iPhones on the Road

Last September, I stood in a dark, crowded nightclub listening to a band during the Next Big Nashville Music Festival. I was surrounded by twentysomethings, their faces glowing in the eerie blue light of their iPhones, which they were fingering obsessively. Not one was looking at the stage. What were they scrolling for, the next band in the line-up? They didn’t appear to be paying much attention to this one.

Yet walking to a neighboring club, they voiced strong opinions about it – and they were texting as they walked and talked. When I teased one of them, she smiled and told me she had recently discovered an application that shows the sidewalk sliding underfoot so she can text on the streets of Manhattan without tripping.

I wondered: Does this generation have the ability to experience two (or three) realities simultaneously or are they missing the pleasures of total immersion? Moments later, Alison Krauss appeared onstage unexpectedly and I had my Flip out so fast, I missed half the song trying to get it on video. So much for total immersion.

Three months later, my trusty cell phone died and I bought an iPhone. I’m late to this party so haven’t had time to get entirely proficient or entirely dependent. (Translation: I’ve only added one page of apps so far.) But as a frequent traveler, I’m seriously impressed by the punch that gizmo packs.

On a two-week trip to Hawaii last month, I found myself whipping that phone out right and left – to locate my husband in the airport, film the crazy Saturday night street scene in Honolulu, record the clatter of wind-blown bamboo on a hike to Maui’s Waimoku Falls, look up location and reviews of a sushi restaurant (Sansei: highly recommended).

The only place I couldn’t use my iPhone was in the ocean – and, for that, I had a new underwater casing for my Flip. Obviously, I’m well on my way to portable-device geekdom. But I promise to avoid that sidewalk app. And anyone who spots me texting during a performance has my permission to grab my iPhone and hit me with it.

I realize I may regret that statement.