A few months ago, I was on a nine-hour flight overseas. I eventually had to turn around and fly back home, obviously, which meant I spent eighteen boring hours confined to an area no bigger than a cardboard box.
I had a single goal for the flight. I would clear out all the “extra” photos on my phone. You all know what photos I’m talking about: the parking garage number to remind me where I parked; five photos of three different rice cookers I saw in the store so I could read reviews online and decide which one to purchase; a photo of a magazine article from the doctor’s office. Photos taken to remind me of something. I have, of course, long forgotten what I was supposed to remember. Eighteen hours of uninterrupted time seemed the perfect opportunity to go through and clear these extras out.
Somehow, it was not enough time. I made a dent, but it turns out I severely underestimated my willingness to whip out my phone and snap a photo of just about anything.
For instance, why did I feel the need to take a picture of a cup of coffee on May 14th? It doesn’t look like a particularly memorable cup of coffee, other than containing a lot of surface bubbles, and I don’t see that impressing me enough to take a photo. Or the product description tag for a Kenwood refrigerator on Feb. 3? I have a fridge, one that I like, which works just fine. Did I have a moment of weakness for this $674 appliance?
I also found photos of an unopened package of egg roll wrappers, a parkour academy I do not recognize as local (why?), and a screenshot of the two-sided styrofoam packaging that McDonald’s used for the short-lived McD.L.T. burger during the 1980s.
Anyone else remember this burger? The hot and cool portions of the burger were kept in separate chambers of an unwieldy container that didn’t even fit into McDonald’s regular bags. “The beef stays hot, the cool stays crisp,” was the motto I remember. I even recall a commercial for the burger that starred a young Jason Alexander, just a few years prior to his finding fame as the world’s most loveable self-loather on the sitcom Seinfeld. In the commercial, Alexander dances and sings about the wonders of the McD.L.T., all while sporting a full head of hair and a white suit, Miami-Vice style. It was very 1980s.
I remember this all well, even though the burger itself hasn’t existed for almost three decades. But I do not remember why I took a screenshot photo of the styrofoam packaging, even though my phone assures me the deed was done just five short weeks ago. Was it nostalgia? Did I want to show it to my son, a longtime employee at McDonald’s? I just don’t know.
As I write this, two months after my 18 hours of flight time, my phone still holds 17,043 photos and 131 videos. I have no idea what any of the videos could be, and I am willing to bet that well over half the photos are of the “quick photo” variety listed above, their purpose long forgotten.
I have an even longer flight in my near future. I will once again make a goal of sorting through my photos and purging the extras. I will undoubtedly arrive back home with thousands of photos unsorted and many life choices questioned. But maybe — just maybe — I’ll finally decide which rice cooker to purchase.
Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org