Lost my Apple 5s smart phone on Lufthansa flight #491 from Seattle to Frankfurt.
Besides being a $599 mistake, yours truly had no cell phone for the entire course of our 17-day honeymoon to Bavaria (e.g., Gemütlichkeit) and to Tuscany (e.g., Le Dolce Vita).
To more than a few the loss of a cell phone for almost three weeks would be the near equivalent of being sentenced to three years of solitary confinement or even worse, suicide. How can life possibly go on? How can my online disciples know exactly what I am doing at exactly this very point in time? Shudder: No smart phone means a world without Facebook “likes” and immediate gratification.
Even for Pollyannaish me, I immediately realized that Lufthansa was not going to find my cell phone in the messy cabin of a Boeing 747. Maybe it ended up in some flea market along the banks of the Main River.
Hopefully, I still had an upgrade at Verizon Wireless (alas that was not the case). Quickly coming to full acceptance mode, I rationalized there were at least 1,000 worse things that can happen to anyone than just misplacing an uninsured cell phone.
Besides Jeanne and I were on our belated honeymoon. Beer was on the tables in fun München and soon Sangiovese would be served al fresco in romantic Firenze. There were art museums to check out, castles to explore, and little Alpine towns that beckoned us. The cell phone replacement could just wait for our return to bucolic Ellensburg, Washington
Mobile Technology Liberation
What became immediately apparent in my first moments of Apple OS cold turkey was watching the teeming hordes on München’s famed Marienplatz, and coming to the realization about literally how many people were paying more attention to their mobile devices than the centuries worth of history all around them.
What would Mad King Ludwig think? Would smart phone narcissism drive him crazy?
And then I saw them: The narcisticks. Yes, the selfie-sticks. The same selfie-sticks that would be hocked by the bushel on the Ponte Vecchio the following week in Firenze. München’s 11 a.m. Glockenspiel play may be in full motion in the background, but the selfie-stick crowd was more interested in the folks in the foreground – the very same people they saw in the mirror earlier that very same morning.
Smart phones have become indispensable, but at the same time they are addicting. This point is not novel, but to see it played out throughout Europe at the height of the summer tourist season was nonetheless stunning, revealing and disconcerting.
One week later, we were the first through the doors of the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence. We immediately headed for Michelangelo’s 17-foot masterpiece sculpture of David. Being among the first, we took digital photos of the statue and ourselves in front of David. We concentrated and admired arguably the greatest sculpture on the planet, dating back to 1504.
Coming back later, the crowds predictably had descended on David, including literally hundreds with their mobile phones and selfie sticks (don’t inadvertently scratch the statue!). What would King David think, if he was still around? ‘I fought off Goliath, and I have held this pose for more than 500 years, just to have you take a selfie in front of me?’
Early the next day was the Uffizi Gallery and Botticcelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera. Once again, the early birds caught the worm and we were virtually alone with these 15th Century masterpieces for a few precious minutes. Our relative solitude would soon change as the selfie-stick brigade came charging down the second floor hallway of the Uffizi. Yes, Venus standing on her sea-shell would serve as the mere background for the narcissists in the foreground.
Be sure to smile. Maybe Venus can even be in focus?
Behind the Iron Curtain
A little more than three decades ago, yours truly made his first trip overseas to Leonid Brezhnev’s Russia. PCs were just being mainstreamed by IBM in 1981. There were really no cell phones, let alone selfie sticks. We went into and out of the Soviet Union with no ways to communicate, other than postcards back home or an ultra-expensive KGB monitored phone call from the Intourist hotel.
During the course of this venture and subsequent pleasure and business trips to Europe and Asia, I always tried to concentrate on the dramatic change of scenery, the splendors of the Old World and the different cultures. It was about Russia, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Japan etc., and not about me … and I was fine with that.
The libertarian in me usually gravitates in the direction of personal freedom. At the same time, there is a global movement toward the banning of narcisticks including Disney parks, the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, Mecca, Lake Tahoe and wisely … The Running of the Bulls at Pamplona (great selfie shot before being gored by angry Torro).
Autzen Stadium in Eugene (e.g., “It never rains at Autzen Stadium”) has banned umbrellas. Why? They are potentially dangerous and they block views of Oregon touchdowns. As a 25-year season ticket holder, this ban makes sense. Besides it rarely rains that hard in Oregon.
Prohibiting selfie sticks in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles works for little ole me. According to Travel Advisor Tips, there are “17 grand arched windows facing Palace of Versailles gardens [which] are reflected in the 17 arches inlaid with 357 pieces of mirrors creating the effect of mesmerizing beauty.”
Three-hundred fifty-seven mirrors? Isn’t that enough for even the most dedicated narcissist?
Guess not. How would the narcissist’s friends “like” these pleasing reflections, if they cannot see them online? That simply will not do.