Today I stood in line. I arrived at the Suburban Square Apple store and waited for the latest incarnation of the iPhone; the iPhone 3GS. When I arrived, the line was still short and the sun was still slowly rising over the horizon. Most people were having their morning coffee and waking up to their alarms; I was in line at the Apple store. Despite the absurd nature of standing in line at the crack of dawn to acquire a phone that is fairly similar to my previous version, I managed to have a very rewarding experience.
I met a programmer who just designed his first App. The app was a piece of toast in which you could incorporate pictures (It spawned from those people who see the Virgin Mary or her son, Jesus in their toast). Weird right? However, we are also privy to an app that plays fart noises, so this was keeping with the creativity of applications. We shared a good conversation about technology and what was to come for our kids someday. And in the future would there be lines?
I met a father of two who was leaving for vacation to Cape Cod later that evening. He was an Apple store employee as well. He showed me his cool screen cover that was made from moon rock and space plastic designed by NASA. I was impressed. We complained about AT&T, but were hopeful that we would be able to tether and send MMS by September. He was also a line veteran. About a year ago, he stood in line with his kids for a particular video game at midnight. The kids did not like the game.
I met a graphic designer who did not join our conversation until about 6:30 am. He was listening to a podcast and was content with not talking. The earplugs soon came out and he asked us if he was in the correct line. He had pre-registered, so he was in the proper line with us. We talked about the awful driving in Boston and Italy. I only had experiences in Boston, but left my ears open to hear about Italy as well. We also conversed about hacking the iPhone to allow tethering and MMS, however, our programmer friend said no and we pretty much agreed.
At 7:01 am I was hit with a flying Tasty Cake treat. The Apple store crew surfaced from their aesthetically modern cavern and presented the crowd with water and Tasty Cake treats. This made me happy. They returned to the store and the line began to move. The anticipation and excitement had limited the conversation with my line friends to only a few short sentence bursts.
“Think it will take long.”
“What are you doing with the old phone?”
“Want the second half of my Tasty Cake?”
“I can’t believe I was hit with a Tasty Cake!”
It was my turn and as I walked through the doors some of the Apple crewmembers began clapping. I smiled and began to get set up for my new gadget by a guy named Sean. When I gave Sean my e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) he asked if I was a John Lennon fan. I confirmed my fandom and he told me he was writing a book and that one of his characters was based on John Lennon. We traded e-mails and he is sending me the first few pages of his novel. I proceeded to the genius bar, was plugged in and set up in a little under ten minutes. I left the store and shot my first video. It was fun!
After all that you must be wondering what the big deal is. Why did I waste my time? Why not just wait? However, something struck me today as I was standing in line and no, I don’t mean the Tasty Cake.
As I was standing there waiting for the latest must have technological gadget, I experienced a truly vintage moment: the simple nature of human interaction.
As an educator this is my daily routine. I stand in front of students and speak and they listen. On the other hand, I am also trying to find ways to advance technology in the classroom while maintaining the rigor and engagement of my content. And despite all of our advances in technology, programs and applications, it all comes back to human interaction. It is the pulse of life and it slowly being veiled by devices and computer screens. How many of your friends are just still square photo icons? I have many and they talk to me daily.
The time I spent standing in the line was more rewarding than seeing my iPhone 3GS turn on for the first time or even taking my first video. The conversation I encountered was bigger than “copy, cut & paste” or any new application that I could download later today. This is why I stood in line and this is why we need to always remember that despite our advances in technology, the root of it all is one on one human interaction. No machine or application can take its place.
You may not agree with this sentiment and the compass application may be the best part of your day, but take a moment to reflect on your line or any line you have ever been a part of. And next fall when you are pushing all this new technology forward in your classroom, take a minute and put the laptops to sleep, get back to the basics and have a conversation with your students. It will be the best lesson you give all year.