Waiting in Line

According to my Twitter feed, a lot of people are lining up today to be among the first consumers to play with the fifth incarnation of the iPhone. For all my love of consumer culture, this is a behavior I just don’t get. First a little background:

I’ve waited in line. I have fond memories of waking up at Unholy Hour O’Clock to go to the nearest Ticketmaster to get concert tickets for my favorite bands. One of the last times I did this was a Paul McCartney tour over 10 years ago. Now, I just wait in a virtual line at my computer, comfy in my chair and PJs, to get tickets. But I do remember the excitement and the communitas of standing in line. I also have fond memories of waiting in line for midnight movie premiers and book releases. I’ve sense stopped doing the midnight showings, just because I’m not that person who can stay out until 3am on a Thursday then crawl into work on Friday morning and be functional. But there, again, is a particular excitement and communitas that happens in those midnight hours. Same with the book releases. By the end of the Harry Potter series, bookstores wisened up to the idea of throwing an actual party, making the wait that much more fun. I think my most favorite waiting in line experience was to get a wristband to see a presentation/book signing by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) at Austin’s annual book festival. The book was the 12th book of the Series of Unfortunate Events, and the festival happened to be on my birthday. My inner book nerd was very excited to spend my birthday thusly. And I was able to fanagle anniversary greetings from Handler, making it an afternoon to remember. All other positive instances of waiting in line that I can remember involve Disney somehow.

So, yes, I understand waiting in line.

I should also add that I’m an ex-Mac user. Yes, such a person does exist! I left Mac because I had (and still have) moral? ethical? issues about their pricing structure. I can think of 100000000000000000 better, more satisfying ways to part with an Unholy Amount of Money than to buy the latest OS upgrade, iPod, or laptop computer.

But, as today proves, I’m apparently in a minority.

I do love my Android phone, and I do sometimes catch myself growing skin attachment to my phone as I play around on my various apps. Sometimes, playing around on those apps seems more important than whatever else I should be doing (a behavior I’m working very hard to break for the sake of being the type of role model my kid deserves). I get the attachment we have to our toys.

But there’s something Faustian about the unholy alliance consumers are making with their Mac products. I have very dear friends who are Mac users, and we have a mutual understanding not to engage in the Mac/PC debate. When consuming PC products, because there are so many options out there, it doesn’t seem like an unholy alliance. But with Mac, you’re not only consuming a brand, you’re committing yourself to a particular product line because of Mac’s proprietary practices. Some of these practices have leaked into the smart phone app world because “it’s easier to program an app for an iPhone than it is for a Droid.” What bunk.

I saw this commercial on Hulu yesterday. Though I’m not an SIII user, I think it well explains that perplexed look I give Mac users who want the latest upgrade:

And an image from George Takei’s Facebook:

Religious Fanatacism


An Exercise in Branding Identity

“I’m proud to be an American.” How many times have I heard this phrase growing up? Probably at least enough to have paid for college, especially thanks to that song from Desert Storm that should now be playing in your head. That it is now playing in your head is an indication of successful propaganda, but that’s not what I’m here to write about today. “I’m proud to be an American” means different things to different people, of course, but at the heart of the message is something I don’t think is thought about often enough. “I’m proud to be an American” means, for those of us born after World War II, “I’m proud to be a consumer.” I can see the song lyric now: I’m proud to be an American, where at least I can consume. And I won’t forget the dinosaurs who died to give that right to me… America is a consumer culture, and though we peg consumerism on the post-World War II generation, it really dates back to the pilgrims and our concept of this land as a place of infinite resource available just for our consumption.

So while I was out walking my dog this morning–have you ever considered how you consume your dog? As soon as you walk into a room and start showing pictures of your dog and correcting people about your dog’s breed, you’re consuming your dog.Oh, she’s an American Husky. The vet calls her a “mini.” That’s why she’s the size of a Husky adolescent at 10 years old–I started contemplating the ways in which the brands I consume are part of my identity. This is an excellent exercise for anyone who reads this, because inevitably, even those who think they are anti-consumerist are in fact consumers, making choices about brands that stem beyond affordability and convenience. Truly this is the American Way.

My Branding Identity, a poem-ish by moi

In the gigantic scheme of things, I am:
A cat person, not a dog person.
A Beatles Girl, not an Elvis Gal,
The Who, not the Stones.
I prefer Coke to Pepsi,
but Dr. Pepper when given the choice.
Gap to Old Navy,
Chevy to Ford
(But lovingly drive a Toyota).
Amazon to Ebay,
Kindle to Nook.

I’m a PC, not a Mac.
I like CDs over MP3s,
DVDs over VHS,
But Blu-Ray to DVD.
Xbox over Wii,
Droid over iPhone.

I fly American, not Continental.
The airport influences the tone of the trip.

McDonald’s Fries to Burger King’s,
But In-n-Out Burger to everyone else,
except P.Terry’s in Austin.
I choose organic peanut butter over Jif.
Kleenex to Puffs,
Band-aid to Curaid.
I make copies at Kinko’s rather than the other place,
And buy my supplies at Office Depot.

DC rather than Marvel,
Batman can save me over Superman any day.
Jung to Hillman,
Campbell to Eliade.
Disney to everyone else.
Eeyore to Pooh,
Wonderland to Neverland.
Star Wars to Star Trek,
Or is it Star Trek to Star Wars?
My Doctor is the 4th, and I don’t have a Bond.

Austin, Texas, rather than Houston, Texas.
Country roads are better than Freeways.
Disneyland gets my money, not Six Flags,
But I will always stop for a historical tourist trap.

E-mail to snail mail,
but Hallmark Greetings over e-cards.
Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Great Pumpkin:
SweetTarts, Spree, Runts, Smarties,
Please save the chocolate for someone else.

Starbucks to Seattle’s Best,
But local coffee shops are always the best.
Lattes are better than cappuccinos,
And I prefer drip coffee to French Press.
A little half-and-half, please.

Water to fire,
Earth to air.
Spirals to squares,
Beaches rather than lakes,
Except in the mountains.

This list goes on, and continues to grow.
It’s part of being a consumer, and it’s all I know.