The Thursday Blog: iPhone Fever Edition

“What time did you get here?” the kid with ‘Dakota’ on his name tag asked Lena. He was clean cut and friendly and wearing a blue T-shirt and jeans, the uniform for everyone at the Apple store that day.

“Five o’clock.” she answered, smiling and eager to get the deed done and her hands on the newest technological marvel.

“Wow.” Dakota said. “I don’t think I even woke up until six.”

Lena became solemn. “It’s my tribute to Steve.” Dakota nodded soberly.

It was funny, but it was also kinda bullshit. The truth was that Lena would have been perfectly content showing up later that afternoon and getting her phone without waiting in any lines. Five o’clock was all my doing. Jacksonville has enough Apple business and is central to enough outlying districts to qualify for its own store, and the Apple store gets buckets and buckets of new product for a launch day. However, while they’ll get around to it eventually, most of my fellow townsmen simply do not feel the sense of happening that I do during times like this. (Yes, I know that I am setting myself up to be made fun of for being a nerd by a bunch of nerds. Fuck alla you guys.)

See, here’s the way I think of this. I know I want to the phone. It’s a clear improvement over my (very) old phone, takes phenomenally better pictures and 1080i video, I can video mirror to my TV, and yes, Siri is just as amazing as everyone says it is. So I can act like it’s no biggie and go down to the store whenever I happen to get there, buy my phone, and pretend that nothing of moment happened like the cool kids do, or… I can give in to my inner geek, have as much fun as I want to with the whole event, and make some entertaining memories. I am not above this.

So at five o’clock A.M. Lena and I joined the small crowd outside the Apple store in our brand new folding canvas chairs and began chatting, laughing, and playing with various video games and Facebook while we passed the time. The Starbucks opened at six, and the Apple folks provided water, apple (naturally) and orange juice.

There was a reporter there chatting on his phone (an Android, he admitted… but to mitigate the blow he told everyone it was provided to him by the TV station) and being pestered by the mall cops. (It’s an outdoor mall, but mall cops are the same wherever you go.) It seemed that when he arrived the mall cops (you know, I think I’m just going to call them mops) immediately grabbed him and told him that he was not allowed to talk to anyone on camera. When he said “okay” they decided that he couldn’t take any shots with the video camera at all, and if he did, they would call the real police and have him arrested.

At this point the cameraman left.

The reporter, irritated but undeterred, spoke of his rights and the lack of authority of mops in general. The mops spoke of long handled flashlights and trespassing charges for people who were on the property during non-business hours and not there to buy a phone. The reporter called his boss and complained, the mops sulked and bitched to each other about how everyone there was stupid because all those fucking phones are the fucking same anyway. (I kid you not.) The reporter’s boss did the first intelligent thing anyone had thought to do and somehow arranged for a group of state troopers to show up and oversee the proceedings.

When the troopers arrived the mops ran to them as a group to whine and point at the reporter, apparently thinking daddy would take care of the problem. The scene reminded me of the moment in LotR when the regular and scrawny old orcs meet the new and improved uruk-hai. The mops were uniformly old, skinny, and somewhat withered looking with pinched, frowning faces. The effect was exacerbated in comparison to the troopers, who were young, tall, broad shouldered, and smiling. They practically glowed with cheerful power.

The first thing they did was to tell the mops to “Calm the fuck down.” and to stop bothering the reporter. To the reporter they gave permission to call his camera guy back and get all the video he wanted. The mops withdrew to a corner to engage in some really serious power sulking while the reporter bopped all around asking people questions and talking about the new phone. A client I’m currently working with was chatting with his wife in their kitchen when he heard the reporter talking about the launch and his wife asked him if he thought I’d be there. Seconds later I appeared front and center on their screen and they both burst out laughing. “That motherfucker better have my drawings ready!” he shouted at the screen in mock anger.

Soon afterwards the store opened up and Lena and I were let in to meet Dakota. We got the sixteenth and the seventeenth iPhone 4s to be owned in Jacksonville. I bought both of them with the money that the client shaking his fist at the TV screen paid me for a previous job. (Lena probably wouldn’t have gotten one except I offered. She just would have pouted every time I spoke to mine to set an appointment or have it call someone. It was worth it to get her her own.)

I have been happy with my new phone so far. It is a significant improvement from my old iPhone 3, and its ease of use has already made my life a lot happier. (I had difficulty before remembering to schedule appointments and events on our calendar, which drove Lena crazy. The system was imperfect, and we would occasionally double-book. Trouble when you only have one car.) Now I just tell the phone to do it, and it takes care of it for me. Lena is already less stressed over it. Mostly though I just feel happy that Lena and I were able to share an extra bit of fun together, taking something as trivial and mundane as getting a phone and turning it into something kinda neat we’ll remember.

Yeah, I know it’s stupid. But it’s my kinda stupid.

39 Responses to The Thursday Blog: iPhone Fever Edition

  1. Don’t be defensive; take pride in your item of conspicuous consumption that will now cost you a monthly charge. I am the weirdo for refusing to own any cellphone, pocket-sized portable computer or pager.
    Be sure to disrespect my position that it’s debatable that the health risks are worthwhile and that the other drawbacks of cellphone possession are outweighed by the positives.

    (It’s no fun if you’re already defensive about it. Get some exaggerated self-importance unjustifiably attached to ownership of one of these things first. Once you’ve done that then maybe I can pencil you in to make fun of you for it.)

      • Failure to be an Apple fanboy without being an obnoxious one, and failure to make fun of someone for being behind the times? If you weren’t a webcomic author AND artist AND a RPG GM your nerd credentials would be in question.

    • Health risks? Like the radiation that has waves too large to physically damage cells? Those health risks?

      I’m speaking as a fellow luddite, too, by the way. I’m just calling you out on that one.

      • I am still waiting for the thirty year studies on the radiation studies because some folks think that it could be breaking the blood-brain barrier. Others see a moderately strong statistical correlation between cellphone use and ear infections and a weaker one between cellphone use and cancer in and near the ears.
        Secondary ones worry me more: Have you seen how many accidents those cell-phone and text-messaging drivers get into? It’s a freaking cliché joke that hipsters collide with each other when walking down the street because they’re all texting when they walk. Plus most people using these things end up acting like jerks to people around them.
        It seems like an overall addictive, bad bargain you get to pay for monthly with a side of minor and uncertain risks to me.

        • Ear infections make total sense. I haven’t looked it up, but I’d bet you can find the exact same correlation when headphones (and a stronger one when earbuds) came onto the market. People don’t know how to clean their stuff.

          As for the blood / brain barrier… Yeah, I doubt it. When that starts to deteriorate, you kind of die fast. Like, really, really fast – blood is constantly pumping and it’s the same thing as having a sand castle when the tide comes in.

          If it turns out cell phones are a health risk, though: oops. Lucky us.

  2. I’ll have to agree with anonymous coward’s first sentence. Although I’d love a phone that does all kinds of cool stuff, the $100/month phone/data plan is an order of magnitude outside of my budget. My current Tracfone (crap phone, crap company, but roughly $8.70/month) makes me reachable in emergencies and allows me to call the wife while at the grocery store and ask if we’re out of bread. As nice as pretty pictures, video, calendar and email are, there simply isn’t another $90/month in the budget for that. Unless the phone companies offer reasonable monthly rates (ha, yeah, I know) or someone starts paying me a lot more (not holding my breath here either), it’s just something outside of my little world.

    That said, if you’re going to get the phone, you might as well have fun with it and join the “campout party” in line at the mall.

    • Shop around on your providers. If there’s no competitive service where you live then you could consider living somewhere less poverty-stricken.

        • In this particular state (VT) – there is one carrier. Until very recently there was none – you couldn’t (legally) get an iPhone plan in Vermont (you had to cheat and get a plan in another state and claim you lived there). Even here, I have to cheat and get the plan in the next town over as they do not (via the online ordering) allow it in my town.

          The most basic plan I can get is $40 (450 minutes), with a $30 data plan. The unlimited minute plan is $70 – plus the $30 data is the $100 I mentioned above. And that still does not include any text messaging (another $20 if you want that).

  3. Haha, funny, Mops… haha. I used to provoke them many times before i got all growed up n stuff.

    How is Siri? Is it really like the videos where you simply ‘talk’ to it, no prioritized speech patterns you need to memorize and say Exactly correctly?
    Do you have to say “Siri” then the command?

    This is the first iPhone I am interested in. Supposedly the iPhone 5 is going to be the all wonder phone as it is Jobs’ last big project (from beyond the grave), but I might just get one.

    • Siri actually works really well. You don’t have to say “Siri” first. You hold the home button for second to activate it (or bring it to your ear) and speak. It understands different ways of asking things and is pretty flawless when dictating.

    • Yeah, it really is like that. You can’t have a conversation with it, but you can tell it to do anything the phone will do with pretty much any verbiage and it’ll handle it for you. You don’t have to call it Siri, you just say what you want.

      I have had it misinterpret me occasionally, but it’s not very often. And by combining what Siri does with a little creative editing you can expand its potential even further. For instance, you can set up geo-fences around places you go often, (like the grocery store) and then tell Siri to remind me to buy eggs. Two button pushes later and my phone will now remind me to buy eggs the next time I go to the grocery store. (It will remind you to do stuff at home and work without any fiddling at all.)

      Almost as cool is that you can use the same tech for writing emails, texts, or anything else you would type out. You get a little microphone button on your keyboard. Hit it and just speak your message. (Though it doesn’t punctuate.)

      Your voice is streamed to Apple’s servers for interpretation, and then the answer is streamed back, with the result that the database is growing by leaps and bounds and the tech improves itself enormously all on its own. Apple is calling Siri a Beta right now, even though it already seems pretty goddamn amazing. Who knows what they ultimately have planned?

  4. On the subject of Mops, I think putting on a uniform affects them like the hats do to Buggs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in that old cartoon, where any time a new hat fell on their head, their personalities would change.

  5. Security people are funny. Mall cops are over excitable douches, but my wife does security for a computer chip manufacturer and she and her friends at work are so laid back it’s ridiculous. Some of her coworkers are mall cop crazy though. They get all jumped up and aggressive whenever someone walks in the front door. Ah, power. Even imagined it corrupts.

    • Not so much the power as the responsibility without power. As one of those poor damned souls your job is to wait for something to respond to, maybe wandering around looking for it to find it, and to respond to anything you find. After you’ve done hours of that you get to write down how little you’ve done and how much of a waste of time your employment is.
      Those people’s only defense against being fired if shit happens that they could’ve done something about is if they were busy doing their job right somewhere else and didn’t see it. This tends to affect different rent-a-uniforms in different ways: Some of them end up just not giving a shit and doing nothing; some of them end up like those yappy little dogs that can’t shut up for five minutes after that car that drove down the street is gone; others turn into slow, lazy jackasses who walk really slowly and take every second of each of their breaks but keep doing their job really slowly whenever they’re not on break; some of them turn into crazy paranoid stalker types who come out of nowhere trying to get the drop on anything and everything; and there are other reactions and adaptations to that sort of job too.

      I tell ya, the time I spent coding up a reporting system for that property manager where I learned what rent-a-pigs did? I learned a lot. There are a lot more scummy people and a lot of normal-ish people with scummy sides than you’d think.

      • These guys just seemed bitter and resentful. NOT the sort of people you’d invite over for a beer. The real police seemed to find them funny though.

        • They are funny, rent-a-pigs end up wearing the most ridiculous polyester uniforms and trying not to be embarrassed. The whole job in a mall during operating hours is about putting on a show of vigilance so that skateboarders won’t grind the railings and potheads decide it’s less hassle to try to find somewhere else to toke. Individual businesses wouldn’t let them in their stores and they really can’t do shit about shoplifters. Anything serious that they think is happening, which is hit and miss on whether there is something, and these folks are yelling loudest for the real cops to come.
          I’m just saying that it’s an incredibly shitty job and people who weren’t brain-damaged before they get there are eventually driven some kind of depressed or crazy by it. The fascist nutjob trying to oppress anything they think they can kind of crazy is just one of the more professionally acceptable kinds of crazy it drives people.

  6. Heheheh… security is so sketch. I knew a dude who was a minimall cop in a really poor neighborhood… a huge lady came into the little ceasar’s pizza and stripped naked, demanding a free pizza before she’d leave. He informed her that she did not have to put her clothes on but she did have to leave the premesis and that he’d called the real police, and that he had to cuff her and escort her off the premesis (I don’t know why). He did so, then removed her cuffs at the edge of the tiny parking lot, and she ran off into the night.

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