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death of an icon
purgatory and the mobile lifestyle
by joe procopio (@jproco)

You know a column is going to be GREAT when it starts out with apologies.

Disclaimer #1: No one died. I'm sorry for exposing you to the sloppy practice of luring you in with an out-of-context title. I know that if you were on Google searching for an edge in Celebrity Death Bingo and have now wasted up to 20 seconds of your life reading an article on what you thought was a website called Intrepid Medical, you're probably all cheesed at my sleight of hand.

No, we don't do that here, we're totally pulling for Bret Michaels even though we collectively hate his music (except Miller). I tell you what. If you don't laugh by the end of the column, I'll gladly refund your money.

Disclaimer #2: I'm going to talk about something called the "mobile lifestyle," which on the surface may seem as worth deconstructing as the Metrosexual movement or Arizona's new immigration law. Yes, the mobile lifestyle is 75% self-indulgence and another 20% casual gaming, but the other 5% might someday cure cancer.

Look, I'm just as mortified as you that I barf out this much garbage into the public headspace, but you should have seen this coming when I started Intrepid 10 years ago. At least I don't have an iPhone. Or a MySpace page. Or a Nike+. Or a Flip.

Anyhow, in my day job I run a consulting firm and also do a lot of work with entrepreneurs, investors, advisors, and so on. A week and a half ago, I was at an investor conference away from home. Wednesday afternoon looked a little something like this:

Twitter: "first official ced venture conference f-bomb dropped" (updated)

Facebook: "will be back in town by 7 tmrw. anyone watching the draft at baileys?" (updated)

email: "Re: e2 up yrs. i dug it." (message sent)

Visual Voice Mail: The Wife. 2:51 p.m. 0:37 (downloaded)

Text: "dude are you going to the reception tonight?" (sending...........................................................

And that's the last thing my Blackberry said before it died. Like a crazy geeky forensic trail in lower-case letters, abbreviations, and devil-may-care grammar, my mobile stream stopped, my timeline ate its own flux capacitor, and my life became a lot less interesting.

At least to me.

Like all grief cycles, I started out in denial. I was in Pinehurst, a town known for golf course No. 2 and being square in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It might be the capital of nowhere. So of course I was in a dead spot.

Then I got back to my room and spent $37 to call my wife from the hotel land line.

But that pales in comparison to the pain the next morning when I spent the entire day purporting to represent the latest in cutting edge technology while jotting notes on a pad of Pinehurst paper using a Pinehurst ball point pen and then finding a place with WiFi, opening up my laptop, and spewing tweets, posts, emails, and writing a column or two while subsequently missing half of the conference.

This is like a surgeon walking into the OR with a hammer, a jar of leeches, and a Rubik's Cube.

When I finally got home, I went to the plastic bin of wires and gadgets (ooh, an iPaq) in my closet and dug out my old phone.

Not really.

Hello Moto, indeed.

I know. A few of you are saying: "Hey. Pretty-boy. That's a phone. It works. It makes calls. It even gets something called the mobile web. You can text the word 'Hello' using only 15 keystrokes."

You're right. And I used to be that guy. But it was those awful days after my Blackberry bricked when I realized I had crossed the line, and I know this because muscle memory made me instinctively continue to whip the e815 out of my pocket every five minutes, at which point I'd look at it, note the time of day, and, with melancholy, quietly slip it back into my pocket.

"Oh my God, Is that your phone?!"

"That? No. That's not my phone. It's irony. My phone is in the shop having... an iPad installed in it. Seriously. Huge in Korea right now."

My redemption, my saving grace, and my gift to all of you whose significant othership is on verge of dissolving due to the amount of time you spend staring at your palm, is that I realized that not only am I actually more productive with a smartphone, but there are huge societal benefits as well.

For example, if the wife needs more than two distinct items at the grocery store on my way home, an email ensures she will get at least 90% of those items (I don't know where the damn instant hot apple cider is, all right? It's not in the fruit aisle, the juice aisle, or the Jell-O aisle, and Google doesn't know where it is either).

And may I remind you of the fact that I can text you and you can text me and neither of us have to be yammering from the stall in the men's room, or in a restaurant, or at a funeral.

Say what you will about Facebook and Twitter. Sure one might mean the equivalent of stapling your own social security number to your forehead, and the other... well the other is just Twitter, I shouldn't have to explain how awful it is.

But with them, I was alerted to Free Comic Book Day at just the moment when my 3-year-old son and I had a half hour to kill and happened to be in the vicinity. I wouldn't have found out any other way because, this column kinda-sorta proving otherwise, I just don't travel in those circles.

Within a week, the phone I had been waiting for had finally hit the market. I picked it up, I switched it on, and I'm back posting not only columns and tweets and work emails but also emails just to say thanks, ballet recital pictures, and whatever I happen to be thinking about, writing about, or listening to...



Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio


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topic: tech
published: 7.2.07


jeff miller
5.3.10 @ 9:05a

Disclaimer #3: I am NOT a Poison fan.

Great post. The thing about my iPhone is that it's a lifeline to my actual life. Sure I use it for work, but what I really use it for is maintaining a real-time tether to the people and places I care about most - which is why I feel genuine iPhone displacement anxiety whenever I forget it. Which is almost never, since I am compulsively obsessed with making sure I have it.

daniel castro
5.3.10 @ 12:26p

Oh, sir, do I feel you on this one.

A few weeks back my crackberry Bold had an untimely death at the hands of, well, clumsy hands. The lcd cracked and since I wasn't about to spend $125 on something I'm exchanging in a few months, I went the nerdy way and did it myself.

However, those 3-4 days of waiting, using first a phone almost like that Moto (Damn LG) and then my old, old Curve...made me realize how addicted I am to to it, and how well I am aware of that. Wouldn't have it any other way.

joe procopio
5.3.10 @ 2:22p

Nice to know I'm not the only one. It's sad that it really has become a necessity in my life, although not totally, because I was able to wait 8 days for a new smartphone. 8 long, long days.

Miller: Sorry pal. If you showed me posters of Poison, Cinderella, and Ratt from the 80s with their names removed, I'd have no clue.

joe redden tigan
5.4.10 @ 11:01a

As a purveyor of misleading titles (Tiger/Situation), I forgive you.

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