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Landlines, phonebooks failproof

Of all of the messages I hate to see on my phone, the worst one comes from … the phone itself.

The weekend was rough on me, even before we consider the Texas Rangers ballclub I’ve followed since the early 1990s. There were high points, but the low point had to be my phone, repeatedly telling me the system was crashing.

I never had to deal with landline crashes in Townsend, Mont., growing up. Heck, I only needed four numbers to dial friends in our small town up until high school, when we finally needed to use the “266” city code. Four buttons to reach my childhood friends, and somehow landlines aren’t the “smart” phones.

But I digress. Smartphones are built for social networking these days, so they’re bound to be discussed on social networks. So I shake my head every time somebody comments on Facebook, “You need a Ph.D. to operate one of those things. They’re sooo complicated.”

No, they’re not. I don’t have a graduate degree. I have Google. That works just fine. I typed in the problem, and found the solution. That’s the good news.

The bad news: I needed a hard reset.

If a hard reset just meant that I forcefully pressed the power button, I’d be down for that. In fact, I’d be the best tech support guy ever. But a hard reset doesn’t mean that. It means you restore the phone to its factory settings. Call log, gone. Applications, gone. Text messages, gone.

I had done hard resets before, however, and purchased a solid backup application … or so I thought. I found out how unreliable it was when all 500 of my contacts were re-entered, as “Unnamed.”

End result: Between innings of the San Francisco Giants destroying my boyhood baseball dream, I rebuilt my contacts through my call logs, text message archives and a little thing I like to call “journalistic research.” (The prosecutor might later refer to this as “stalking.”)

Here are some keys to remember, which I discovered while rebuilding my own contact list:

• Revisit just how much information you put online. Type in, “” and see how friends you barely know who inadvertently gave you their digits. I’m at 73.

• If your number’s not on Facebook, we’re not related and you haven’t called or texted me in the last six months, I decided I was used to not having you in my life. You probably decided that too. Enjoy your life.

• If I had a text conversation with you and I couldn’t figure you out from the back-and-forth, I sent you the cordial yet impersonal truth: “My phone messed up and I lost contacts, but not text messages. Could you tell me who you are?” This brought varied responses. There was the long-lost coworker who acted incredulous (and forgot she hadn’t talked to me since my birthday in May). There was the girl who said, “Mystery Girl,” and left me hanging for a few hours. And then there was the “Even Steven” — the girl gave me her name, but admitted she had no idea who I was either.

• If all else fails, follow the advice of my comedian acquaintance Mike Birbiglia, who in his second album sings, “Put in on paper, save it for later.” That’s an analog phonebook, and it’s the smartest thing I could possibly do from now on.

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