Published in the Good News Network, 2010
We weren’t in our seats five minutes when it began: “Look at this,” my cousin Peter said, tilting his iPhone so I might see the screen. “I took these pictures this morning. I used an App to create a video panorama...”
Peter was visiting from San Francisco; we hadn’t seen each other in a long time. The last thing I wanted to do was look at his photos of the National Archives building, but there we were, peering at the small screen as if it would soon reveal the lost secrets of the universe.
“And check this out...” he recalibrated and held the iPhone at eye-level. “Lean over and I’ll take your picture, and we’ll video conference with your mother. Lean!”
I leaned, and held my smile for a few long moments while contemplating how to cut this lunch date short. I like Peter. I really do. But I did not want to spend the next hour listening to him talk about his iPhone.
Satisfied with the photograph, he sat back and stared at the screen, anticipation tugging at his brow. “I’m saving,” he announced.
I begged the waiter with my eyes, and then languished in the short repartee concerning salad dressing and marinades. When we had ordered, I attempted to divert the conversation. “Do you have meetings every day,” I asked, “or will you have time to visit a museum or two?”
He gasped with renewed enthusiasm, and readdressed the iPhone. “I’ll show you. I downloaded all the different exhibits at all the area museums, and I even have hours of operation, cafeteria menus, maps...” I tuned him out. An older couple dining at the bar caught my attention. They were talking quietly, with their heads tilted toward one another. They smiled, and held eye contact.
Peter made eye contact too, but his stare was robotic and intense; his eyes were glazed by iPhone addiction. I decided to change the subject. “Are you seeing anyone new?” I asked. Peter had been divorced for twenty years, and I’d met several of his women friends since then. He often brought a companion to Washington when he came for business meetings. This time, alas, he was alone.
“What?” He frowned, and for a moment I thought he’d converse with me. But I was wrong. “Oh here we go,” he said. He brought the iPhone to his mouth and spoke slowly, maintaining a measured monotone: “Hello, Edith (my mother). This is Peter speaking and I am sharing a picture of Lisa in a lovely restaurant named Matisse where we are having lunch together in Washington DC. Hope you are having a good day. I ordered the grilled salmon salad and here it comes now. I’m signing off now. Love Peter.”
Peter is a terrific guy. He is a gentle and generous person, with a spirited personality and enough energy for four men. He is one of my favorite relatives. We sit together at weddings and funerals, we seek each other out at bar mitzvahs and birthdays. We exchange emails and phone calls during the year, and try and see each other when we visit either coast, even if it’s only for coffee. We like each other.
I put my hand on his arm. “Peter, I can’t even force myself to pretend I’m interested in your iPhone. Can’t you just talk to me?”
“Yes, but first you have to see this one game,” he typed furiously on the keypad. “It’s in video format...”