I rode my bike over to a multinational consumer
electronics company on Main Street. “What’s the
hottest gadget this year?” I asked the employee,
who wore a red polo and a name tag that said
“Marc.” “Wow, what a great question, and what
a lucky guy you are,” Marc said. “Because I’m
about to let you in on something big.” He leaned
in when he said “big.” I was suspicious. “What
are you on about, pal?” I asked. “I bet you say
that to everyone. But I have to say I’m still
curious, so by all means, continue. You have my
undivided attention. I’m all ears.” Suddenly, I
began to feel an intense pain vibrate across my
entire body, but I didn’t want Marc to feel
uncomfortable so I remained cool. In fact, I
couldn’t have felt any cooler. Marc stepped
behind a glass counter and returned with a
candy bar-shaped phone. It rested flush with his
open, chubby palm, slightly trembling. Not even
Marc, a department manager at a multinational
consumer electronics company, was yet
comfortable with this deceptively simple-looking
device. "Well, my intrigue levels are through the
roof," I said. "Lay it on me. What makes this
phone so special? Is it mobile?" "It's more than
mobile," he said, pausing for my name.
"Theodore," I said, proudly, giving him a salute
over my helmet. "It's more than mobile, Ted," he
said. "May I call you, Ted?" "No," I said. "You
may not." "Sorry. Anyway, it's more than mobile,
Theodore, it's—" "—Actually, Ted is OK," I
stopped him. "Sorry for stopping you, it's just
that no one has ever called me Ted before, so I
was just a little shocked when you said it
earlier. But now I understand the appeal, and I
think it has a cool ring to it." "Speaking of
which," he said. "Why don't I start by showing
you the various ring tones this Smart Phone
offers." "I'm sorry," I said. "Did you say 'Smart
Phone?' " He couldn't have looked happier with
my leading question, but my pain was only
getting worse, I felt I couldn't keep my cool much
longer. A thousand pangs erupted across my skin.
But Marc appeared none the wiser. His eyes were
trained on the device ever since he removed it
from the glass counter. "A very smart phone,
indeed, but let's set the mood before I continue,"
he said. Beethoven's "Für Elise" began beeping
from the tiny sound holes at the bottom.
"A man after my own heart," I said. "I love
Beethoven. Did you know he was deaf? And yet to
create these beautiful melodies..." Marc
impatiently pointed at the phone. "Ah, yes," I
said. "The phone, the phone..." "Take a look at
this," he said, removing a small stylus from the
back. Underneath a regular looking keypad of
numerical buttons was a pale green screen, and
when he tapped the stylus against the display, a
gorgeous blue backlight turned on. "Monochromatic
resistive touch screen," he said. "Which you can
use to send texts and e-mail...." By this point I
completely tuned Marc out. The pain surging
throughout my body reached nuclear levels, and I
couldn't hold back any longer. I gave myself over
to this pain. "Oh, oh, oh," I said. I clutched my
neck and began to feel little fleshy appendages
form. I screamed, alerting Marc to observe the
body horror before him. "Ted, you're all ears!" he
said, and dropped the stylus on the floor.
Customers around us began screaming, their
babies began crying. An alarm sounded and the
overhead sprinklers turned on, short-circuiting
the display televisions across the big-box super
store. And beyond, the universe expanded.