The stench of my desperation split the Red Sea of addicts as, wild eyed, I made a beeline for the hallowed Bar of Geniuses. Decimated, starved for insight -- a prisoner of a cell phone I couldn't comprehend -- I'd parked illegally, defying security in the bowels of the mall, fording a moat of mad shoppers during Holiday Hell to get help.
I was driven by peer pressure. The sirens who had shamed me into abandoning my Android, enticing me into their Yuppy, uppity App-y iPhone planet, were sick of explaining its unnecessary assets to me. Even my multi-deviced mate, who'd proposed making me a member of his "Verizon Friends and Family Plan" (a big step) regretted it. All who'd been kvelling about their new toys were now yelling, telling me to go find some I.T. guy, suck out his brain and leave them be. They preferred to be lost in their screens not in me.
A clipboard female informed me I was an hour early for my appointment. She was nondescript, denatured, any vestige of the guiles of our gender neutered in her digital monotone and Apple T. She was one step up from robot in her job description, hanging on by a thread of evolutionary luck. I smiled, but, there was no velcro for vulnerability on this young woman. I asked for a restroom. With the blase of the bladder-less, she said they had none. She sped away. I spun seeking refuge.
There was no place to sit, to wait, to pose pretending to be at ease. I was left to feign interest in my surroundings. I strolled with veiled glance. The complexity of the items displayed and the drooling of those lusting for them, made my brow ache, made me long for the comforting keyboard of my Motorola Click, a workhorse and pacifier at alienating times like this.
I loved how fast I'd been on that artifact. With this iPhone 5 I was all thumbs, clumsy prehensiles that were not the graceful tools of the times. I could barely eke out a text without its predictive presumptions putting a spin what it thought I should be saying, causing rifts with intimates, nonsense with business associates. Oh, how I missed my low maintenance machine that accepted me as I was without constant corrections and complex obfuscations. But, I could not turn back.
I felt so alone in this crowd. The lighting was garish, my self-comparisons cruel. Everyone working here was fresh from puberty, electronically endowed with chips embedded in their shoulders, preoccupied with products not people. Keyed up amidst a herd of keyboard-less nerds, I sensed another customer, another wild-eyed cow fearing its own slaughter seeking comfort in me, but the whites of my eyes avoided hers. If there was a pecking order here, it would not be wise for the beakless to conspire.
Were I a big Apple owner, I would've had a decoy from my demographic greeting me, like they have at Bed, Bath and Befuddled -- aged, underemployed, warm with a "born in the same boat" air of compassion begging "May I help you?" -- plodding along next to me like those tired nags they use to soothe high strung horses, like therapy dogs in hospitals. But this was a cold, cruel store on Black First-Day-of-Hanukkah, and I did not feel welcomed. So, I stood facing a small piece of wall, eyes closed, focusing on my panting -- a form of speed meditating, accompanied by a pointless roll of my shoulders and a neck stretch which only served to make me more tense. I would beat this belittling atmosphere. I would survive.
And then Marcus melted into my perimeter. Lanky, multi-colored like a Benelton ad, clad in an Apple T, jeans and wool cap, he exuded cool by my side.
"Melanie at 1:50?"
"Yes!" I responded, too gratefully.
"I can help you."
"Oh, I hope so."
He led me to a high counter crowded with tete-a-tetes of the young talking down the older, like air traffic controllers landing rudderless pilots in a tsunami. I pulled out my list. Conundrum number one did not stump Marcus. He'd heard it all before. He handled it easily. Number two was mere button instruction and I felt foolish asking. His responses were so rapid, his terms so new, my pretense of grasping them so false, I would never retain anything that way that day.
Finally, I begged him to stop. Blushing, I told him I needed to go slow. He respected my feelings. I pulled out a pen, searching for paper in my cavernous purse, from which I mined a tiny iPhone instruction manual in inhumanely small print, a wet nap, a tissue, an antique tampon in tattered wrapper, but, no writeable paper. What a predicament. I couldn't touchscreen to take notes on the iPhone, which he currently cradled in his handsome hand anyhow. I did not have an iPad. I needed to write. things. down.
This issue stumped Marcus.
"Paper?!" He glanced around bewildered. "Does anyone have a piece of paper," he repeated rhetorically to his cohorts.
They looked blank, shook their heads. They smirked. I cringed. To advanced Applers, I was Apple-achian.
I'd redeem myself by recycling. I tore a strip of paper from a Bloomies bag, and poised myself to write, slooowly. He smiled; he assessed; he paused to pump up his patience. He produced a sudden aluminum stool from beneath the counter and invited me to perch. Would he sit also? He didn't need to, he said. Apparently no one here perched or used paper, or urinated. Throwing image to the winds, I took a half-cheeked seat. My social standing here might be nil, but, my need to evolve, to keep up with my demographic, exceeded my self-consciousness.
"Let me see what programs you're running," he said, huddling his fragrant head of hair next to mine. He was not a man -- he was an environment, a universe of enticement. The seduction began. He liked what I'd named my email accounts and groups. He admired, then gently, deftly removed the violently mosaic protective cover of which I was so proud. Side by side we peered into the private parts of my pale, naked Iphone. He began to press and stroke the screen with his finger and made the open apps shiver then disappear. He dragged on my name with his pinkie, and it lit up and moved whereever he beckoned it to go. He turned it off. He turned it on. He was the Iphone whisperer. Oh, what gentle but potent power he had.
And as he began perusing my screensaver, my programs, my purchases and downloads, the way in which I'd set up my emailage on my iPhone, I went into an iDream. He was focused on this extension of my personality, at my technical choices on this separate aspect of my identity, but, it was as though he was caressing the back of my eyeballs with his attentiveness to my Iphone. A tranquil, sensuous euphoria overcame me, like when childhood friends would brush my long hair, or teacher would read my essays aloud. I wondered if any other woman in the iWorld had ever felt this way.
I didn't want it to end. I went through conundrums three through eight, scribbled the answers with occasional understanding. I was ashamed to ask if I could rehearse the tasks in front of him, to lock the learning in. I knew some wisdoms would stick and I would be way better off than before meeting Marcus. Then I stalled for time, peppering him with questions about the two built in cameras I'd hardly touched, subtly letting him know things about myself. He asked what I did for a living. He asked what I wanted to do with the cameras. We'd gone beyond our allotted 10 minutes to 25. I made him chuckle. I had his interest. This was daring, this was getting dangerous.
He told me I needed a shotgun mic to make the movies I suddenly intended to make. For now, he said he had a media plug to make everything work better for me, better earbuds to fit perfectly in my ears, into which he murmured that he could record sound on my film shoot for me, as it was his course of study in school. I hesitated. He asked if there was someone else. I told him of my mate and my inclusion on his Verizon Family Plan. There was a pregnant nano pause. Marcus had meant a sound guy on my movie crew to do sound. With that silly misunderstanding, the mood began to shift. Chivalrous Marcus told me of a forked headset meant for two listeners and rushed off for it. He pulled several products from the walls as I floated footlessly along behind him like in a cinematic daze, still hooked on our connection.
He was Johnny AppleSeed, propagating equipment-laden ideas in my mind. I spent hundreds to elongate the contact between us, to buy my way into his iWorld. I was motivated all the more to make my movie so I could contact him via his personal email. This felt illicit; thrilling. Like we'd broken the rules. In the Eden of the Apple world, where the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge hung low, we had a future. But only there.
He left me and my credit card at the counter and sped away to his next assignation. My iSpirit sagged like a pricked balloon. I was now alone with my iPhone 5, and sobering information about myself. How easily my head got turned by Apple. I was an ordinary, impressionable, highly suggestible human. Then grateful remembrance of my real life washed over me. How happy I'd be to share my newfound tricks, and share the gift of earphones built for two with my low-tech but highly committed mate this Hanukkah. He knew and accepted me as I was. I knew we'd love listening to the same CD's and DVD's in tandem for a long time to come.