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Rahm's Flip Phone Ridiculed by 'Chicagoland' Viewers, but He Stands by It

By Mark Konkol | March 27, 2014 6:07am
 Some "Chicagoland" viewers found it odd that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was still using a flip phone — but he stands by his choice.
Some "Chicagoland" viewers found it odd that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was still using a flip phone — but he stands by his choice.
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CNN Chicagoland

CHICAGO — Of all the things you can learn about Mayor Rahm Emanuel on CNN's "Chicagoland," one weird tidbit really got people on Twitter tweeting — the mayor's old-school cellphone.

"Lol. Rahm got the flip phone popping. That’s a burner,” a "Chicagoland" viewer posted on his Twitter handle @Cerifiedholic. 

A flip phone, of course, is a not-yet-extinct dinosaur of mobile telephone technology. 

Using one can make you the subject of ridicule, as Dallas Cowboys owner, billionaire Jerry Jones, found out last season when he got teased for using a flip phone on ESPN's "C'mon Man" bit.

And for folks not hip to the slang, "burner" typically refers to prepaid disposable cellphones sometimes used by people up to no good.

Last week, Angela Knox took to Twitter to ask the most obvious question, "Why did Rahm have a flip phone in 2013?"

It made me want to call the mayor to ask him, but I didn't have his number.

So I sent out a question to the Twitter universe, "Anybody got @RahmEmanuel's flip phone number?"

And the next morning, like magic, I got a message with the private number to the mayor's cellphone.

The guy said that he was standing in line at the dry cleaner behind Rahm, spotted the phone number on Emanuel's ticket and memorized it.

"That was before Rahm got elected," he said. "I've had that number for more than two years and didn't know what to do with it until I saw your tweet."

I did a little reporting — the number was right. So, I dialed, one number at a time — 3 … 1 … 2 …

"Hello," the mayor said, not annoyed at all.

Rahm said there's a perfectly good reason he used a phone that peaked in popularity during the pre-iPhone era.

"Here's the deal: If I'm talking on the phone and someone's emailing, there's a couple beeps alerting you to an email that you have to see right now, and that gets distracting," he said. "I have to do emails and be on the phone at the same time. I'm finishing an email right now as we're talking."

Still, a flip phone seems a little archaic for a mayor who's made such a big push to court technology startups and bolster Chicago's digital economy.

"I've got another phone, a smartphone. I'm probably the only mayor in the country to have Google's Motorola iPhone," Rahm said.

And then he put any question of whether his flip phone was indeed a "burner" to rest.

"Look, some politicians don't use any electronic communication devices — for other reasons," he said. "For me, it's a matter of efficiency."

After we said our goodbyes, I quickly sent a text asking the guy who sent me the mayor's number to give me a ring. And then I called my boss.

While we chatted, I got one of those annoying call-waiting beeps. And then the phone buzzed alerting me to a text that read, "just did." I assumed the distracting alerts both came from my random Twitter source.

I got off the phone with the boss and instinctively responded to the message by telling my iPhone's "Siri" voice-activation to "redial."

"Hello," the guy on the phone said.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I'm spending time with my family," the voice on the phone said.

"Oh, you're spending time with your family," I said with friendly sarcasm. "Well, I just wanted to tell you that the number you gave me worked, and I talked to Rahm."

"This IS Rahm," the voice on the phone said, sounding mildly annoyed. "Why are you playing with me?"

I apologized, sincerely, for misdialing the mayor.

It's a mistake that I wholeheartedly blame on my so-called smartphone, which as it turns out is only as intelligent as the guy using it.