Making Friends? There’s an App for That.

During the two days we spent in Rome prior to our cruise, Clyde wasn’t feeling well enough to get out and about. I stayed with him in the hotel room most of the time — but at one point, after making sure he had everything he needed, I went out for an hour’s walk in the neighborhood around our hotel.

I wound up — where else? — in a neighborhood pizzeria: a corner spot where locals gathered around tiny tables, drinking bottled water and downing square slices of what looked like focaccia bread topped with spheres of fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, and sprigs of basil. At the counter, I took advantage of the special — one slice and soda for 6 euro — and walked away with a warm bottle of Coke Zero and what turned out to be *four* slices served up as one gargantuan slice. 

Lonely for Clyde, I sat in a corner near the kitchen, sipped the warm Coke Zero, and took an unenthusiastic bite. The toppings were, indeed, very fresh: meaty tomato, lively basil, soft cheese. The crust was pretty remarkable, too: thick, but crispy, despite the juiciness of the goodies piled on top. Had Clyde been with me, everything would have been right with the world.

I had just begun to read a book — well, a Kindle book on my iPad — when a jolly man burst out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a dishtowel. He ran up to me, gesturing. “My daughter!” he said. “She speak English! Me, no! But — please — this is iPad?”

I grinned. With two taps, I sent the book away; with two more, I summoned the Photos app and handed the iPad over. He flicked through my photoset from our last trip to Thailand, gasping each time a swipe of his finger revealed a new image. “Can show book?”

I nodded, and switched him over to the Kindle app. He flipped pages, switched to the table of contents, and backed out to look at my onboard library. “Internet?”

“With WiFi.”

“Ah,” he said, gesturing at the ceiling. “No WiFi.” He grinned at me and glanced at my pizza. “You like?”

“Yes, very much.” I lifted a slice. “Good crust.”

“I make,” he said, thumping his chest. “Since 1972!” 

We chatted, in our way, for ten minutes or so. In the end, he decided to go back to the kitchen … but not before checking on the price of the iPad, and deciding his daughter had to have one. “Me, though,” he said, “too much. Too new.”

“But you read,” I said. “And you look at pictures. And you do the Internet.”

“Two then,” he said, laughing. “I buy two!” He wandered off, checking in at other tables, where conversations were all in Italian, but included gestures and glances in my direction … and the occasional use of the word “iPad.”

I was halfway through my pizza when he reappeared, carrying a little plastic cup. Inside it swirled three cubes of hollow ice. He placed it on my table, beaming, and pointed at my tepid Coke Zero. “Make cold. For American.”

I was very grateful. 

With time, of course, iPads will become ubiquitous: everyone will have one, and their mystique (like the iPod’s mystique) will decline. For now, though, the iPad can do something Apple doesn’t show you in their ads: when you’re far from home and lonesome, the iPad can help you make a friend. 


Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.


Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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