Approximately one day before I was officially hired at my job, the boss spontaneously decided to give the entire staff free iPads. I was still technically a paid intern on that day, so I didn’t receive one, and it stung. BADLY.
Over the next couple of weeks, I sat in my desk pouting while every single person I share a table with made a huge to-do about his iPad, comparing apps, drawing little pictures of spiders with his draw tools and then passing the damn thing around to show everyone, talking about data plans, etc., and it was all I could do not to punch the whole staff in the face, one by one, for their egregious insensitivity toward my situation.
From that day forward, securing a free iPad became kind of symbolic for me. It became the Holy Grail of legitimacy, or acceptance, or respect, or something. Every time one of my co-workers whipped out his iPad to wave it around in my face, I imagined myself as Mel Gibson, riding my little horse around the office with a half-blue painted face talking about iPads and freedom in a bad Scottish accent until they all drummed up the motivation to fight for my rights as a new staffer.
And on Friday, it happened. I was typing away, minding my own business, when a package was casually dropped onto my desk. I ripped it open to confirm that it was, in fact, a free iPad, and that it was mine. I was so elated that I made a little papoose for it out of my scarf and carried it around with me on my lunch breaks and bathroom breaks and to the water cooler. If I could have spoon-fed it mashed avocados and burped it on my shoulder, I would have.
It wasn’t until I finally got it home and sat it on my coffee table that I realized I had no clue what to do with it. What are iPads even for? I literally just stared at it for about 20 minutes, feeling guilty, like I had promised to entertain it or something and was horribly failing to do so. So I dialed for back-up.
“Mom!” I said. “Guess what?! I got a free iPad!”
“Ohhhh, I’m so jealous!” she said.
“Yea you are! So wait, why are you jealous?”
“I want an iPad so badly!” she said. “It’s like a bigger version of the iPhone that you can carry around in your purse, but you can’t call people on it.”
“OK. I don’t get why you would want a bigger phone that doesn’t call people,” I said.
“Well for people like me with bad eyes, it’s awesome. Everything on the screen is just bigger!”
Is that what this is? A super-sized iPhone for old people? Because I’m actually quite pleased with my normal-sized iPhone that does call people.
I turned to my roommate for a second opinion.
“Jodi!” I said. “I got a free iPad!!!”
“Woohoooooo!” she shouted. “Have you downloaded Fruit Ninja?”
“Fruit Ninja– that game where the pieces of fruit fly up on the screen and you slice them with your finger!”
“Um. Ok. But for those of us who aren’t into slicing fruit on a screen,” I said, and then observed the look of profound sadness and confusion on her face. “Nevermind. I’ll download fruit ninja.”
I mentioned my free iPad to about 12 other people that day, and all of them nearly peed their pants over it in the middle of the street, but not one of them was able to give me a solid reason why I should be excited about it.
“You can draw things on it with your finger.”
Cool, I can draw on a piece of paper with a pen. Next?
“You can store all your pictures and music on it!”
Cool, I already store all my pictures and music on my laptop. Is that seriously all you people can come up with?
So the Holy Grail sat in its little white box on my coffee table, untouched, all weekend. I was a little dismayed about the whole situation until Sunday morning, when I was awakened at 8:30 am by a text message. I rolled over, glanced at the text, and then dropped my iPhone face up on my chest as I dozed off again.
When I opened my eyes about ten minutes later, I noticed that there was some light streaming in from my window that was reflecting off the surface of my iPhone and making one of those little light spots on the ceiling that dogs and babies go nuts for. I was lying perfectly still, but the light spot on the ceiling was jerking about an inch to the left every second or so, in tandem with my heartbeat. My iPhone was resting on my chest, and every time the blood pulsed through my veins, it moved the phone ever so slightly, allowing me to actually watch my heartbeat projected on the ceiling.
What was cool about this, to me, was that the neatest thing I had ever seen my iPhone do had happened while it was turned off. It was basic science: light reflecting and refracting, obviously, and that whole phenomenon (I don’t know what it’s called) where the tiniest movement happens in the center of a circle and it projects into a much larger movement around the circumference. I’m geeking out here, but THE POINT IS, computers are still just physical objects, subject to all the rules of the universe, even when they can do things like throw bananas up on the screen and let you slice them with your finger. So my plan is to think of all the exciting things my free iPad and I can do together that don’t necessitate him being powered on.
For instance, maybe I’ll slice real fruit on him when all my cutting boards are in the dishwasher. Or I could use him as a tiny personal yoga mat, and if he wants to play some music while that happens, that’s his prerogative. Maybe I’ll hang him on our doorknob and stick passive aggressive post-it notes on him for my roommates to find as they’re leaving the house.
…Or I could just give him as a Christmas present to a kid who really wants one, because the truth is, I don’t really have room in my polygamous marriage with my iPhone and Macbook to fall in love with another piece of useless technology.