April wasn’t the cruelest month, but it was the first month I’ve arranged my life without the trusty Day-Timer organizer I have used faithfully since the 1980s. How did I survive without my scribbled-in sidekick, my companion since the later Reagan years?
Well enough. This marked a lifestyle change I never thought I would make, since I started using Day-Timers after I began a job as East Coast Editor of Video Store Magazine in 1987. I latched on to using the monthly version and just kept ordering it, decade after decade. I slipped monthly inserts into a leather holder of great sentimental value with my name embossed on it, where I also stored business cards (including that of the lawyer who did my will . . . just in case), my Metro Card for subway journeys and inspirational items, like a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Like clockwork, the Day-Timer people alerted me each April to renew and each April I did. While worn and held together in one place with tape, the leather carrier dutifully carried the Day-Timer insert with me around the world, surviving moves among a half-dozen Lands’ End shoulder bags and now backpacks.
Over the decades I scribbled dates, reporting notes, lurches of inspiration, song lyrics, phone call records, books to read and movies to see in the pages. Some pages became reminders of fateful occasions, and I saved those for September 11, 2001 and June 13, 2003, the latter the day I got divorced at the courthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Even as friends ditched Day-Timers and Day Runners, inertia and a lack of alternatives tied me to my favorite organizer.
And then I finally, reluctantly, got a smart phone in October 2014.
I was way late to that digital revolution, having stuck with my LG Chocolate “dumb phone” for four years while everybody else snapped up iPhones. But ever the techno-Luddite, I stayed with what I had.
I stayed with it until I finally realized that lack of access to email and limited IM were causing me social problems. After loads of research, I settled on a Samsung S5 and entered the brave new world of smartphones.
When I leaped into the smartphone lifestyle, I still had eight months of Day-Timers left, and I kept using them, but I noticed what I used them for. To be honest with myself, note-taking took up more space than actual date keeping, given my simple lifestyle. My social calendar takes little upkeep.
When March came around, I downloaded a Google Calendar and then the Evernote app and bravely decided to ditch the Day-Timer.
I expected a blizzard of mail and even phone calls from the Day-Timer marketing team, alarmed that I had not renewed. After all, I had always heard that client retention drives businesses, that once you have a client, fight hard to keep him. I’d had that experience with the American Civil Liberties Union, which I joined for a year after losing a Facebook bet that the ACLU would support a particular party in a free-speech issue (I thought the ACLU wouldn’t support a group; it did, but it did, so I ponied up for a membership). I let my membership lapse after a year and have had the ACLU regularly sending renewals for years. The Forward newspaper, to which I’ve subscribed since its English-language edition debuted in 1991, always expresses alarm when I fail to promptly renew, although I finally do, but I delay just to see how hard the paper will work to keep me as a subscriber.
So what would Day-Timer do after over a quarter century of clockwork renewals?
No calls, no emails, no price reductions, no expressions of concern at the onrushing loss of an annuity stream of income, nothing to indicate I counted for anything more than a few easily ignored digital blips in the Client Relationship Management (CRM) database. How hard will Day-Timer need to work on new client acquisition to replace an old-timer who probably could have been won over with a price reduction, just for old time’s sake?
The silence says everything I need to know. At least the ACLU and the Forward tried, and the Forward always wins, I just like to make the paper work for my capitalist shekels. My Galaxy S5 apps are keeping me on top of my schedule, and I have a yearly page-a-day diary at work as backup in case I need to supplement the phone with something scribbled down.
Despite the month without a Day-Timer, I still carry the insert around in the beloved leather holder. I’m realizing the concept and the holder (a memorable gift) satisfy some deep psycho-social need, far beyond practicality. Call it an office version of a security blanket. Forsaking the monthly inserts, I may try to find the notepad inserts at Staples and use those, for the moments when my reporter instinct kicks in and I have to start jotting notes.
Old habits may not ever die, they just transmogrify themselves to another plane of existence.