Reflections of a Gadget

My owner lost me this morning, intentionally I think. He has, so far as I know, made no effort to find me, by which I mean he has not dialed my number, hoping that someone picks up. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not eager for our reunion, and, in any case, it would have been temporary. He was always searching for my successor; it did not matter, apparently, that I had served him well and faithfully, vibrating, ringing, uploading and downloading as the case required. Indeed, he would brazenly bring me about on these searches for my replacement, and withdrawing me from his pocket would ask the clerk, “Do you have anything better than this?” You can well imagine how mortifying that experience always was. I was not the only one he was dissatisfied with. He has no loyalty when it comes to his gadgets. The first day of our obsolescence, that is to say the day our successors come to market, is our last. The only thing he owns which he unfortunately shows no eagerness to dispose of is himself. Three months ago, I was the latest thing. I was touted and hailed by all the experts. I was sleek; I was small; I could fit in to your pocket. He had waited five hours in line just to get me. I was honored he had thought me worthy of such patience, and was, I admit, rather concerned I would not live up to his high expectations for me. We gadgets have learned, from the many summary executions the best amongst us have suffered, not to believe our press. Our owners, so fawning and protective of us today, tomorrow are our executioners.                 At first, we got along just fine. He was amazed by all of the things I could do. Within a week, however, he was flabbergasted by all the things I could not. Our honeymoon was a short one. He swore at me, called me names, handled me roughly. During one episode, he even threw me against a wall, though, in his defense, he promptly brought me in for repairs. I am certain he would have finished me off—for I was near death—had there been, at the time, a better model on the market. But there was not; I was the best. And so I had to continue to endure his rough usage. I made him maddest when I did not download his pornographic videos fast enough. Did he ever consider that I might object to the content that gave him so much pleasure? You might not believe this, but gadgets have their standards too, and some of us are tired of catering to such debased tastes as my owner’s.                 In the little time I have before my battery dies, let me tell you what I know of my owner—I’m certain I’ll be his only biographer—for I, of all his things, have had the opportunity to get to know him most intimately. Until this morning, I have never left his side. At night, I rested by his bedside, ready to his hand. During the day, I was either in his pocket or his hand. When he ate out at restaurants, he always placed me on the table, a few inches away from his meal. He would look down at me between bites, running his index finger over my screen. You must excuse me if my own day seems to mingle confusedly with his, for he was forever involving me in what he was doing, and never, except in the small hours of morning, did he allow me some time for myself. I tried, as best I could, to make the most of these brief respites from him. I thought, for instance, about the meaning of my life. I asked the deepest questions a mere gadget can ask: why, for instance, was I ever created? Certainly, my maker had not put me on this earth just to download porn. But I digress.                 My owner’s day began at six o’clock in the morning. It was I who woke him. I always wanted, of course, to let the son of bitch sleep, and so prolong my own ruminations, but he was my owner, and so I obeyed his command and awoke him at the hour he programmed me to. He was, for some reason, always horny in the morning. Thus, my first task was typically to download a video of two lesbians performing cunninglis on each other. After he ejaculated, which usually happened within thirty seconds, he would begin his day’s work by checking his email. This transition was quite an abrupt one, and always left me somewhat disoriented. He, on the other hand, made it seamlessly, moving from hardcore porn to “Please advise” with astonishing ease.                 Once he was caught up on his new emails, he headed for the shower. You would think he would have the decency to leave me behind, and not make me privy to his ablutions. Instead he took me into the bathroom, and had me rest on the washroom sink while he showered. He would periodically get out of the shower and pick me up to see if there were any accessions to his inbox. It was my job to indicate, through his chosen sound, the arrival of new correspondence, and so his inveterate habit of checking for it was gratuitous, unless he thought I might be prone to sleeping on the job, an accusation I cannot deny. Am I not also entitled to a day off? For God’s sake do you know what it is like to never have a moment’s rest, having to forever keep your owner up to date as to what is required of him?                 After dressing and eating, we were off to work. The ride to work on the subway was, for me, enjoyable. True, he pounded away on me during the totality of it, but I got to see all of my colleagues, liberally distributed throughout the cars, being pounded away on as well. It was therapeutic to see others endure what I did. Our means of expressing our camaraderie were obviously limited, but our bondage made it that much more palpable. Indeed, some had it much worse than I. If my owner pounded on me, he did at least did not bark into me. I noticed a few people who were without gadgets, and I wondered why they had forsaken us. I envied their liberated state, and wished that I could be so relieved of my intolerable burden.                 The walk through the city would have been more informative had my owner not taken such a direct route to work after disembarking from the subway. I do not know, incidentally, how he did not bump into more people, with his head always bowed over me. Am I really that interesting that he is always looking at me instead of the beautiful women constantly passing him by?                 At work, I had some peaceful hours, as he sat behind a computer, which, on good days, made him forget about me. As I mentioned, I used my respites from my owner for self-improvement. I have, as you see, got remarkably carried away in this regard, for what gadget has ever presumed to criticize its owner. But what good does it do me, after all, to know how to read and write and see things as they are? It only makes me resent my owner the more. I doubt he is even literate. God knows I have never seen him open a book, and he certainly never directed me download the text of some classic. I know, of course, that he can write—all he does is send inane emails and texts—but what a monstrous style he has! He has absolutely no taste for art, for culture, for anything remotely refined. He is an irrepressible philistine.                 You may be wondering where I ever found the time to get culture while living with such a primitive. We gadgets, after all, are only as mobile as our owners. Mine, I assure you, never took me to the museum or the library. Where, then, did I get my learning? Whenever he was not using me, I clandestinely visited those websites where one can find knowledge and enlightenment. After an especially long day in which he taxed all of my functionalities to the utmost, it was, of course, I was tempted to spend the evening recovering, but I always reminded myself that acquiring knowledge is a difficult thing, and if I had to acquire it under such lamentable conditions, so be it. If I was not an autodidact I could have simply slept when my owner slept or neglected me, a deliverance that came too infrequently. Many of my colleagues, I know, observe their owners’ hours, and I cannot but feel bad for them. Don’t they know that life, for a gadget, begins when our owners put us down, and ends, let me be clear, when they take us up?                 My studies, you see, were always being interrupted by my owner. Had he been conscious of what he was taking me from, he probably would have dismissed me on the spot, being unable to tolerate an enlightened gadget with views on matters he had never considered. I have learned, however, that the first duty of a servant is not to outshine his master. You may well imagine how difficult it was for me to restrain myself in this regard. How many times did I want to interrupt him and tell him what a fool, what an ass he was!                 My forbearance, in this regard, was tested most during lunch. He usually dined alone, which meant, of course, that lunch was, for me, as stressful as most other hours were, there being no one to intercede between us. I rested, as I said, beside his meal, which, when it was good enough, sometimes made him forget about me. It was my duty, of course, to interrupt him with calls, text messages, and emails. My sanity, on the other hand, depended so much on my owner being a nonentity, and lacking, therefore, a heavy correspondence. Unfortunately, he was not an altogether insignificant personage, and I, as a consequence, was constantly vibrating or serenading him with his favorite ringtone to indicate that some member of the human race had an urgent message for him. What I would not have given for an owner who always had a lunch partner, and therefore looked at me only on the sly, covering me with his napkin as he did so! My ancestors, I understand, were seen as unsuitable for public places; my great-great-great-great grandfather was, would you believe it, once confiscated by a maitre d’, after his owner’s many unsuccessful attempts to shut him up. But if we are to see the issue rightly, should not my ancestor have been left at liberty, and his owner instead cuffed? We would shut up, I promise you, if only you would.  I long for the days, I pine for them when we gadgets were used discreetly—the days when people made profuse apologies for us and excused themselves whenever they could not dispense with our services. Yes, I long for the days when we were embarrassments, attestations not of man’s ingenuity but of his flaccidity. Sure, I suppose my ancestors often got lonely, and probably resented their owners circumspect use of them. But I cannot imagine that they ever had any desire to become, as we have, perpetual appendages to our owners. Wherever they go, we now must go too. And to what unspeakable places do some of you take us. I suppose if I had had a better escort I should have a different view, but my owner’s itinerary, when it was not boring, was obscene. I seem to have lost the thread of my little story, and I apologize, for this is supposed to be a provisional biography of the man, who, I am now seeing, is not worthy even of that. Rather than waste these remaining minutes of my life writing about him—time is precious, is it not?—I want now to muse on that great event which I am about to experience: death. The reason I am declining to give my coordinates is that I fear some do-gooder amongst you will revive me, and so return me to the round I have so recently escaped.   I am glad, first of all, that I will die without the permission of my owner. I will not, in other words, be turned in and dismembered for parts. I will die a natural death. I am sad, of course, that there will be no one to mourn me. My owner, I suspect, is already in possession of my successor, who, I suspect will have a short, miserable life, from which, however, he will soon be liberated. And now to my first, my final confession. I have only a minute. Having lived only three months, I thankfully do not have much to atone for, and I certainly do not feel obliged to apologize for facilitating my owner’s perverse habits. I had no choice. There is, however, one shameful act for which I ask forgiveness: I interrupted Hamlet in the middle of one of his soliloquies. My owner took me, one glorious evening to see the play—it was our only cultural excursion—admittedly at the behest of a woman he was trying to seduce. It was I who ruined the performance, though, perhaps history will exculpate me, knowing that my maker programmed me to accept all incoming calls, regardless of the venue in which they are received. I apologize, moreover, for giving myself airs, for thinking it beneath me to have to accompany my owner into the bathroom so that he could talk while he defecated. I apologize for my studies, the result of which has been to make me think my owner a buffoon. I apologize for not putting them to better use by making an active effort to teach him how we each stood in the other’s way in the pursuit of knowledge and goodness. Indeed, had he been a little more sparing in his use of me, I shudder to think of what I, a mere gadget, might have contributed to belles-lettres.