Deus Ex Machina: A Word on iPhones


If you’re living in Southern California and you don’t surf, wear Rainbows, or have breasts, your only shot at being cool (and, really, what’s the point of living in Southern California if you’re not going to be cool) is to own a ton of Apple products.  Macbooks, Nanos, tote bags, iPhones, anything will do as long as it has a partially eaten Granny Smith on it.  I was initially concerned about this because (1) I lack the cognitive capacity to operate the Mac operating system, and (2) I refuse to purchase phones that don’t say “Free Upgrade!” next to them.

My benevolent bosses, however, solved this predicament for me when they decided that I could not perform the essential duties of my new job without the assistance of an iPhone.  I was immediately smitten.  Within 30 minutes I was hopelessly under its spell and Steve Jobs was staring directly into my soul.  I had to admit, albeit reluctantly, the thing was pretty damn cool.

The on-board GPS made navigating LA’s freeway system a breeze.  I could check my email several thousand times a day as opposed to my traditional 17-30.  I even got an app that lets me hold the phone up to the radio for 30 seconds and it will tell me the artist and title of whatever song was just playing.  Not as cool as the one where you hold your phone up to a girl’s back and it tells you her name and top three turn-on’s, but still, pretty cool.

All told, I was enjoying pretending like I knew how to work the thing until last weekend when I spent some time with people who actually know me.  You see, anyone who is even vaguely acquainted with me will tell you that I am definitely not an Apple person.  I drive a Chevy Cavalier.  I have never worn a shirt that cost more than $18.00.  I stopped exposing myself to new music in mid-2001.   I know how to read.  The list goes on.

All weekend long my balls were routinely busted every time I took the phone out.  I found myself apologizing and making excuses for it. (“Dude, my company gave it to me!  It totally sucks.  Yeah, I really hate it. I was all like ‘oh, no thanks guys, I’ll just stick with this $20 flip phone I got three years ago’ but they were like ‘no, seriously, you have to take this $300 iPhone for free or we’re gonna fire you.’  What else could I do, you know?”)  See, my friends saw through the charade.  They knew I was the frumpy guy on the left, not Justin Long with two days stubble, and they weren’t going to let me forget it.

The fact that the distinction between Apple people and PC people has become recognizable enough to be a legitimate label does not change the fact that it is also completely absurd.  Why should purchasing an iPhone over a Blackberry be any different than getting a Nikon instead of a Canon?  Since when did consumer products begin to speak truths about people identities?  Oh.  Right. It was a long time ago. For this reason I make it a point to not purchase clothing with writing on it.  Why should words like “Hollister” or “A&F” or “Naughty Girl” be used to ascribe value to me?  (Also, my shirts would more likely say things like “Hanes” and “My Older Brother’s” and that’s not really the message I’m looking to communicate.)  But now, without my consent, my phone was speaking on my behalf to everyone who walked by.

It’s gotten to the point where it is difficult to go shopping without making a statement about something.  Basic necessities from beach towels to toasters are now like tongue piercings, tattoos, and sex changes: some people can pull them off, some people can’t.  I look stupid in baseball hats; I don’t have the right “look” for snowboarding; and the ergonomic app-gasm that is my iPhone can get into cooler clubs by itself than it can with me.  The truth is, even Apple products aren’t enough to make me cool in California (or anywhere else outside of North Dakota for that matter).

So now you’ll ask, “aren’t you going to get rid of it and stand by your principled opposition to Steve Jobs and his aesthetic demonry?”  Hell no!  My cell phone just accurately identified the song  “Crossroads” by the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.  I’ve got to stay in its good graces for the day when it becomes self-aware and starts making demands.

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