This is a story of a cheap plastic cell phone holder, the kind with the suction cup that you fasten to the inner part of the windshield of your car. It’s cheaply made, probably in China, and costs less than thirty shekels. It is quite useful, for navigation, checking Facebook and taking calls while driving. Everyone in this country seems to have one; some even go as far as using them on their scooter or motorcycle.
This story of a cheap plastic cell phone holder may not be interesting to you. It may seem rather mundane, in fact. Why should you care about a cheap plastic cell phone mount? Well, here’s the thing: this story is actually my attempt to understand the random chaos that underlies our very existence.
The heat in this country is unforgiving. Especially these past few days. The temperatures (as registered by the digital display on the dashboard) had reached 45 degrees celsius which is approximately 114 degrees fahrenheit. That’s bloody hot.
Hot as hell.
The German car I inherited was never meant for the desert. It was meant for the cool, crisp days on a Bavarian Audubon. It was meant for overcast days in Munich, cloudy days in Hamburg and perhaps, a snowy day in Berlin. It was certainly never meant for the arid, desert terrain, where everything atrophies in the heat. It was never meant for an Israeli summer.
The suction cup had turned yellow over the last few weeks. It would occasionally tumble down, with my phone in its foam clutch and crash thunderously by my feet as I drove. When stopped at a traffic light I would pick it up and it smelled like burnt plastic. Somehow, miraculously even, I would manage to wipe it off and re-fasten it to the windshield.
On the morning it fell apart completely we were talking about what married couples usually talk about while stuck in traffic on the way to work; a better life. It’s not that our life isn’t great, it is, it’s just that stuck in traffic, listening to that same old CD mix I made for a previous anniversary, I can’t help but dream of what could be. We fantasize about finally packing our bags and moving to a quiet, peaceful neighborhood in Small Town USA where we can live far away from the wars, the financial struggle and the unbearable heat of this awful country. I say “we” but I don’t think my wife shares my fantasy. Her fantasy involves a small house in a quaint moshav here in Israel, where we can buy a home — our home — with a small garden. She could grow tomatoes and peppers while making jewelry during the day. I would have a dedicated room for my writing and maybe one day, if everything worked out we would have another child.
Queen is playing Crazy Little Thing Called Love as we sit in silence, inching forward towards the traffic light, each of us caught in our own fantasy. The cars around us are filled with similar couples, some still on the way to kindergarten to drop off their sleepy-eyed offspring others smoking cigarettes while articulating a point to their spouse. No one is getting anywhere. We’re all stuck in tiny cars with our delusions and our fantasies. We’re all going nowhere slowly, day in, day out until we die unceremoniously, loathed by our own children and disappointing our own parents. We’re all nothing but ghosts of our own childhood dreams, caught in cars wearing adult clothes.
The plastic phone holder explodes into a dozen little pieces all over the car and startles my wife from her imaginary garden. I look around and see a coiled spring in my lap, the plastic cradle tickling my feet and my phone somewhere under my seat. It is such a violent, spontaneous eruption, so unexpected, so jarring that my wife and I look at each and laugh. She holds up the charred, yellowed rubbery suction cup and shakes her head. This is the Humpty Dumpty of car phone holders. There’s no putting it back together. There’s no reattaching it to the windshield. It’s a goner. DOA.
I park the car outside my offices and we switch seats. She gets behind the wheel, and off to create jewelry. We kiss as we pass each other next to the trunk and she wishes me a good day. I wish her the same and toss a handful of plastic, rubber and metal into the trash can.
The days all blend into each other. They’re all the same in their own unique way. I eat a bowl of cereal at roughly the same time. I drink a cup of coffee at roughly the same time. Write, lunch and smoke a cigarette at the same time. Laugh, get angry, get indignant, proud, humiliated, swear to quit, vow to stay for the rest of my career and leave at roughly the same time every day. Each day seems so new and different, though if I am to look back nothing distinguishes one day from another. Yesterday’s crises seem to pale in comparison to the promises of tomorrow. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and nothing is really different.
I start my long walk home as the heat begins to dip. It takes me forty five minutes to walk home and I measure it with landmarks; there’s the traffic light, the fire station, the gas station and finally there’s home, a shower, dinner, read a book to my son, a joint and rinse and repeat.
But not today.
Today I find a cheap plastic car cell phone holder, completely intact, tossed in the grass. I pick it up and examine it and it’s practically the same one that I had tossed in the rubbish bin in a dozen pieces that same morning. It’s as if some impish spirit had reached into that bin, reassembled the pieces and left it for me on the grass. Or, more likely, some driver had gotten so sick of that cheap plastic falling from the windshield that they just tossed it out of their car in anger.
The universe doesn’t always answer my requests. I would still like to live in a small college town in America. I would still like my wife to have that small house with a garden and a studio where she can make jewelry. I would like to live in a country where the temperature doesn’t reach 114 degrees,
Until then, I’ll have to appreciate what the universe does give me
In this case, a plastic cell phone car mount.