E-Flash Me, Baby.

Seems like we need a laugh. The joyful kind. Not the clawing at one’s throat while one eye twitches kind.

It’s 2008. The iPhone is a thing now. On the BART train to and from San Francisco, more and more people stare down into card decks made of glass and plastic, tapping on and swiping through tunes, or flicking things into other things to score points. Everyone who has one of these new toys takes a picture of everything. My coworker is doing an entire series on his shoes. No one ever asks if you’re cool with being a backdrop, so I get my picture taken more often than I prefer. Luckily, my friend Will taught me how to look like a deranged criminal in every one of them.

I refuse to mosh my way into the Apple store for one of these things, fearing I’ll start taking pictures of my shoes, too. I’m stubborn. I like watching my sunrises and listening to what I call the Ultimate Mixtape, a playlist I’ve obsessively curated since I’d opened the box to my iPod four years earlier. I love reading on my new Kindle, talking on my old Razr – and I shun the Blackberry my boss gave me, but it comes with the paycheck. Top those off with a digital camera because the City is beautiful and interesting, and I get bored and lonely at lunch.

I don’t mind fumbling around with five pieces of tech like a first-year who took too many units. At least I’m still cool.

While the train’s ambiance is slowly transforming from one filled with the tide of conversation to an endless flow of swooshes and clicks, I still love it. It’s the only time I’m not expected to do anything other than sit back, listen to music, and maybe get my picture taken. My boyfriend disagrees. He hates it when I take the train home at night and says there are too many weirdoes. I always stroke his cheek, kiss him softly and whisper: I know, I’m one of them.

One night, I board at 15th and Mission, a stop the locals call: Nah.

The car I’m on is empty except for a substantial gentleman in a flat cap and leather jacket who looks like he’s had a long day of sorting out overdue gambling loans. I nod, he nods back. There’s an unspoken rule about sitting near another human being when you don’t have to, so I head for the middle of the car, a sure deterrent for the general public who love crowding the doors. I begin to settle in for a long, peaceful ride filled with Sartre and Concrete Blonde.

The train begins to move when the inner doors open. A balding redhead steps into our car wearing a green polyester leisure suit over an orange, butterfly-collared button down, unfastened to his navel. He pumps a bejeweled fist at Mr. Flat Cap, who raises an eyebrow in response. Disco Lou spies me, and to my horror, approaches as if he means to sit. I desperately grab for the backpack at my feet, intending to throw it into the next seat and block this deranged June Travolta from disturbing my playlist peace. I fumble the attempt, flinging my aging tech to the floor. I curse and begin to collect my gadgets before they can slide into the land of the lost and stolen. I get a hold of the Blackberry when the redhead does a heel spin, shoots finger guns at the train roof, and plops down.

I’m still awkwardly clutching my five favorite things when he says, “How’d you like to see a picture?” Before I can respond, he pulls an iPhone from his breast pocket and swipes it open. Two taps later and I’m staring at what I think to be a finger, except this finger has no knuckles, it’s missing a nail, and it has curly, red hair.

I’m transfixed. My brain keeps repeating,
“whatswrongwiththisfinger? whatswrongwiththisfinger? whatswrongwiththisfinger?”
until it sorts out the answer. My eyes bug out of their sockets. Ginger Gibb chuckles wildly before leaping up to run toward the next car. As the doors slide closed behind him, he yells, “IT’S BIGGER IN PERSON!”

I gape at Mr. Flat Cap for sympathy, but he’s fast asleep or pretending to be. So I snap my jaw shut and put my old toys away. I pout while staring out into the darkness, promising I will never, ever, buy an iPhone.

At least.
Until.
You know.
I need one.

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