Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Joy of Tech

Chalk it up to a talent for consistency if you like, but I've always been young. I'm going on a 26-year streak now so I predict the trend will go on indefinitely. But such perpetual youth is not free of pain and hardship. I speak - as you have no doubt guessed - of the lack of a decent smartphone.

Notice I say "decent smartphone," not "smartphone." This is because up till last month, I stood enmired in a 1 1/2-year codependent relationship with a smartphone that had clearly, in its youth, been emotionally wounded by a sadistic mother.*  The result was an amalgam of Tourette's, dementia, low battery, schizophrenia, night terrors and chronic dropped calls. I also eventually realized my phone was refusing to receive text messages people were sending me, and as we well know from helpful posters in bus stations, when your significant other won't let you talk to your friends, that's a sign of an unhealthy relationship. But I was in too deep to realize. (Remember I mentioned I am pretty young.)

This was all part of an inexorable cycle. First, I would threaten to replace my phone and/or flush it.** Then the phone would wail and whine at me to take it back, because THIS time would be DIFFERENT. Accusations flew back and forth; tears flowed; passionate embraces were exchanged, and finally we would have a long, gratifying round of make-up texting. Then everything would be okay for any a week.

Long story short, I finally saw the light and acquired a new phone, and I have never been happier. Gone are the bad old days of no connection and under-productivity; the new phone has ushered in a bold new era of constant connection and under-productivity at a much faster rate. Now I can verify, on the way to the subway, what celebrities are dead. I can avoid answering my email en route to my very own bathroom -- or someone else's bathroom, for that matter (although they often wonder who I  am, and what I am doing in there).

And let's not forget to talk about Swype. This is a delightful program performs the vital dual functions of allowing you to type misspelled words while getting smeary finger stains all over your screen. Why misspelled? Well, the smartphone is only so smart, which means much of the time your messages are somewhat compromised. For example, say you're trying to write the following:

Dear Stan,

I will be running a bit late. I look forward to seeing you shortly.

Nicola McEldowney

Before Swype, you would have had to type those words letter by letter, and you would have run the very real risk of spelling most of them correctly. But thanks to the efficiency of Swype, your message will look something like this:

Dear Arab,

I will be rubbing a nub large. I look forward to seeing you shirtless.

Bucks Microfiber***

See how handy it is? As a smug and entitled upper-middle-class white person, I heartily go on the record as saying everyone should have one. And I think it is fair to say that, if you don't get one, you're not a real person.

In any case, I love my new smartphone. I've had it for over a week now and our relationship has yet to turn to pure unalloyed crap, which is more than I can say for its predecessor, as well as a few other individuals. As a matter of fact, I think it may be "the one," but then God knows I've said THAT before.

But there is no need to dwell in such places right now. Now is the time to revel in my newfound ability to plumb the depths of BuzzFeed while riding a bus. Did I mention my capacity for under-productivity? It's at least as legendary as my talent for youth, and I dare say it probably has at least three times the staying power.

* I can't know, but I imagine she was a microwave.
** On which note, flushability would be a great feature in other kinds of partners, if you get my drift.
*** This is what my phone originally thought my name was. I think it would be a good stripper name, assuming (a) I decide to adopt a second career and (b) I don't want any clients.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Northern Exposure: An Introduction to the Bronx

Writing about geography holds a special place in my heart. This is because every time I do, I get irate comments from readers with severe issues and excessive spare time. "How DARE you suggest that Belgium and France are the same country?!!" they write. "I am APPALLED. On the other hand, what can you expect from someone who thinks the national animal of Kazakhstan is the chocolate bunny?" To which I reply: I NEVER said that! I said he was the prime minister. But choose to believe what you want, if it makes you happy.

Anyway, I do admit my grasp of the world is tenuous, which is why today I'm sticking close to home, with the following overview of:


The Bronx was created many geological epochs ago, when a Cro-Magnon workman named Unghh, who still works on 231st St., took a really big rock and banged it down hard to see what he would squish. This resulted in the shifting of the tectonic plates of the Earth. The Bronx split off in one big glob ("Bronx" is Cro-Magnon for "glob") from Manhattan, leaving untold thousands of Cro-Magnons without immediate access to artisanal coffee. Needless to say, they died instantly. The exception was Unghh, who lived on other Cro-Magnons.

That's how the Bronx got to be so far north. Most people don't even realize it exists. I know this because I used to be a student at Columbia, where it is de rigueur never to go further than your dorm bathroom, and some people never even bother with this. Columbia students believe the northern boundary of the known universe is Harlem, which they vaguely know to be a place we should all care about deeply but never go to. Whereas Harlem residents are a little more broad-minded. They believe the Earth terminates with Washington Heights. I don't know what Washington Heights residents think, but here is a simplified diagram of my best guess:


Well, I'm here to tell you that "tundra" is actually the Bronx. You probably don't know much about it because the Bronx doesn't have the best reputation. This is a shame, because every so often I need people to sublet my apartment and pay large amounts of money. So that's why I'm here: to stand up for my borough's somewhat crud-festooned integrity. 

How far has the Bronx come since the Cro-Magnon days? Well, I will tell you: now we have an iHop, and one of these days soon we are getting a T.J. Maxx, so just chew on that, why don't you. Even these days, pre-T.J. Maxx, commerce is strong here. I speak particularly of the "iPhone" truck down by the high school. This is a truck that sells "iPhones," if you get my drift. It also sells "batteries," "chargers," and many other items that attract a vast number of consumers, if you continue to get my drift. This is why on any given day, a long queue of high-schoolers wait outside, demonstrating their profound devotion to phone chargers.

You know what would be really funny? If a person actually went up to the iPhone Truck in hopes of purchasing, say, a charger. I assume this has never happened. Such is not the way your savvy New Yorker conducts his business transactions. Your savvy New Yorker entrusts his business to trusted corporations. He doesn't go throwing money around at places with nice-sounding names that are obvious huge fronts for crystal-meth operations, such as "iPhone Truck" or "Columbia University."*

Nevertheless my point is that the Bronx's economy, despite the turmoil of the Cro-Magnon era, stands strong. And what's more, the Bronx has the further advantage of having - I want to be very clear about the magnitude of this - a comical name. You can't find that just anywhere in NYC, at least not at these rent prices. (You can find it in Long Island. Check out the LIRR callboard at Penn Station and you'll be entertained for days by places with names like Yankywanker.)

Last of all, I should like to close today's geography lesson by dispelling the long-held notion that the Bronx is far from Manhattan. On the contrary, travel a mere 20 minutes, and you will be in a really unappetizing part of Manhattan. You'll want to come right back to the Bronx, which luckily is only a hop, skip and a jump away.

So to summarize, the advantages of the Bronx are as follows: excellent local commerce,  a funny name, and convenience to places you wouldn't want to go anyway. Have I made my case? I think so, and now if you'll excuse me, I have to purchase an iPhone charger. Don't forget to attend geography class next week, when we'll discuss the Staten Island Chocolate Bunny Rebellion of 1915. The chocolate bunny is the official borough animal.

* If you didn't know this, you were kidding yourself.