I loved my blackberry.
My blackberry gave me the freedom to leave the office, to go for a walk down to the East River on a slow day, to head home to keep working through the Tokyo day (and NY night) from the solace of my couch, to go on vacation. Yes, freedom. Without it, I would never have left the office. Partners talk about the pre-blackberry days of big law and admit things like, “I kept a sleeping bag under my desk,” and “My wife used to come read a book in my office.”
My blackberry was unbreakable. My goddaughter sucked on it and it went for swims in Glen Lake, and it continued working without an overnight in silica or rice. I dropped it out of moving vehicles and threw it across conference rooms, without so much as a scratch on the screen or camera lens. The battery would last for days, regardless of how much you used the phone, internet or camera. The keyboard allowed me to type messages totally bleary eyed in a taxi rushing to the office for a 5 am call before I’d had any caffeine, or while trimming a jib sheet in the middle of the Hudson River with my other hand, sweat and salt and wind burning my eyes. Try that with an iPhone and its mischievous autocorrect.
My blackberry got service where no other device could. It got service six miles off the shore of uninhabited Bahamian islands, in the most remote hills of Bhutan, and in the mountainous rain forests of Laos (that I’d taken two planes, an 8 hour bus ride and a 6 hour hike to, hoping to get away from the blackberry signal). On offshore sails, I put it at the helm and set it on loud, so that its “bling, bling” would announce “land ho!” long before the islands we were approaching were visible. When I tried to tell partners I didn’t think I’d get blackberry service at the remote location I’d chosen for my vacation, they knew better. It probably gets service in a submarine, miles below the ocean surface.
My blackberry came to bed with me every night. I don’t mean that I left it on my bedside table or under my pillow. I clutched my blackberry, like a toddler clutches its binky. Some mornings, when its alarm went off, there was no way to pry it out of my hand to quiet the alarm. It was the last thing I looked at before falling asleep and the first thing I looked at when waking up. After years of working with Japanese clients, I woke naturally at 5 am, checked it, and went back to sleep (assuming Tokyo was still quiet). And I’m not a morning person.
It was a love-hate relationship, let’s be honest.
There were signs along the way that I had a problem. I read the New York Times article about groups of friends in the city piling all their phones in the center of the table, and requiring whoever picked theirs up first to pay for dinner. “Cute,” I thought, “but professional suicide.” At a Knicks game, when the kiss cam caught a guy totally absorbed by his blackberry and his girlfriend kissing the guy next to her, I was on my blackberry. Jason knowingly kissed my cheek and had a good laugh.
I should have known things had gone terribly wrong when, at 5 am on a Friday in summer 2012, I was screaming at my blackberry because my junior associate had not responded to my email from 1 am. My boyfriend looked at me calmly and said, “Most people are asleep between the hours of 1 am and 5 am.” “Well they shouldn’t be!” I screamed and grasped my blackberry tighter, my knuckles whitening.
One morning in spring 2014, as I was riding my bike to work across 52nd street, a semi truck almost took me out. The first thought to come to mind was, “If I get creamed by a truck, I don’t have to go to work today, or tomorrow, or maybe even the next day,” not my usual, “Get out of my bike lane and go back to Jersey, you mother fu**er.” My road rage had deteriorated into a plea for a debilitating injury that would sideline me from work for a while.
I needed to quit the crackberry habit (and the job that required it) badly.
I turned in my beloved blackberry on January 21, 2015, eight and a half years after it (or rather, its predecessor) had been issued to me. I had a couple of nightmares about the firm trying to get my help with staffing, and a couple of times when the internet service is turtle slow I’ve wished I still had that tank of a device. Other than that, nearly three months into kicking the habit, I haven’t missed it (or the job that required it) for an instant.
To my friends in the industry who have made it this far on the blog page, put your smart phone down, hug your wife/husband/kids/dog/doorman, and go for a walk around the block without it. It is liberating.