Thursday, June 18, 2009

Better Life Through Blackberry

One of the best things about working in information technology is that, even after 15 years, I still learn new things every day.

One afternoon last summer, for example, I learned that you should never answer your cell phone in a bathroom. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve discovered that when something starts buzzing in my pocket, my irrepressible instinct is to make it stop.1 On this occasion, I also experienced an untimely loss of motor control, and—splash!—I got my first Blackberry the next day.

If I’d known how completely that Blackberry would change my life though, I would’ve tossed my old Motorola RAZR in the toilet much sooner.2 So for anyone who might be contemplating Life on Blackberry, here’s an overview of the key benefits:

Always Connected!
Now that I carry my e-mail with me everywhere, I never miss an important message. Whether I’m driving to work, watching my daughter’s dance recital, or just trying to eat my dinner, I get:

BZZT!Hot deals from Dell!

And then BZZT!25% off Photo Mugs at Kodak Gallery!

And also BZZT!Amazon has some exciting products to recommend based items I bought as gifts for other people!

And how could I live without BZZT!The Gap is having a sale on flirty summer skirts!

And also, BZZT!Your Amazon order confirmation!

And furthermore BZZT!Your Amazon shipment notification!

And don’t forget BZZT!Yet another Amazon shipment notification! Because your electric nose-hair trimmers are coming from a separate warehouse!

And on a related note, receiving separate alerts for every single message3 has revealed how little of my correspondence comes from actual human beings, liberating me from the delusion that I have a lot of friends. (Sure, it hurts a little, but I'm growing from it. And when I get blue, I just order more stuff from Amazon.)

Always Sharing!
My Blackberry’s digital camera and 3G Internet connection has also changed the way I look at the world. Now I can take a low-res photo of anything I see and instantly upload it to Facebook, whose proprietary ImageCrappening™ technology will render it totally unrecognizable even to me. (How did I ever live without this?)

And on a related note, this capability also earned me a smirking reprimand from a supermarket manager, who stopped me from photographing myself in their security camera display.4 I'd been thinking that the picture would make a cool Facebook profile photo, but it turns out that I’m just a complete moron. Which is really good to know. (No pain, no gain, right?)

Always Antisocial!
One of the most overlooked Blackberry benefits is the ability it gives you to avoid eye contact with people you don’t want to talk to. Here’s how it works:

The moment you sense someone approaching, take out your Blackberry and stare down at it seriously. As long as you DON'T SMILE, everyone in the area will assume that you’re absorbed in some high-level business activity—maybe destabilizing the credit markets, or shipping American jobs overseas—and they will leave you alone.

If, on the other hand, someone were to see you fiddling with an iPhone, they would know immediately that you were just screwing around. Not only would they interrupt you, they might even ask to play with your iPhone, getting their greasy fingerprints all over it. This is something that I promise will never happen with a Blackberry.

Always Exploring!
The Blackberry’s built-in GPS, combined with VZ Navigator’s turn-by-turn driving directions, has taken me places that I never would've gone without it. On a recent drive to New York City, for example, VZ Navigator lost its GPS fix on us just as we were approaching the George Washington Bridge. This sent VZNav into a Tourette’s-like froth, during which it exhorted us to make a series of impossible turns onto side-streets that we couldn’t even see from the canyon of I-95. “Turn left onto Pinehurst Avenue! Turn left onto Washington Avenue! TRAFFIC INCIDENT AHEAD—5.6 MILES!!!”

It was all very exciting. So exciting, in fact, that we missed the one we turn actually needed—exit route 95 onto route 9A—et voilà: Welcome to New Jersey!

I shudder to think: if we'd been following those silly Google Maps directions, we would've missed out on that magical $8 ride back through the Lincoln Tunnel. I know that sounds expensive for a mere 8,000 feet of roadway, but when you calculate it out on a cost-per-hour basis, you see that the Lincoln Tunnel is actually one of Manhattan’s most affordable attractions. Particularly at rush hour.

Always Learning!
With the Internet always at my fingertips, I never have to wonder about anything anymore. Instead, I just look it up on IMDB or Wikipedia, interrupting the flow of every conversation to answer important questions like, "Who was the guy in that movie with so-and-so?" and “Is tofurkey made from soy or seitan?”

And while the answer to the former question is invariably Charles Durning or Dan Hedaya, the latter answer really depends on whether you’re referring to Turtle Island Foods' Tofurky™ products (capital T, no e), or if you’re using the more general word “tofurkey” to talk about some other turkey-like meat analogue. A word that, coincidentally, also has an extra e when compared to the analog in terms like analog television. And also an extra u, which tofurkey has either way I guess...

Sorry...what were we talking about?

1I trace this impulse back to the day I inadvertently pushed the lawnmower over a nest of yellow jackets while wearing shorts. It's just a self-preservation thing.
2Note: This technique does not actually make a RAZR stop ringing.
3Yes, I know how to turn the buzzing off. But what would be the point of that?
4The supermarket rules as I understand them: they can take as many pictures of me as they want, but self-portraiture is a terrorist act.