Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm the opposite of an early adapter. I don't own a cellphone. I haven't got a laptop. You'll see Wilma Flintstone with an iPod before I've got one. So when I passed the Apple store the other day, buying an iPhone was the last thing on my mind. I was headed to Chelsea Market. I buy all my fruits and vegetables there, mostly because it's the only produce stand in New York City that butts against a bakery and a fudge shoppe.

There was a long line of people standing outside the Apple store, which reminded me that the new iPhone was making its debut. Normally I'd have laughed at all these idiots and kept walking, but there was something odd about the people in line:

They were all holding enormous black umbrellas emblazoned with the Apple logo.

My eyes went wide and my heart started to pound. Ohmigod, I thought -- they're giving away umbrellas. They're giving umbrellas to all those poor saps waiting in the blazing sun to buy phones. That is so typically Apple, I thought, as I scurried to the end of the line.

Now, I blame New York for this. The city's so expensive and the residents are so poor, they've become zen masters at earning a shady dollar. It was just a matter of time before, just by osmosis, I picked this up, and now a small part of my brain whirs in the background during every waking hour, searching for schemes where I can make a few bucks without doing a lick of work.

I figure I'll stand in line for a few minutes, somebody'll give me an umbrella, and when they've wandered further down the line I'll leave. These things were obvious quality: huge circumference, heavy black fabric, vent and stained-wood stem. They'd pull down enough on eBay to buy me a pineapple, or maybe a quarter pound of fudge.

The scheme starts unraveling the second I'm handed the umbrella: "We don't have enough, so we're asking people to share," a harried employee says. Even before I get the thing over my head, there's a muscular black guy and a shapely Russian blonde thanking me for getting them out of the sun.

I have one major personality flaw: what I see in the future is startlingly different from what actually transpires. Martin -- the black guy -- tells me the line is three and a half hours long. Stella -- the Russian -- says the time will fly. I'm holding an umbrella over their heads and waiting for something I don't want when like an Apple publicist she starts detailing what's so great about the phone. Martin goes next, and then they both look at me.

I crack under the pressure. "I don't really want a phone," I admit. "I just wanted the free umbrella."

They both laugh, and Martin rubs my back. He's a lot friendlier than a handsome guy should be, I decide. I rub his back too.

An hour later I decide this is ridiculous, even for me. I don't want, and can't afford, a new cellphone. But I've fallen head over heels for Martin, and I desperately want to get him in the sack. "You're really a cool guy," I tell him. "How about if we get together when this is all over?"

"Sure," he says. "I'll program my number into your phone."

Stella was right: the hours fly. By the time we get to the door, I've decided I might actually like the thing. Now I can walk at a snail's pace down the center of the sidewalk while texting shallow nonsense to my friends. Now I can stand at the top of every escalator while trying to decide what song is appropriate for my mood. Now I can scream my current whereabouts to people who probably don't care.

As we shuffle inside, a clerk asks for the umbrella back. It was just a loaner, he says, and he wants to pass it on to somebody else in line. I tighten my grip on it and usher my two new friends inside. "If I cared about people," I whisper to him, "would I be buying your phone?"

1 comment:

R J Keefe said...

Thanks, Roman! for another lovely episode. Gripping the umbrella at the end, you had me thinking of ZaSu Pitts in "Greed."