What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


I was more bored than usual in my milktoast philosophy class. To help make course material more real to her pupils, our instructor had assigned several of the readings as group presentation projects. It looked and sounded as if the group in front of us had read David Copperfield the night before and had all the understanding of that Classic that SparkNotes could provide. I hadn't moved in twelve minutes; my contact lenses were starting to dry against my stiff eyeballs. I was completely uninterested and wanted badly a frivolous distraction.

Around me students played thumb war with their phones. Some were texting, I am sure, sweet nothings to their squeezes. Others were setting up post class hangouts or commenting on the latest campus scandal -- a raunchy article about the University's first female President in the school newspaper. Still more were surfing the 40-year old Internet.

I was jealous. My QWERTY-slider phone was not Internet enabled. Sure, it was capable of downloading the WWW's latest fare, but doing so would cost me 10 cents for every impossibly slow turn of the globe icon. I had disabled Internet at the AT&T store as soon as I purchased it. Other students were using their parents' money to keep up on theI CANN regulated world. The guy to my right was staying abreast of the World Series game. He passed me score updates on his phone. The girl to my left was in the facebook world. Her occasional involuntary giggles demonstrated clearly that her mind was somewhere other than the Dickens presentation.

Everyone else was finding ways to entertain themselves! I couldn't think of any questions to ask Cha Cha, I'd played the pre-installed BowlerBash 3.0 demo several times that night and was not in the mood for three more minutes of TETRIS. I resented my phone as a mistake. I looked at it the way I looked at the burrito I'd ordered at lunch: a decision proved poor by 20/20 hindsight.
That's when it hit me like a Ray Lewis shoulder pad: my phone was not completely inept. Burried deep in its list of petty features was Bluetooth, an ambiguous feature who's utility I had not yet discovered.

Using my notebook to shield my phone from the instructor, who sat in pretend rapture staring almost catatonically at the powerpoint presentation, I navigated to the settings menu and enabled Bluetooth. Nothing happened.

I considered BowlerBash 3.0 for a split second before the screen went blank and a rotating globe avatar appeared. I wondered whether I would be charged 10 cents a spin but didn't care. It was my turn to be transfixed.

"Searching for new devices" the screen intoned. I was glad I had silenced my phone. A notification noise then would have stood out from the speakers' droning like a baby's scream in a Sunday sermon or a pretty face in a bar fight, I am undecided on similes.

Slowly a list of devices was populated. Apple, Blackberry, Palm, Motorola -- all the major phone brands were represented followed by official looking model numbers. These were the phones in this room!

Devious thoughts filled by head. I thought about the celebrities whose phones had been hacked and whose pictures had ended up on the Internet because of equipment like this. I always knew I had a future as someone who is paid to harass other people. This was a chance to perfect that skill.

With only a passing thought toward the ethical implications of my action, I selected an LG phone from near the top of the list.

A beat.

Then a password menu popped up. Cowabunga! It was asking for a PIN (not "PIN number," which is literally "Personally Identification Number number" but "PIN"). Although I had breezed by the ethics issues, Ipensed on this question. How much effort do people put into their PINs anyway? If I were a student setting up my phone and was asked to enter a PIN, I would probably punch 9999 and be done with it. So I pressed 9999.

Another beat.

The instructor's phone started buzzing, breaking her trance. She looked down at it and pressed a button to disable its vibration. I tried to look nonchalant, but inside I was screaming: I had just hacked the professor's phone!

I had access to everything. Pictures, addresses, call history, music and ring tones poured over my screen like cheese over a fondue pot.

Ethical pangs stabbed at my brain. The moral philosophies we discussed in class -- Deontology, virtue theory, categorical imperative, natural law -- were applied quickly. Criticisms from our reader popped into mind and I debated out the morality of my next decisions.

Ironically, it was my indecision that saved me from a big mistake because I was about to download the instructor's pictures when the class erupted in a loud applause signaling the presentation's conclusion. I disengaged the Bluetooth and wiggled out of the room as quickly as possible, denying the professor the eye contact she obviously sought.

If my professor doesn't adjust her PIN before next class, I am going to change her ring tone to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and turn her volume to its highest setting.


lauren said...

THAT would be hysterical.

Rachel said...


DTH Rocket said...

What kind of professor would set her PI number to 9999?

That's a good idea!