Twelve years ago it was easy to hide from my boss. He couldn’t find me after work unless he was psychic, because I didn’t have a damned cell phone. Once I got a mobile phone, it was the same as being at work all the time. Seriously, I felt like a Domino’s Pizza franchise. But whenever my boss interrupted my mom’s birthday party or a dinner that I hoped would lead to sex, he could only talk. He couldn’t actually give me any work to do right then.

Four years ago I bought an iPhone, even though I knew it was a stupid thing to do. It was so slick and cool and sexy and fun. I had no more will to resist than a turnip on rufies. But once I clasped my iPhone in my hand, my boss was not limited to making me talk about work at inconvenient times. Now he could send me actual work whenever he wanted and expect me to do that work right away. That’s a lot to pay for the ability to receive spam wherever you go, play solitaire on the toilet, and wave your iPhone around like a lightsaber. But I accepted that I’d made that bargain with the Great Satan Apple, and in return I started looking for some neat apps like flashlights and restaurant finders. And despite the fact that the iPhone had wrecked my personal life, I used it so much that I began wishing I could pay some corrupt doctor to graft the thing onto my forearm. I didn’t even care that it would make me look like a cyborg and might make Sheldon Cooper die from envy.

I swore I’d never buy an iPad. I mean, what the hell? It doesn’t make phone calls, and it’s not a full computer, so what good is it? I bought one last year, and I have no idea how it happened. I just remember walking out of Best Buy with the box in my hand. Again, turnip on rufies. Within a week I felt despondent that I’d lived my life without an iPad up to that point. Now if I allow my iPad to get more than twenty feet away from me I begin weeping.

This is all so sick. And I blame it on the apps, those tiny bits of software that make my iPhone and iPad do stuff. Sometimes that stuff is fun or useful, like IMDB, or Angry Birds, or the Amazon app that lets you spend more money faster because you don’t have to be at a computer. But for every cool app there are 10,000 that are hacked-together, shit-sucking wastes of irreplaceable minutes that we could have spent on something valuable like refinishing furniture or cooking a pie. For example, I have several apps that turn my phone into a $400 whoopee cushion, including Farts-a-Lot, Wet Fart Machine, Fart Knocker, Jedi Mind Fart, and Farts Like an Egyptian.

If I’m going to accept being a minion of Apple Darkness, I demand superlative apps that provide far greater value than we have seen to this point. I mean astounding value. I want apps that will change my life. I now challenge the app development community to give us apps like these:

Dumbass Firewall: You talk, you text, and you email using your phone and tablet. You can communicate faster and to more people than ever before. Within seconds you can tell dozens or hundreds of people that you’re a thoughtless, grunting twit, with your head so far up your ass you can smell your pancreas. This app will save you from your stupidity in real time by screening every outgoing scrap of voice and text for moronic and inflammatory statements that could get you beaten up, divorced, or imprisoned. The app will dump these chunks of stupid-as-hell into a folder for you to review when you calm down or sober up.

Perky Pickup Lines: Almost no person on Earth is good at walking up to an attractive stranger and saying something that’s not idiotic. There may have been a few, but I’m certain their friends soon killed them. So, every unattached person can use an app that analyzes the situation and provides a great pickup line. Desperate single people will no longer have to say things like, “What time do you have to get back to the insane asylum, ‘cause I’m crazy about you,” or, “Do you have a job?” to make an impression. For an extra 99 cents you could install the add-on Great Go The Hell Away Lines, providing the perfect words to crush some pushy asshole’s ego down to the size of a carbon atom.

Calorie Savant: The App Store bulges with apps to count, record, identify, estimate, and plan calories for every item a human can eat without dying. They all suck. They suck because they exist in an idealized world in which every day is under control and every meal is a rational transaction between you and a baby spinach salad. Calorie Savant would consider the day’s events and the proximity of various foods in providing calorie estimates. You may have planned to eat a 200 calorie granola bar after work, but Calorie Savant would recognize that you got a lousy performance review and that jerk in Purchasing hit on you again, so it dumps the granola bar from its plans and substitutes that 3,200 calorie bag of Double Stuff Oreos on the top shelf. Accurate information is the key to victory.

Blowhard Deactivator: Mobile devices keep you connected at all times. Unfortunately, you’re connected to people, and more unfortunately, some of those people are blowhards. You’re familiar with blowhards—those folk who pound out their political, religious, and moral opinions across the social bandwidth, trying to shout down all dissent, calling everybody ignorant lackeys, and ruining the fun for everyone else. Blowhard Deactivator would analyze the blowhard’s latest blaring manifesto and scan the internet for no less than 20 dissenting sources, then drop those links onto the offender like the firebombing of Dresden. For 99 cents you could install an add-on that tracks whatever the blowhard writes on Wikipedia and then automatically erases the dolt’s moronic rants behind him.

Fair Tip: This app is more of a public service than a utility, but it will help you in the end. Tip calculators seem pretty simple. In fact, if we weren’t a nation of math cretins, we wouldn’t need this kind of app. The problem is that these apps let people pick the tip percentage, and people haven’t learned that 12% is a crappy tip for someone who brought you a nice bowl of chili and makes a whopping $3.00 an hour. In fact, 12% is the kind of tip that condemns you to hell for being a stingy bastard. The Fair Tip app would assume that 20% is the standard tip, and for every point you dial it lower, the actual tip percentage would be cranked up one point. If you select 12%, then Fair Tip will secretly calculate the tip at 28%. If you’re like most people you’ll never catch on. If you do catch on and find some other way to calculate your crappy 12% tip, then I guess you’ll just have to go to hell.

Scrubbing Bubbles: All of us have made poor decisions. Our poor decisions generally don’t last forever, since people tend to forget or even die after a while, which resolves the situation nicely. But poor decisions made on the internet do not go away. That sloppy, ranting, tequila-fueled love poem you wrote to that actress who was hot five years ago but you can’t stand now—it’s archived on LiveJournal. Your heavy metal manifesto from your anarchist phase is still on YouTube. And that picture of you hanging upside down and naked on the front door of the First Baptist Church? Your potential employers at The Children’s Miracle Network are going to love it. You need Scrubbing Bubbles, the app that scours the internet for every single mention of your foolish self and annihilates it as if it were flushed down a toilet connected to a black hole. After this app has done its work, no one who’s not in your physical presence will believe that you ever lived.

There’s the challenge, app-writers. Make all this connectivity worth the pain. I want to see some prototypes in two months. I have to go now—while I was writing this I got a voice mail, three texts, and an email with five attachments from my boss.

The triumphant launch of the new app Maybe It’s Another Drill- ACK! that simulates the sound of a stormtrooper’s head being sliced off by a lightsaber.

For two days I have been a ghost. I saw the world through a veil, and the world could not see me at all. I think it was less fun than any essay test or surgical procedure or first date I’ve ever experienced. Don’t let anyone fool you about being a ghost and watching people shower or listening in on private conversations, because it’s not like that at all. It’s like being divorced from the spirit of humanity. It’s like being set on an ice flow by your family to freeze or be eaten by the beasts of the sea. It’s like leaving your laptop, iPhone, and iPad behind in Lubbock because you’re a moron.

I can’t blame anyone but myself. I chose to drive to Lubbock to celebrate my niece, Wendy’s seventeenth birthday. We had fun. We ate fried chicken and birthday cake, and we went out to hear her boyfriend’s band, which I’m told was pretty good although I thought they sounded like gears grinding on a ’76 Chevelle. I gave Wendy an iTunes gift card and some earrings she probably didn’t like, although she said she did. I left on Saturday and didn’t realize until I got home that I left my computer bag leaning against the pot of begonias on the front porch. I said quite a few bad words.

I couldn’t do much right away, since it takes about a week and a half to drive from Lubbock to Dallas. That’s an exaggeration. It takes less than a week and a half, but I can’t say for sure how long it does take since half-way home I always fall into a meditative trance fueled by Cheetos and Diet Coke. But I got home at midnight, which was far too late to call my kinfolk in Lubbock unless someone in the family has died. My wife was in Illinois for a brief family reunion, so I crawled into my empty bed, full of disquieting ignorance about what was happening in the world.

The next morning at 6:01 AM I called Lubbock. I don’t think they understood the razor blade of panic in my voice, but they promised to Fed-Ex my bag right away. I began breathing almost normally. I debated just buying a new iPhone. Since it was Sunday the stores would be open by noon, and I thought I could hold out that long. But my Lubbock trip had cost me as much as an electricity bill and a bag of groceries. My cats were out of food, and when I’d woken up they had all been hovering over me like I was a buffet. I decided that buying cat food and more Cheetos was the wisest course.

I needed to attend a rehearsal Sunday afternoon for a show that might be entertaining if we rehearsed a whole lot more. I walked into the theater, which was cold enough to freeze marshmallows solid. Really, Mr. Wizard could do science experiments in there. I looked at my bundled buddies while goose bumps the size of Chicklets rose on my arms, and one said, “The air conditioner’s stuck. Didn’t you get my text?” I felt myself begin to fade out of the chain of human discourse, which was good because it distracted me from my body’s spastic shaking as it battled hypothermia.

After rehearsal I emerged into the grateful 60 degree sunshine. I looked around for my car, which was gone. Well, it might not have been gone. Gnomes might have shrunk it to the size of a June bug, just for fun. Barring that possibility, it was gone. I looked at my buddies, and one said, “We have to park around back today. I posted it on the e-group. You probably got towed.” I borrowed his phone and called the towing company. They gave me their address and told me I could get my car back for approximately the cost of two iPhones. I asked one of my friends to drive me, and I thanked providence that he had a phone with mapping capabilities. I could see myself walking into a gas station to buy a city map, and the clerk looking at me as if I’d asked for a flint knife.

I rescued my poor Accord and drove home. The phone handset in the kitchen was blinking with fervor, and I checked five messages, one from the drug store and four from my wife wondering what the hell was wrong. I called her, and she explained her concerns. Had I been in an accident? Had I dropped my phone in the toilet? Had the refrigerator fallen on me? She’d left three voice mails and then texted five times. She had checked Facebook and sent me a Google chat. Nothing. What was wrong with me? I felt myself drop further out of existence as I explained abandoning my electronic links to the world in Lubbock, as if they were worn out tires. She said she understood, but I could tell that she’d been shaken.

I stayed home the rest of the evening, tethered to my land line as if it were my only link to reality. That security was of course illusionary. Why would anyone else but telemarketers ever think to call me on my home phone? It would be like looking for me under a stone in Thailand.

This morning I drove to work to find that I’d missed an unscheduled 7:00 AM meeting with a new customer. They wanted to give us $10 million to fix something that they’d paid someone else $20 million to screw up. “I sent you an email last night!” my boss said before turning away to find a responsible person to fix this mess. I felt myself falter and slide into complete insubstantiality. I no longer had any significance in the daily lives of other people. I drifted out of the office, not even making excuses, and I let my car bring me home by vague, meandering paths. I spent the rest of the day resisting full entropy by using my land line to call friends, but none of them recognized my home number so they didn’t pick up.

At twilight, as I sprawled on a chair in the lightless den, someone knocked on my front door. After floating uninterested to entryway, I scanned through the peephole and unsurprisingly found no one there. I opened the door anyway, and a shiny FedEx box squatted on the porch like a toad of mercy. Had I been a South Pacific castaway, I’d have watched that box as if it were a parachute bringing me water, SPAM, and M&Ms.

Two minutes later I held my iPhone in my hand. I was about to reenter the great river that is humanity, and I wanted to make it meaningful. With shaking hands (which is easy, because my hands shake anyway), I sent my wife a message, since she was the most important person to tell about my return. I sent, “I text, therefore I am!”

Forty-five seconds later she replied, “Did you scoop the cat litter?”

I have rejoined the human race.

You should have tweeted more, Casper.

Casper the Friendly Ghost owned by Classic Media ( It sounds kind of like ghost slavery, but I think it’s a lot nicer than that.

I realized this week that three desktop computers, three laptops, a smart phone, a cell phone, a digital camera, and two iPods are not enough information technology in my home. I have enough digital storage to hold every major film made in the last 15 years, yet my household cries out for more. So, I bought my wife an iPad.

Actually, she’s mentioned a couple of times that the thinks an iPad would be convenient for her. But I knew she wouldn’t buy one for herself until our kids were out of college. Considering that we have no children and don’t plan to have any, my wife’s iPad would be moping around, lonely on its shelf at Best Buy, for a long time. So I stalked an iPad, slapped down some cash, and brought it home to her.

My wife seemed thrilled. She read every word of the online manual before she plugged in her iPad, because that’s the kind of gal she is. Then she fired it up, hooked it to her Windows computer, and played with it. A few hours later she realized some things. (1) She wanted an iPad cover that wouldn’t attract cat hair. (2) She got an error every time she tried to register her iPad. (3) She got an error every time she tried to use iTunes—although iTunes still worked fine.

I realized that a trip to the Apple Store awaited us.

We arrived at the Apple Store at 2 PM on Saturday. It was like one of those photos of penguin hatching grounds, except that everyone had an iPhone grafted to his hand. Nice people helped my wife with a few questions, and she found an iPad cover in a classy shade of camel. Then we went to technical support.

Mike helped us. Some of the other Apple Store employees had told us that Mike was the best tech around, so I’ll admit I had high expectations. I expected strong Apple loyalty from Mike, and some serious proselytizing. That’s just doing a good job. But most of his explanations for the technical problems revolved around the complete inferiority of Windows. The rest involved the absolute inadequacy of Dell laptops. But he attacked the problems with fervor, and I maintained faith in him.

Mike’s fervor consisted of telling us to uninstall every Apple software component, restart the laptop, and wait for him to come back. This we did. After a while Mike came back and pronounced our work good. He paused to complain about the inferior knowledge and ability of his coworkers. Then he started to download iTunes, but he stopped to ask my wife, “Is this a 32-bit or 64-bit machine?”

My wife said, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know either. It’s your computer. I’ll just install the 32-bit version, and if it’s wrong we’ll find out when it won’t run.” Mike clicked download.

I said, “Wait,” as Mike walked away. Mike did not wait. So I checked the laptop, downloaded the right iTunes version, and installed it. As I did so, I imagined my upcoming conversation with Mike when he returned.

“Hey Mike. Do you like Apple?” I would say.


“So do you want to sell iPods and iPads and such only to the 12% of computer users who own Macs?”

“Heck no!”

“That means that Apple products need to work with Windows computers then, right?” I’d say.

“Well… I guess so…”

“So as the big tech brain around here, you ought to learn how to check the system properties on a Windows computer before you do something as fucking stupid as randomly loading a version of software without checking to see if it’s the right version, ya think? In fact, be honest—you knew perfectly well how to check it, you just wanted to walk away like a willfully incompetent motherfucker, right?”

“Yes, sir…” Mike would say while looking at his shoes.

About this time I realized that my wife was staring at me with concern. She might have noticed the sound of my teeth grinding—I’m not sure. She asked if I needed to leave the store in order to not disembowel Mike, who after all was probably a fairly nice guy if you got to know him over a beer. I said that I’d be good.

Mike returned. The reinstallation of iTunes had resolved none of my wife’s technical problems. Mike took a jaunty couple of steps backward and said, “That’s a Windows reinstallation problem! That’s what that is! A Windows reinstallation problem!” Then Mike gave us the toll free number for customer service.

I crushed a brand new camel colored iPad cover in my left hand as we packed up my wife’s unregistered iPad and whiny, error-spouting laptop. We walked out of the store and through the mall Food Court, past Panda Express, and into the parking lot. I discussed my thoughts with her. I might have cursed a few times. I’m certain that flecks of spit were flying.

Out in the crushing summer heat I said, “I was thinking about, maybe, buying a new iPhone while I was there. I’m sure as hell not going to now.”

“But what about the two people who were nice to us? That’s two out of three.”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I may get a Droid.” I wiped a little foam off my lips.

“Just because of Mike? This one guy?” she asked.

I paused, teeth grinding again. “I’m vengeful…”

She squeezed my hand. “Yes, you are.”