Monday, July 14, 2008

Standing in Line for an IPhone

This past Saturday morning I drove out to Oakbrook Mall, a place I visit very infrequently, to do something I've not really done before, stand in line for a product that had been hyped beyond belief by Apple and the electronic media machine...I had decided when the new IPhone came out with a lower price I would trade in my 4 year old cell phone and join the Mac world on a deeper level by making it my 40th birthday gift from some family members...

To be honest, spending money on things like an IPhone are fairly torturous for my mind and my worldview...even as I showed Ingrid how cool some of its features were I was struggling with spending my resources in this way...

I headed out to the Apple store and got there about 20 minutes before it was scheduled to open at 9 am...I figured I'd be there an hour, maybe two at the most after missing the hysteria of 3G Friday's release day 24 hours before...there was aline of maybe 100 people ahead of me and within the next hour there were close to 200 behind me...it was a cloudy Saturday morning and I had brought along my new issue of Sports Illustrated to read in line and found myself sending a few last texts and making a couple final phone calls on my soon-to-be-retired phone...and then for some reason I'm still not sure about, perhaps network issues or people asking lots of questions, the line began to move slower and slowere and slower...I called Ingrid and she asked me if I needed food or drink or sunscreen as the clock moved toward noon...

Over the course of the 4 1/2 hours I stood in line to purchase a phone the time and the experience ended up being bizzare, profound, and a fascinating sociological study of American culture...

First of all, I had some truly remarkable and enjoyable conversations...an incredibly bright DuPage county judge and I talked for hours about Africa, global literature, young evangelicals, parenting in this generation, high school and college athletics, the impact of electronic communication, mutual friends, and different approaches to faith and justice as we stood in line for something we both admitted we knew we clearly did not need...and yet this span of time in life allowed us to connect rather deeply without interruption from our busy lives and schedules...

Another guy in line with us told us to just come in with him when he was called first into the store because we were now family members anyways...

Overall, it was fascinating to see who was in line with me:
*A couple who had driven from another state and spent the night to get one
*A guy who had been turned away at 11:30 pm the night before at another Apple store
*Dads buying their junior high daughters a new IPhone
*People who already had phones less than a year now but needed more speed


And as the minutes turned to hours, all around the outdoor mall people's questions and frustrations became more apparent...

As we stood in a line snaking thru the outdoor mall courtyard, one older man rather curtly asked us, "Why in the world would you stand in line for a stupid phone you can get next week?" My new friend and I just kind of shrugged our shoulders and each thought that we are mulling over the same question...

The people in line near us began to lose patience and complain about Apple's slow service, incompetent customer care plan for this day, and the rising humidity and temperatures...and as people began to talk about what a miserable experience, what a waste of time this quest to get the IPhone was now for hundreds here and millions of Americans, something stirred in me and my thoughts began to race to lines in other parts of the world, places where people even at that moment were doing the same physical act for vastly different reasons...

*I had thoughts of my friend Trent's friends in Zimbabwe standing in line for 5 hours for a loaf of bread that costs 10 billion dollars in an economy ravaged by inflation and a nation devastated by an evil dictator
*I had thoughts of some of my Zambian friends standing in line for hours to get tested and then get the results of an HIV test at a rural health clinic
*And I had thoughts of the hundreds of trucks waiting hours thru the night to get across the Botswana border into Zambia and the women willing to sleep with truck drivers bored by frustration and being in a never ending line just so they can fill their stomachs and the swollen bellies of their children with the only way they can gather resources as a woman in an injust and desperate world


That quiet, yet so forceful voice of the Holy Spirit spoke louder than Steve Jobs and left me with a few other questions to bring home in addition to my new phone in the stylish white Apple bag:

#1) Have I been taken by the Apple marketing wave to believe that this is something I need when it might not be helpful to my ministry, family life, and the stewardship of my resources? (I did use it to look up microfinance opportunities at my student leadership team meeting last night!)
#2) What would my friends in Kakolo Village think of the IPhone?
#3) Do I care and pray daily for those in line and need around the world with the interest and concern I have in my new piece of technology?
#4) Does technology make our lives better, richer, and deeper?
#5) And do I chase the "American Dream" harder than the "Kingdom Dream" I've discovered in the Gospels?


To be honest, this whole experience was powerful and quite strange...I am caught once again between...between thinking why I am so conflicted about this when I am a suburban American and why am I buying this crazy item as a globally minded follower of Jesus...and while I definitely find myself wishing some days for no lines and no worries about how to live each day well and right, deep in my soul I know that I am so blessed to know and understand people in lines so different than the one I stood in on a lazy summer Saturday...may I, may you continue to help take them out of their lines as we share God's grace with people near and far from the IPhone's reach...

And I'm hoping I'll remember those in line every time I use my I Phone every day...

5 comments:

Benjamin said...

You got one!

Enjoyable post to read...and for the record, I am of the opinion that the iPhone can be a great tool to help in your ministry. :)

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ejkenzie89 said...

Wow Chip! What a wild experience. Oh the tension...but what else have our lives been like? :) Great connection to the lines around the world. I will remember them, like the trucks in Botswana, oh so well...

Laura said...

The Microfinance Project? Fabulous. Have you also heard about the Sudanese Community Center to be built in Wheaton? It will be the first in the nation... http://sudanesecommunitycenter.org/. Karsten H. & I were able to meet Manute Bol at a dinner about it. Luol Deng is also in & out of Chicago doing events for it every so often... you should def. meet Gene & Sean Tenner if you haven't already.

Thanks for once again bringing some thing like the Iphone into perspective. Your writing consistently helps me to center myself & my sense of calling.

I hope the fam is well!

-Laura F

Laura said...

oh and who was the judge?