I just changed the ring tone on my iPhone. My old one, crickets, was modest, humble, and vaguely environmental. Its current slang meaning of “crickets” – the totally empty response to something you said or did (crickets being the background to silence), does not seem quite right for a communication device. My new ring tone is the call of a loon, eerie and haunting. It brings a smile to those who hear it on the rare occasions when I get a phone call. Why change ring tones? It may be an identity thing, where I’m trying to define myself as eerie and haunting rather than quietly boring.
Kim’s ring tone is better. Both her text messages and phone calls are announced in the distinctive voice of Cookie Monster. I’m not sure what that has to do with her identity, as she is more a baker than an eater of cookies. We have incorporated the Cookie Monster’s “Yum-yum-yum” as our expression of enthusiastic appreciation for a lot of things in our life. Her ring tone brings a smile of recognition to the face of those who hear it.
I think it’s tough to create an identity. Ring tones alone don’t do it very well. Tattoos might be another superficial approach, as the tattoos might get you assigned to a category, which is a lame version of an identity. Hair dyed an unnatural color? Maybe a shirt with a clever or provocative saying, or perhaps the name of a rock group with a vibe you want to appropriate. I recall a comment made by my teaching mentor, Jack Heath, when we saw a student with a jaunty retro hat: “If you don’t have much of a personality, you might try wearing a hat like that.”
Identity is a slippery matter. Having an “identity” seems to narrow you down to one thing, one presentation, one “self,” one mask. And who wants to settle for that? Or maybe you have two identities, one of them secret – you know, you can be a mild-mannered reporter (or English teacher), while on Thursday nights you become a jazz drummer. So perhaps its better to have a closet-full of identities that you can wear, making changes daily or more frequently. Or is that the sign of a mental illness?
My loon ring tone is so “not me” that it becomes a new kind of identity, one where I’m announcing who I’m not. And that, perhaps, is why it makes my almost non-existent listeners smile. I’m not eerie and haunting, am I? I have an ironic ring tone – my identity.
So – what is your ring tone, what does it announce about you?