence; instead, we have to make little reminders that He’s here for everyone else, reminding them that He’s around, even if we don’t always believe it.
* * *
I think it’s cute that Jason Derulo says his name at the end of that song. At first listen, I hadn’t known what he was saying, and then when I figured it out it struck me as kind of vain. But the song is so good — and Jason himself is not so bad looking (are you shocked that that was coming?) — that I have come to accept it as a nice touch.