Infernal Contortions, Nether Contemplations

See how he's made a chest out of his shoulders;
And since he wanted so to see ahead,
He looks behind and walks a backward path.

-Dante on the sorcerers and false prophets
The Inferno, Canto XX

 "It used to be," says my mother over breakfast yesterday, "that when you went out with your kid, your kid was like an actual person."

"Um. What?" I'm a little surprised to find my personhood in question so early this Thanksgiving morn.

"An actual person. Someone you would talk to. People used to come up to me on the bus and say, 'I can't believe how you talk to your daughter!'. Now your kid is just someo
ne to be kept quiet with technology so you can concentrate on your own screen."

(You may remember that my mother told me, upon receiving news that I'd acquired a smartphone, that I was "up to my eyeballs in assholedom."* She feels strongly about hypermediation.)

"We first noticed this in London," interjects my father, "All of these parents, pushing around their kids in strollers and hushing them while they tapped away at their phones. Contemplating their own assholedom."

"Is that the new navel-gazing?" I ask.

"Yes," says my mother. "But it requires a twist."

"My tablet!" I cry, rushing out of the room for my computer, "Meet it is I set it down!"**

Washington, DC
November 23, 2012

*My mother: "So what's new with you and D?" 
I: "Not much. We found an apartment and moved into it. He's working. 
We're continuing our transition to being assholes with smartphones." 
My mother: "Mmm."
I: "For instance, today he realized he'd forgotten some paperwork
 he needed for work, so I offered to photograph them using an 
app he'd downloaded that turns iPhone photos into PDFs, 
and then email them to him so that..."  
My mother: "OH MY GOD: you are up to your eyeballs in assholedom."
** This joke would be better if I actually owned a tablet. 
 But what can you do: sometimes Shakespeare won't be held back by the mere mundanities of fact.