After much stubborn deliberation, I recently purchased a new iPod. My former and now ancient iPod had been hanging on by a thin thread, playing music but draining a fully-charged battery in 45 minutes or less. I lived for several months with the ever-looming disappointment of losing my life’s soundtrack mid-song and looking down at the device to find a dead battery icon taunting me from behind the little scratched gray screen.
I tried to spin this slow death as a positive change—a means to ween myself off a technological un-necessity. The original device had been a gift for which I was thankful, but apprehensive. Technology often represents something I will love (learn to depend on) and ultimately lose (it will break, and I will have to learn again to live without). While the general consensus is that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, I’m not sure this cliché applies to digital technology. After all, I don’t need an iPod the way I need, say, food, shelter, hope or a decent pair of galoshes.
The final motivation (excuse) for my new purchase was an upcoming three-and-a-half-hour train trip to Seattle, during which I wanted the luxury (and it is a luxury) of listening to music for more than thirty minutes. I ventured a few times to the Apple website to work up my courage, browsing and then X-ing out screens before I fell to temptation. Eventually I turned the volume of my conscience down enough to click through the series: ADD TO CART, CHECK OUT NOW, SIGN IN, CONTINUE, UPDATE ADDRESS, CHOOSE SHIPPING METHOD, PURCHASE, CONFIRM (confirm?) CONFIRM.
This is what I ended up with:
Silver. Classic. 160GB. Refurbished. 3-year AppleCare. And a far cry from its predecessor:
White (ish). Classic (?). 20GB. Old boyfriend won as a prize in a employee sales contest in 2004 and gifted his winnings to me (overcompensation).
During the first three years of this iPod’s life I exchanged it three times. Three generations of music lost to the wasteland of intangible information. Lucky for me, I had AppleCare (generational insurance) which allowed me to evenly swap the iPod literally no questions asked. Each time I made an appointment with the Genius Bar (don’t take this out of context; it goes too many places), explained my dilemma, and the good-looking folks at Apple swapped my nonfunctional white plastic block for a new identical model. This last generation (pictured above) lasted five years, never once flashing the heartbreaking graphic of a frowning iPod with x’s for eyes that marked the deaths of its three antecedents:
Technological Death Mask.
On a basic physical/emotional level, I felt attached to the music-generating-machine that had accompanied me around four or five major cities, two loves, two subsequent broken hearts, a dozen plane rides, and hundreds of long walks. But my attachment went beyond this familiarity and nostalgia, and even beyond my tendency to anthropomorphise inanimate objects (this comes from my mother who ascribed gender and feelings to everything she owned). The precise reason I experienced so much buyer’s hesitance has to do with the sad face: I am tricked into believing my iPod has not only a personality but also fairly advanced emotional identification. The frowny face suggests the iPod is able to express sadness at its own demise. It realizes its death and bereaves, both for its own loss of self and the impending dejection its owner is slated to experience. This post-death emotional articulation is beyond human capability, and hence establishes loss on a level almost outside my understanding: The iPod speaks to us from the afterlife.
This may be the closest I can come to a spiritual experience.
The fact that I was unable to live out this iPod’s duration says that:
1) I am a coward. I was unable to face this iPod’s impending death because
2) I am way more attached to this iPod than the others based on its lifespan, the experiences we have shared, my sentimentality, its assumed personality, and the fact that
3) I spent many childhood afternoons lying on the grass in my mother’s backyard, listening to my Sony walkman and dreaming of an imagined future when I had portable access to all of my music all at once. The iPod may represent my only childhood fantasy that actually a) stood the test of time, b) came true, and c) is more awesome than I could have ever imagined, hence
4) I am already in love with the new iPod.
Such is the nature of love and loss, I suppose. I didn’t even end up taking the train to Seattle. Severe weather caused mudslides which caused Amtrak to temporarily shut down their rail service. Timing is everything.