It’s great to be alive in the Teensies! First of all, 9 out of 10 people are allergic to bread all of a sudden, so I get the whole basket to myself at restaurants. Second? Yeah, I’m trying to think of a second great thing, but I can’t, so I’ll just skip straight to the third great thing, which is my discovery that keeping a mini iPad in the bathroom has solved once and for all the problem of stale reading material in what has historically been an 18-Month-Old New Yorker Zone.
The mini iPad in the john is quite the breath of fresh air. Pre-digital-age, I might have been reading for the 217th time the same old 80,000-word article about daft British egg collectors. But this morning, instead of dragging a listless eye over sentences like “These are Lord Emsworth’s cuckoos, behold their speckled majesty” and idly pondering the pathogen population of the superannuated periodical in my hand, I enjoyed curling the spinster lip at a SF Chronicle story about some dude who flashed a gun on a San Francisco train but went unnoticed by commuters on iPhones.
And when I say “enjoyed” I of course mean “despaired of.” Because not only did the dude flash a gun, he wound up shooting a guy in the head. This was terrible. What’s also terrible is that the Chronicle piece uses this murder as a springboard for a trend piece on how device-users are a sign of the apocalypse. Instead of eschewing yet another entirely preventable instance of gun violence, the article focuses on the un-germane supposition that “the other passengers were so absorbed in their phones and tablets they didn’t notice the gunman until he randomly shot and killed a university student.” Apparently, security footage — which has not even been publicly released at this point, although this has not stopped news outlets from interpreting it anyway — suggests that the tech-obsessed commuters suffered from “collective inattention.” As in, the murder itself — eh, whaddya gonna do, but a train full of passengers who declined to “notice” the gunman before he shot a dude? Crazy! I mean, the world is such a safe, non-threatening place that the first thing every aunt does when she gets on a train is fix her gaze on all the dudes who of course are never creepy at all!
Look, I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m on the subway and out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of some lunatic waving a pistol around, the last thing I’m gonna do is flippin notice him. I don’t make eye contact. I don’t sidle over and strike up a conversation about “Breaking Bad.” I don’t even heroically karate-chop him to the floor or die trying. Nope, what I usually do is, I keep my head down and blend into the woodwork while surreptitiously texting everyone in my contacts to call the cavalry. Then I hope like crud that he doesn’t blow a gasket before I scram at the next stop. To a security camera this behavior might read as “engrossed by Facebook,” when in fact I would actually be engrossed by not getting mass murdered.
Whether the passengers in this case were of a similar mind is of course conjecture. For all I know, since guns are so ubiquitous these days, everybody saw the pistol but just didn’t give a shit — just another dude on a train with a gun, no big whoop. Either way, the Chronicle doesn’t waste an opportunity to impugn them for being “oblivious.” Before iPads, apparently nobody ever read stuff on trains.
Now, you might think that, as a citizen of the free world, you have the right to be oblivious. You might feel entitled to the simple expectation that few if any homicidal maniacs are gonna gun you down while you check your Twitter feed on the train. But you would be wrong, because in a country where everybody and their dog is packin’ heat, and firearm homicides occur at the rate of 30 per day, you gotta look alive, girl! It’s 2013, the NRA is handing out mandatory free guns on every street corner, and it’s every aunt for herself. If you get croaked while checking your email in public, it’s your own flippin fault for letting your guard down in a war zone.
So remember: don’t leave home without your flak jacket and flamethrower, and leave those oblivion-causing iPads in the bathroom.