Madison Comedian’s Cell Phone Breaks Up With Him


By Esteban Touma and Brad Kolberg | December 27, 2018

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  • Esteban Touma with his cell phone. (Maureen McCollum/WPR)

Esteban Touma with his cell phone. (Maureen McCollum/WPR)

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I bet SOME of you…are a little addicted to your phones. Keeping up with texts, social media, news updates, & cat videos…some days, you might spend more time with your phones than the actual living, breathing people in your lives. Madison comedian Esteban Touma just got out of an unhealthy relationship with his phone, and he offers this cautionary tale.

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I should’ve seen it coming. Right after my phone broke up with me, I recalled all the signs I had missed. It HAD been acting pretty distant lately.  It felt like every notification came with a sigh, every calendar input a bit testy, every response to the ON button a little off.

I mean, I guess I had been distant too: Keeping it in my pocket while having dinner, or  reading a book in the bathroom –a BOOK! And always with the perfect excuse. Zero photos of the Steely Dan tribute concert: I had low battery. No emojis in a two-hour span: I was driving. I guess I could’ve at least checked it for notifications during the boring stretches of highway, but no, I kept it in my back pocket like some cheap leather wallet.

Had things really changed that much since we first met at the Verizon store months ago? I was there looking for anything – an LG, hell, even a Samsung, something casual I could use for a couple of months. Nothing too serious. I just wanted to have some fun. But as I browsed, Dan the clerk pointed it out from across the store. “That one would be perfect for you.”, he said. The first thing I noticed was its cute little silver-coated power button.  I greeted it with a gentle swipe and with its first start screen animation, I was taken. I felt like a boy watching my prom date descend the stairs. The rest was a blur. I asked some quick follow-up questions, tried to keep it casual, but my heart was racing. I had it unpackaged before we even got to the car. I couldn’t stop looking at its perfect color display! I threw the receipt and the box away right outside the store. We spent an hour just getting to know each other right there in the mall parking lot . Our first date.

But now it wouldn’t even respond to my pleas. “Can we just power through this?” I tried to restart it, but nothing. No arguing. No chance to talk. “At least tell me why, burn my pocket, delete my photos, ANYTHING but this silent-mode treatment, At least have the decency to lie to me. At least give me the “it’s not you it’s my operating system” line.

I laid awake in bed that night thinking,  “Where had our intimacy gone?” Like when I changed the PIN lock to thumb recognition. The phone gently shook after those three seconds of contact, opening up its home screen to me as I slowly explored the pages of the apps menu, the screen gradually warming as I slid down the notification panel, quietly revealing its innermost settings, I dimmed the brightness, and…

I couldn’t sleep at all.

The next morning, I grabbed some coffee and tried to stay positive.  “I can still fix things.” I said.  I started by asking my so-called buddies on the tech support forum. They knew I only checked in when there was trouble in paradise.

“Have you tried a hard reset?” “XXcrushbytesXX” asked. A hard reset, was he crazy?, and erase everything we’d built together? No. I logged out without even saying goodbye. I needed professional advice and there was only one place where I could get it. I called the place and set an appointment.

We drove with the radio off, phone on the passenger seat, its black screen expression-less. I started crying. A few tears first, then uncontrollable – I nearly had to pull over. “Is this what you want?” I asked. Silence.

It took me a while to find the Verizon store. Had I prolonged the drive on purpose, taking extra turns out of desperation? Was I just lost with sadness? Or was it my lack of access to Google Maps? Probably the maps, yeah, but also the sadness.

Dan remembered us right away. “Let me see what I can do”, he said kindly. After several minutes that seemed like hours, Dan called me over with a sad nod. “I’ve been trying to get a sense for the issue, and it seems clear to me that it’s best if you both move on.” He was right, and I knew it.  Heartbroken, I asked, “Can I just pick up my SIM and SD cards?” Dan gave me a minute. The phone waited in silence as I grabbed my things. I held the battery in my hands, feeling its heat one last time. The phone was totally dark now, –nothing but a black screen reflecting back to me what could have been.

I got in my car, wiped my tears, and turned on the radio.

Maybe I’d call the guys, grab a beer at that place near the Apple store. “It’s been a while, I wonder what Apple’s been up to?” I thought. Maybe I’d drop in and see what’s up. Maybe find something casual, something fun.  You know, nothing too serious.

Esteban Touma

Esteban Touma

Esteban Touma is a teacher, writer, and comedian adjusting to life in the US. He hosts The Moth in Madison, and is a regular at Comedy on State, where he has worked with Judd Apatow, Michelle Wolf, and Rory Scovel, among others. The U.S. Government has officially declared him an...
Brad Kolberg with his daughter at Miller Park.

Brad Kolberg

Brad Kolberg is a radio producer and engineer in Madison, WI.  He is also nutty for Wisconsin sports and music discovery.
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