David Wall Rice: iPhone iPhoria

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And why is there still a quarter-mile line zigzagging around the mall? A telephone? Right, right... GPS... music... really fast Internet. Sexy. But plans don't come with a great mortgage rate. They don’t come with free gas either. So maybe my homeboy Phil Gramm was on to something with his "mental recession" assessment.

I am but a simple man, a country boy who grew up mostly in Arlington, Texas. I don’t portend genius with respect to the economy. I guess I’m like McCain in that respect. I do know two things, however: 1) I drive a compact and still cringe at the thought of filling up my gas tank these days and 2) an iPhone, even with the cut in price, is a luxury that in no way warrants hours of line-standing given our current economic downturn.

Still, despite the social criticism, I relate to wanting the cool new gadget. For real. I want the iPhone 3G. Apple is great at making me think I need it. And I can get one with a bit of patience—and heavy rationalizing of a portion of my income as disposable. I’ve done it before. I bought two of the super-expensive-sell-your-lung 1st generation iPhones. One for my wife and one for me. Possession of the touch-screen tech gems can easily be construed a status statement, a proclamation of my level of importance and accomplishment.

And this is what the iPhone is for many, even on the brink of $5 gas and record home foreclosures. A functional diamond ring. A handheld pair of exclusive sneakers. A mainstream Kabbalah red string. It’s a symbol that says, “Whatever, I’ve got it under control. I’m good. I’m cool. I’m trendy. Vote Obama.” It’s cutting-edge, change-oriented and neat-o.

Nonetheless, there is rent to pay, food to buy, college to save for. At least this was my imagined narrative for those who I saw in line at an Apple store in Atlanta over the weekend. It was too much. Some of the folks hit hard by the economy were in that line on Saturday evening, but they faked like it wasn’t them. They were cool, but also heated at being characterized as whiners. Certainly, if the biggest issue for many Americans over the last three days was the fact that our phone bricked for an hour or two because of a massive sprint for the new “in tool,” a whiner just might define you, at least a little bit.

Next time, let’s make a deal. Let’s wait a week before pretending like there is no economic clamp on us. Remember, a delay of gratification is an indicator of emotional and social maturity, and we need to grow up a bit.