Our son broke his iPhone screen the other day. He also failed his driver’s test so we didn’t have the heart to deny him a trip to the mall (an hour’s drive away) to visit the Apple store. For about 10 minutes we stood around at by far the busiest place in the mall wondering how to get help for my son’s ailing phone. The staff armed with ear pieces, tablets and matching polo shirts (allowing for just the right touch of hipster/tech geek/diversity/self-expression) scurried around answering questions and tapping away on their tablets with a surprising amount of patience considering the constant tugging at their shirt tails by the desperate iPhone-obsessed crowd.
After pushing our son to talk to a worker we were directed to a crowd of people huddled at the back of the store all waiting for HELP (not sure they were going to get it at Apple!). I playfully herded my son (who towers over me) into the sheep pen. He was not impressed. There was nothing funny about being without his phone for the two hours it was going to take to have his baby fixed. The idea of having to spend two hours at the mall wasn’t funny to my husband and I either though I figured it would be a nice, lazy day of people watching.
We waited in the corral for a while until we couldn’t take the whining/crying toddler a minute longer. The kid’s mother was having trouble squeezing him with one arm while constantly texting with the other hand. How long would this go on I wondered aloud. That’s when my husband suggested we find the pretzel shop. Yet it was no better elsewhere. Most people had their heads down making love to their phones. The three women in full burkas were the only people who offered food for real thought.
A few nights before we went to see Cyrano de Bergerac performed at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs. As I don’t get out much I was much surprised to discover the Pokemon Go craze and how it transformed the park. Zombies everywhere–some sheepish zombies who knew they played the fool standing by lovely statues collecting imaginary, infantile monsters–missed the fact that actual living actors would soon be performing a play about real and pretending people.
A husband and wife out for a stroll with their infant child on the type of cool summer evening Saratoga has been famous for for centuries grunted replies to each other as they scrolled through important info on their phones. A group of teen-aged boys who should have been hunting down cute girls and flirting with them cheered at a monster instead.
The play begins on a comic note. Young military cadet Christian de Neuvillette falls in love with Roxane but has no faith in his intelligence or romantic prowess to woo her though the two have made eye contact and he is certain they should be together. Roxane meanwhile asks her distant, big-nosed cousin Cyrano to watch after Christian when they go off to war. Christian reluctantly agrees to let Cyrano, a gifted swordsman and poet, write Roxane letters in his name.
Hi jinks ensue for a while until Christian, showing a depth heretofore hidden, comes into his own and realizes that relying on devises to gain love is shallow at best and complete falsehood and tragedy at worst. Basically he throws away his cellphone, becomes a man and dies a noble death.
Cyrano refuses to tell the grieving Roxane the truth for various reasons and dies declaring that at least he lived with panache. I suppose we will say the same for ourselves when we die with the latest iPhone and have caught the many generations of Pokemon monsters set to come out. My daughter says that the makers of Pokemon wanted to do humanity a service by getting them out of their houses and into the public square a bit more. They lead sheep, they create pretend worlds that change real people–they are the tragic Cyranos of our day who mask real humanity in brightly colored packages.