Patricia’s Smartphone

Patricia woke up not when her body was ready to wake but when her smartphone, which she lays to bed beside her every night, vibrated and chimed with a text message from Madison reminding her of the lunch they would have later that Saturday afternoon. Her eyes began adjusting to light coming from her phone’s screen instead of the sun, to Facebook and Instagram updates of the amazing experiences her friends had the night before. She was more than excited when she noticed four new messages on Facebook, but quickly realized they were from losers. She let out a “lame” under her morning breath before getting out of bed, phone in hand.

She didn’t want to eat a large breakfast since she knew she would be having a fattening lunch later in the day with Madison at the new restaurant that was the buzz of all the local blogs—blogs she was now catching up on after preparing a small meal of two toaster pastries, banana, probiotic yogurt, and three pieces of artisanal dark chocolate. There on the center of her kitchen table was the biography of Steve Jobs, and if you look closely you can see a fine layer of dust on the cover. She received it as a gift, and though she read the first 16 pages with enthusiasm, she got distracted with something else and never picked it up again. She felt no loss for failing to read the book because her extensive blog reading and magazine browsing must surely surpass the depth and wisdom contained in the autobiography of only one man. A book, unlike her favorite blogs, also didn’t allow her to leave witty comments that other people could give her recognition for in the form of upvotes.

She arrived on time to lunch and greeted her friend Madison with “You look amazing!” The two other standard greetings she uses are “You look great!” and “Oh my god where did you get that—it’s so cute!” where the that would usually be an article of clothing or piece of cosmetic jewelry. There were two seatings that took place; first their bodies, on a square table besides the open kitchen that draws attention from patrons whenever a little fireball erupts from the grill area, and the other seating was for their phones, which they both placed to the right of their appetizer plate and silver utensils.

Their menu browsing was interrupted with snippets of their Friday night, each girl teasing with small details that would be explained more fully after ordering. Every minute one would ask the other, “What are you getting?” and the other would invariably respond, “I don’t know, what are you getting?” followed by a detail such as, “Did you see Josh recently? He lost a lot of weight!” The girl who did not see Josh pulled out her phone to find a recent photo of him on Facebook that confirmed his improved appearance.

Madison noticed there was a typo in the menu. She followed her gut instinct, which was to take a picture and then tweet it to her two favorite foodie blogs and the restaurant’s Twitter account with the text “Still working out the kinks?” She expected her discovery to get many responses but three minutes later, after their meals were ordered, there were no retweets or replies and she was surprised, because the typo was obvious and this was supposed to be a serious restaurant, opened by a chef of a famous food truck that sold Mexican cupcakes with avocado sprinkles that were locally sourced. It wasn’t uncommon to hear people using their entire lunch hour just to wait in line and buy a few cupcakes as part of the combo special that came with a bag of nachos and pumpkin salsa.

It’s around this time that the full recap of the Friday night would be expected, two continuous stories with a start and end, but it resembled more a staccato, bits and pieces that I was hard-pressed to connect to the whole. Madison was more enamored with the place settings than the story of Patricia getting into an argument with a guy at the bar who asked her for a “female opinion” on something fashion related. Madison took two photos of the table layout, selected the one she liked most, applied a retro filter to make it look more distinguished, added seven different hashtags that were various spellings of the restaurant, and then uploaded it to Instagram. It took a little longer than she liked to upload and she said “Come on” twice while Patricia browsed through her phone so she wouldn’t appear to have nothing to do while waiting for her friend to finish with her art hobby.

Patricia didn’t feel like taking photos at the moment. Instead she launched an app that would blast a status update to all her social networks. She sent the following: “Having an awesome time with Madison at the new place!” Indeed, they were having an awesome time, mostly because they could share it in real time with the entire world.

The food arrived, presented beautifully on large plates with squigglies of unknown sauce going outward like heat rays a child would leave on a drawing of the sun. Both phones were out now, taking pictures from different angles. It took a few minutes for each of them to get their shots just right since the lighting was less than optimal, but post-production app filters were up to the task and produced beautiful photos that they girls couldn’t upload fast enough.

Patricia uploaded just two photos of her dish, a Cobb salad, with the colorful ingredients arrayed beside each other like bags of spices in the Indian market she buys naan bread from. Madison, coming to the realization that this day would be special, created an album with the date and uploaded four photos of her Angus burger on brioche bun that was topped so high a horse wouldn’t be able to take a bite. She ate it not unlike Patricia’s salad, picking at the vegetable ingredients until she decreased its height enough where she could replace the top bun and finish it off in the normal style of eating a burger, exclaiming “This is so good” a total of six times.

Dessert was shared between them, a large piece of chocolate cake, and Patricia got the creative idea of taking a picture of Madison when a spoonful of cake was approaching her mouth. It would have been a better photo, in my opinion, if Madison removed her oversized sunglasses, but she partied hard the night before and didn’t want people to see her sagging eyes, which would suggest she’s upset or not having fun, when the truth is that she was having—like I already mentioned—an awesome time. After the cake was finished, there was a full seven minutes of conversation when neither operated their phones, but glances were stolen at their respective devices, and with no new notifications in such a prolonged period of time, Patricia thought that she lost signal and compulsively turned on the screen. The signal was full strength. Three more minutes went by before she got a like on the status update she sent earlier, but it was from Cody, who was really creepy the other month when he displayed skepticism that free birth control should be a basic human right for women.

The most passionate part of their lunch date was when the check came and they debated how much tip should be left. The service was acceptable, but at one point Madison had no water and she had to flag the waiter to come, going so far as twisting her torso in an unnatural position to locate where the waiter could possibly be. It seemed unnecessarily difficult, she argued, and convinced Patricia to levy a 5% tip penalty from the standard 20%. (Later that night, Madison went on Yelp and left a 3 out of 5 star review, citing the poor water service and menu error as reasons that the restaurant “still had a ways to go.” She added a joke, hoping it would get “Funny” likes, but she only got two “Useful” likes instead.)

They left the restaurant and—I don’t know who came up with the idea first—agreed to take a picture in front of the main entrance. It was their luck that the name of the restaurant could easily be seen. Patricia asked a male passerby to snap the photo. He was more than happy to do so, but Madison began to get anxious because what if Patricia forgets to upload the photo? She didn’t want the opportunity to pass because she may never come back to this restaurant again after the poor service, so she asked the man to take the same photo with her phone. The man happily obliged. He hung around an extra twenty seconds longer than necessary and then thankfully went away without bothering the girls. He wasn’t good-looking.

It was time to walk off the meal by checking out the Old Town shopping center a half-mile away. Only three pictures were taken along the way and they considered buying a cupcake at a classic bakeshop but the line was too long and cupcakes are no longer in with the important foodie crowd that they considered themselves a part of. The Old Town was capably designed, they agreed, with a second level patio that oversaw a small fountain in the center of the complex. There wasn’t much else that I saw, but Patricia and Madison must’ve been moved because they excitedly took out their phones and got ready for picture taking on the patio that oversaw the little fountain. They believed that this moment must be captured with a camera sensor to not only be appreciated by their friends and beta orbiters, but also so they would never forget this special day for as long as they lived.

Patricia stood on the edge of the patio so Madison could take several shots (with Patricia’s phone, of course). Patricia examined each resulting image as soon as they were taken and grimaced each time, as if she was expecting a photo with an entirely different person than herself. After eight photos, she was finally pleased with one and then the process repeated with Madison, and then repeated again with both of them together thanks to the help of another male passerby, who was even more eager than the first. An extra “Thank you so much” was said to get him to buzz off. Not long after, in front of a Chinese restaurant, they stumbled on a display of an oversized Coca-Cola bottle, the classic bottle that can no longer be found in stores, and a handful of more pictures were taken beside it with exaggerated facial expressions.

From the beginning of their lunch date until the end, a total of 52 photos were taken. Sixteen of those photos would be uploaded to various sites to garner a total of 48 likes, comments, and retweets, including a comment from the restaurant, apologizing for the menu typo. Not a bad haul for a Saturday afternoon, Madison thought proudly. She realized that through her effort and ingenuity hundreds of people—no, thousands—would not have to endure an unprofessional typo in a restaurant menu.

Patricia had a date that evening to prepare for. It was a casual date with a man she met on OK Cupid, and though she was reluctant to go since she wasn’t horny (she was getting serviced twice a week by Brody, her ex-boyfriend), she had nothing else to do. She arrived 17 minutes late to be greeted by a man who seemed slightly less attractive than his rock climbing photos suggested. She felt cheated that he uploaded the best version of himself, and while he may be able to say the same of her, since it was obvious her photos were from a younger time when the stress of her studies didn’t allow for the dining experiences she has become a connoisseur of, he was just proud to get a date out of messaging god knows how many women.

He ordered a gimlet while she ordered a mojito that came in a unique glass. She took a picture of her drink and then left her phone on the table while her date put his away. The sun was starting to fade from its peak intensity, signifying the arrival of evening, and so the texts began pouring into her phone. She was polite, only catching a quick glimpse of who was contacting her when her phone’s screen would light for three seconds before fading back to black. Her date soldiered on with his life story, talking about his recent experience in the Peurvian mountains where he took ayahuasca and achieved spiritual enlightenment. He also remarked how he accumulated a vocabulary of 1,000 words in Quechua to learn important Andean wisdom from wise elders that has never been published in English. His story, however, could not compete with her phone. She responded to his prattle with a series of uh huhs while becoming more curious about the contents of her six unread text messages.

The anticipation reached a boiling point, not unlike when she was a young girl on her birthday and wrapped presents were shoved in front of her upon the ceremonial blowing out of the candles. Look, another pretty doll that she could play with for hours without worrying about anything else in the world, quieting her for such long periods that her parents would periodically get a feeling of panic that she wasn’t in the house. “I just have to check something real quick, sorry,” she said, then turned on her screen and scanned through the text messages that were waiting for her. One was from Brody, which was a pleasant surprise, since he didn’t usually contact her until Sunday evening. She decided to only answer the most important text message, the one sent by Madison, who asked how the date was going. She replied: “He’s so boring.. what time are we going to the club tonight? I want to wear my slutty dress.” She smiled as she typed this out with her thumbs, a smile that her date could not elicit from her no matter how hard he tried.

He suggested another round of drinks but she said she was tired and that she needed to get some rest from a hard week of work at the office. He was disappointed but not surprised, and when the check came he was pleased that she made a sincere offer to pay, but she actually had no money in her purse. He paid the bill and got a pleasant hug with Patricia’s breasts pressing slightly against him, completely unaware that his Monday evening “How was the rest of your weekend?” text would go unanswered. I could easily argue that the date was a waste of time for both, but Patricia didn’t see it that way. She got a free cocktail, a cool photo, and a fleeting string of conversation for her friends that would last at least 15 seconds and display how valued she was in the dating game, immediately followed by a comment about how there are no exciting men anymore, only boring ones who think doing hippie drugs, learning dying languages, or climbing mountains make them interesting.

Back at home, Patricia put on her favorite Nicki Minaj party mix and began getting ready for the club. She dressed in her Vegas outfit, the skimpy black top and skirt paired with heavy makeup and heels so high and uncomfortable that a full half-hour of the night would be spent complaining about them to anyone who would listen. While she didn’t look as good as two years ago, you couldn’t tell by increased amount of attention she was getting from men, even when she went out in sweatpants.

She stood in front of her bathroom’s mirror to take some self shots. This took a while to get right. The secret to a good self shot, she understood, was making it look completely natural as if the act of taking a photo next to the toilet bowl was a spontaneous event that came in a rare moment of artistic inspiration, when in actuality she has done this over a thousand times. I was impressed at how skilled she was at striking a pose that was the prettiest she could possibly look in spaces that rarely exceeded 84 square feet, with fluorescent lighting that would have easily highlighted her developing second chin had it not been for a precise 20 degree up-tilt of her head that didn’t decrease the brilliance of her blue eyes like a 25 degree tilt would. After fifteen minutes in the bathroom getting it just right, she raced out the door and mentally braced herself for all the idiots who would make unwanted sexual comments about her body, thinking she dressed that way to get attention instead of to feel confident about herself and who she was as a woman.

She and her crew, four strong, assembled at a lounge. There was such a flurry of ensuing activity that I had trouble keeping up with them. Guys were coming out from behind bushes, it seemed, to put in their attempt, and even Patricia began to feel threatened by the street harassment as she raced with her girls from one club to another, easily skipping the line for peasants and straight into the VIP where rich men with bottles of vodka and sometimes whiskey were waiting to pour whatever they wanted. Numbers were given to the cute and confident men and a couple of them were able to get up close to Patricia and sneak in brief kisses on her glossy lips. During all this the girls maintained death grips on their phones, usually in their left hands so they could party with their right. It would have been too risky to put their phones in their purse because the bass from the speakers would make it impossible to feel the little vibration of a “Where are you?!” text from a friend or a booty call text that would almost always start with the sentence “You out tonight?”

The fact that the girls were dancing with their phone didn’t reduce the fluidity of their gyrations or the rhythmic grinding on men’s crotches, and when a screen lit up from a new notification, even a minor one like an acquaintance not heard of in months being tagged in a photo, the dancing would stop for ten seconds and then commence again as if the interruption didn’t happen. The night wasn’t all joy, sadly, because Patricia forgot to recharge her phone midday, and now her battery level had sunk down to a perilous 14%. She couldn’t take any more photos with flash, which in the dark club essentially meant no more photography. Her night was on the verge of being ruined because her friends could record the exciting moments happening while she could only spectate.

In spite of the battery problem, which killed her phone not long after because of the irresistible urge to take just a few more group shots, the night was a raging success. Between the four girls, 266 photos were taken. Sixty-two would be uploaded, garnering 1,158 likes, comments, and so on, mostly from men. The girls gave out their number a total of 13 times, and 6 men were kissed. Patricia stumbled home alone and the first thing she did was plug in her dead phone into its charger. She patiently waited beside it to boot and then enjoyed the explosion of backlogged messages and notifications that came in all at once. They soothed her soul and validated her self-image as a popular girl in a big city.

She put her phone on silent then fell asleep, waking seven hours later. The first thing she did when she opened her eyes was reach for her phone, which lay beside her like it does every night, and already there was a text from one of the guys she met the night before. Who was it? She didn’t remember, and it didn’t much matter, because the photos, the texts, the likes, and the pleasant notification chime gave her more happiness than these men could provide for her. If you asked Patricia to forever give up her smartphone in order to meet the love of her life, the one in a billion man who would satisfy her both physically and emotionally for as long as she lived, and who would serve her like a queen until his last days, it wouldn’t take her even ten seconds to respond with a decision.

Three days later, the best self shot she uploaded had amassed 102 likes. It was a new record.

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