Technographic Fantasy

Last year, my girlfriend at the time and I were in the middle of a Breaking Bad marathon when we paused between episodes so that she could go to the restroom.

As if reacting to a natural instinct, like removing a hand from a hot stove, I immediately lunged for my shiny, white iPhone that had been resting patiently on the coffee table in front of me.  Without so much as a second thought, I buried my head in the device and started scrolling through a long list of tweets I had missed while mindlessly staring at a much larger screen for most of the morning.  I was halfway through a 140 character article on the Iranian elections when she came back.

“You seriously have a problem.”  She pointed out as she sat down a full person’s width away from me.

“What do you mean?”  I asked without looking up.

“You’re addicted to that thing!”  She accused, pointing to the small device in my hand and glaring at it as though it was a curvy, red head, with a master’s in astrophysics .  “It’s pathetic.  I’m right here and you’d rather play with your phone.”

I didn’t understand what the big deal was.  I had always thought I used the device pretty sparingly when we were together.   And the alternative in this situation was sitting in my small, silent apartment, listening to her in the bathroom.

Yet, despite my logic, she had a point.  It was pretty sad that, after watching television for four hours straight, I couldn’t go more than a few seconds without absorbing some other form of digital media through my face.  There are plenty of other situations where this is inappropriate, like while you’re on a date, engaged in a conversation with a friend, or in the middle of having sex.  You might get dumped, ruin a perfectly good bonding experience or pull a muscle.

On the other hand, my girlfriend had never owned an iPhone.  She never knew what it was like to run her fingers over its glass face or clutch its expensive-feeling exterior.  She never knew what it was like to carry a four ounce, aluminum block of power with a built-in A7 chip in her pocket all day (though I always claimed I was just happy to see her).

The day I purchased my first smart phone was the day the palm of my hand developed an intelligent tumor.  I never had it removed, only upgraded from time to time.  I have it to this day.  It goes where I go.  It sleeps where I sleep.  And even when I do my best to ignore it, it’s always there, begging for my attention.

My technology addiction is hard to explain, but I’ve had it since childhood when I could be found sitting up against the wall of the school during recess, drooling on a Game Boy screen.  There’s something sexy about shiny, new toys.

I was at a company IT conference during the most recent Apple keynote.  I had it streaming in the background as I worked, but it held my full attention when they unveiled the iPhone 6.

It was a beautiful sight.  The larger screen, the sleeker shape, the curved edges, the way it fit elegantly in the palm of a human hand.  I was watching porn.  Tech porn.

“Click it.”  I whispered.  “Click that power button.”

When I snapped out of it and turned around, I had amassed a following of IT professionals who were wiping sweat from their foreheads as they tried to get a better view of my laptop.

“It looks amazing.”  I told my dad on the phone the next day.  “The battery on my current phone is kind of dying and the power button gets stuck, so I might need to upgrade sooner than I originally…”

“You need to stop being Steve Jobs’ bitch.”  My dad cut me off.

Like my ex-girlfriend, he too made a strong point about my addiction.  I still had a perfectly good phone.  It still had the same shiny, silver back and the finest glass you’ve ever run your thumb across.  There was no need to rush just because a better one was about to hit shelves.

So I waited.  I waited a whole week after the iPhone 6 launch to visit my local Apple store with my debit card in hand.

“I’m here for my iPhone!”  I announced to the employee at the front of the store.

“Great!”  She exclaimed.  “I’ll just need you to get in that line over there and a technician will be with you shortly.”

My eyes gazed where she was pointing.  That’s when I saw the line.  It was outside the store on the other side of the walkway.  The people that were already waiting did nothing but stare into the store, eye-groping every device they could.

It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I joined them.

The Apple store was located close to the center of the mall.  There was a Starbucks where couples sat, drinking lattes and engaging each other in quiet conversation.  Friends passed through laughing with shopping bags filled with new clothes.   There was a playground where children ran free.  The mall was alive on that Monday afternoon, and I was on the sidelines with my crowd of greedy, tech perverts.

“I can’t wait to see how the M8 motion coprocessor works on this one.”  Announced the young man a few people behind me.

“I’m going with the iPhone 6 Plus because I like my devices nice and big.”  Explained the older gentleman in front of me.

“I just can’t wait to touch the fingerprint identity sensor.”  Cried the woman next to me.  “I bet it feels so good!”

I stopped paying attention after awhile, because I had flashed back to a middle school sleepover with my friend, Ben.  We were flipping channels and we landed on a late night, adult movie.  We kept it on.

I had never seen anything like it before.  The sounds, the passion, the beautiful bodies of failed actresses.  I’m pretty sure Ben appreciated it the same way I did.  We sat with our eyes glued to the screen, breaking the silence occasionally to bust out manly phrases like, “She’s so hot,” or “I gotta get me some of that.”

But halfway through the first sex scene, we exchanged nervous laughter.  It turns out that watching televised fornication with a friend was like watching it while looking in a mirror.  Your enjoyment of the moment is ruined because you can’t help but focus on how ridiculous you look.

My trip down memory lane was broken when a woman with a bag of clothes walked by and stared at us.

“Wow.”  She exclaimed.  “Are all of you in line for the new iPhone?”

I looked around.  Everyone nodded in excitement, rubbing their current phones in their hands one last time in preparation for the excitement of running their fingers over something newer.

“Not me.”  I blurted out.  “I was just leaving a date that went really well and I accidentally tripped and fell into this line.”

She looked at me suspiciously.  As did everyone around me.

“But while I’m here I might as well get one.”

Me and My Purple Patch

A month ago, I was conducting my usual morning routine of admiring my pasty whiteness in the bathroom mirror when I noticed a small patch of lighter skin on my upper right arm.  It was purple, but a lighter shade of purple than my skin tone.  A small child might have thought it it was a kiss mark from the tooth fairy.  A normal adult would have thought nothing of it and continued their life in peace.  Being anything but a calm and logical person, I jumped straight to the conclusion that it was malignant melanoma.  A hickey from the angel of death.

I did my best to not let it bother me.  That lasted almost halfway through my drive to work.  Once I hit my first red light, my sleeve was up and my eyes were locked to the mysterious skin lesion like a tween glued to a smartphone.  I stared more at the purple patch than I did the road as I continued on towards the office, not realizing that I could have been the first person to be pulled over for performing a skin inspection while driving.

“Maybe it’s a patch of thin skin.”  Maggie said when I entered her cubicle and shoved my flabby arm in her face.  “You know how some people are thick-skinned?  Maybe this is your one weak point.”

In order to test her theory she tried calling me an asshole directly to my purple patch and then to my other arm for comparison.  I took the same amount of offense to each.

“Wait, let me try calling you an egotistical, misogynistic shit head.”  She pleaded as I walked away.

I needed my primary care physician to set me straight.  I’ve never left her office without feeling a sense of relief and confidence.  Like the time she told me my large amount of excess fat was nice and evenly distributed over my vital organs.

Every time I have unrealistic health concerns about rare diseases and conditions, my doctor examines the situation, tells me why I’m full of crap, and sends me out into the world to continue living my life as I was before.  Every time my doctor has realistic concerns about my weight and eating habits, I examine the situation, tell her why she’s right, and go out into the world to continue eating my way through life as I was before.

I expected her to take one look at my arm and tell me it was it was a small fat build-up on the top layer of my skin that was slightly discolored from a tiny, minor blood vessel leak on the surface level of my vein roadway.  And that this extremely natural and common series of conditions was nothing to worry about.

Her actual answer didn’t thrill me.

“That’s odd.”  She said as she inspected my arm closer, poking the patch with her finger to see if she could wipe it off.

“I hope that stands for Ordinary Dermatitis Disease.”  I replied.

“I’m going to refer you a a dermatologist,”  She went on.  “It’s probably nothing, but I just can’t say with confidence that it’s benign.”

I took her advice and scheduled an appointment two weeks down the road.  For those two weeks, the only time my eyes ever left the purple patch was when I was online reading about other people’s purple patches.  It bothered me immensely that I couldn’t find anyone with a similar situation.

Typically, when I frantically research a symptom online, I’m able to diagnose myself with almost one-hundred percent accuracy.  It’s amazing I’m still living considering all the illnesses I’ve had in the past fifteen years.  I’ve had a touch of skin cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, throat cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, several bleeding ulcers, liver cancer, liver disease, herpes, AIDS, bird flu, and a broken foot.

I remember each scare vividly.  Some led to sleepless nights.  Some led to tiny bruises on my stomach from extensive tumor searches.  Many of them led to the acceptance of death as an inevitability.  All of them had me repeating common sense to myself late at night, lying in the dark.

“If I spend every moment of my life fearing death, isn’t that like being dead already?”

But every time one condition clears up, another begins a few months later.  Another cold.  Another minor foot injury.  Another headache.  Another purple patch.

And I will worry and beat myself up for worrying so much, especially once I find out for sure that the life-changing symptom I’ve been wasting my life panicking about was…

“Definitely not cancer.”  My new dermatologist assured me.  “In fact you have very healthy skin.”

“Thank you.”  I replied.  “I play video games all day in the dark.”

“Good for you.”  She said.  “Now you and your purple patch can run along.  I’m sure you have important stuff to do.”

I didn’t.  I thought about taking the rest of the day off to celebrate my survival.  But my purple patch had a job to do.  He had to stay right where he was and stand guard.  So that every time I roll up my sleeves and look at him, he can tell me to quit being a pussy and get back to whatever it is I’m doing at the time.

Shower Bath Time

A traditional tanka is apparently like a haiku, but contains two additional lines of seven syllables.

So the syllable count is 5-7-5-7-7.

The word tanka was foreign to me until reading about it on The Daily Post.

The true color of my shower was foreign to me until I started cleaning last night.  What was that like?  I’ll tell you.

Jess called me up on
A beautiful summer day.
She spoke with purpose
When she told me my bathroom
“Looked like someone died inside.”

“It’s just my shower.”
I explained in my defense.
“It’s cleaned every day
with a stream of warm water
that drips down from my body.”

“But your body’s gross.”
Jess shouted through the speaker.
“You’re covered in dirt.
A day’s worth of dirt that drips
everywhere the water goes.”

I went to the store.
Straight to the cleaning section.
Snatching up supplies
like bleach, gloves, scrubbers, face masks,
and a Snickers for the road.

A woman helped me.
The checkout line was too long,
And I wanted out.
She opened her register,
And laughed at my strange purchase.

The shower was gross.
Ohio water is gross.
My bathroom was gross.
So I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed.
Until all the gross was gone.

And I discovered
to my wonder and surprise,
that the tub I use
wasn’t shades of brownish tan,
but really a solid white.

The lesson is learned.
I know so much better now.
I will never wait
longer than fifteen months to
clean that which cleans me again.