By Jennifer Bonardi
In 2002, I was a Luddite but I had a good – well, distinct – excuse. I had just moved to DC from San Francisco, which had been busting hard after a tech boom. The boom split the city into two parts: the start-uppers and the beatniks, the haves and the have-nots, the techies and what would eventually be known as the hipsters. Since I had a career in non-profit activist work, my allegiance was decided for me. As such, I didn’t have a cell phone and didn’t want one. I didn’t want to be one of Them. I also didn’t want anyone to be able to get ahold of me at any given moment. Of course, I was as predictable as a Roman army so if you knew me at all, you could guess with roughly 92% accuracy which café I was frequenting at the moment, sucking down mochas and making infinite to-do lists. But that wasn’t the point.
DC was different. No one cared about the dot-com bust but absolutely all were fascinated with whatever wonky, pedantic facet of federal policy had cropped up in the last five minutes. In DC, everyone walked fast, wore a button-down shirt, and bragged about their brief, meaningless exchange with a Congresswoman rumored to become the next vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In San Francisco, the millionaires stumbled out of their houses in trucker hats and dirty t-shirts that reeked of weed.
I had to hang on to who I was. I had just gotten a job with a non-profit that allowed me to work out of my studio apartment, so that solved the problem of wearing a button-down shirt. Or pants, for that matter. I purchased a beeper for which only my boss had the number; then she could page me when I was tying up the phone with my NetZero dial-up internet. The rest of my identity of dishevelment was assured through my meager paycheck and a cable plan that lacked CSPAN.
As I set out to work on that third day of employment, I heard a buzz. What could that be? It sounded again, urgently. “BZZZZT.” I began to search around my 384 sq. ft. apartment. The plaintive, intermittent buzzing continued, as did our modified game of Marco Polo. “BZZZZT.” What is that? It didn’t seem to be my alarm clock or any of my appliances.
The image of my blue vibrator flashed in my head. I rifled through the boxes under the bed and brought it into the light. I had bought it at Good Vibrations in San Francisco along with a doorstopper tome of pin-up photos. Vibrators never really did it for me – I always preferred my hand, which was more convenient anyway – but I figured I’d buy a good one and give it another shot. Failing to impress me, it made the long road trip to our nation’s capital only to be shoved under the bed indefinitely.
But now…it was exacting its revenge. I stared at the blue phallus in horror. I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.
Was this thing just buzzing away on its own? The buzzing is coming from inside the house.
Is it mad because I chose my hand instead of it? The vibrator is possessed!
I hurriedly removed the batteries and threw them away. I threw out the vibrator as well, shoving it deep into the trash barrel – a different barrel than the one with the batteries.
I learned a lesson that day. All technology had ever wanted to do was please me but I eschewed it for some sort of imagined allegiance. It had finally had enough of my neglect.
I never did get another vibrator…but I did finally shut off the beeper that I had put on vibrate, angrily buzzing under my pillow. I turned off NetZero and picked up my landline to call my boss as I wrote myself a note to buy a cell phone that weekend.