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I frequently eat weekend/late night breakfast in diners alone, with iPad in tow to catch up on books I’m reading or browse Wikipedia over few cups of coffee. Despite iPads being out for a couple of years now and practically all over the media, strangers sitting next to me frequently stare inquisitively and ask what it is as if they’ve never seen one. It ALWAYS starts with “What is that?” or “Is that an iPad?” I’ve noticed business and tech people have their own little twist on this, they know what it is but always ask “Is that the newest iPad?”

For whatever reason, sometimes these little conversations derail into batshitcrazy wonderland about random conspiracies and incorrect facts, that are so out there that I don’t even know how to begin to respond. I just have to go back to eating my french toast. It can’t be geography, this even happens in places a mere stone’s throw away from the heart of Silicon Valley.

Two recent examples:

Today somebody asked me if buying ebooks was cheaper than buying real books. We started chatting about how books were a little cheaper and about the convenience of having them delivered electronically. He goes off on how today’s youth expects everything instantly instead of having patience for things. He hates how cell phones are being used for location tracking too. He goes off into the deep end by saying he used to work for BoA and the government installs tracking codes into the mag stripes of credit cards. “Anything you buy, these other corporations can see it. If you go into Wal-Mart and buy a big bottle of drugs, they’re [they == The Man/The System?] going to deny you life insurance forever. That’s why I don’t use credit cards and only pay cash.” I can’t imagine what he’d have to say if he knew I worked at Facebook.

A few Saturdays ago the guy next to me asks, “Is that an iPad?” He starts of talking about how he’d like to get one, but says he won’t because he used to work at Apple on the first Mac, Apple used slave labor now, and they screwed a bunch of people out of jobs by moving the company to Sacramento.

I got nothing.

It also reminds me of a time long ago in 1997 when I was searching for a location to co-locate some equipment for my ISP. I would approach local business owners, explain how much space I needed and how I’d give their business free high-speed Internet access in return (woo 56k frame relay!). One woman after hearing my pitch told me no, because she used to get calls from the internet. “The phone would ring, I’d pick it up and it’d say internet and hang up”. What?

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