A woman was spotted on the Wuhan subway this week, happily browsing her iPad without a care in the world, or any clothes.
According to police the woman, believed to be suffering from an unspecified mental disorder, removed her dress after boarding the subway and began using her iPad while naked, occasionally yelling at other passengers.
While I don’t want to seem like I’m making light of mental illness, the photo inspired me to write a 21st century update to the Hans Christian Anderson classic:
The Empress’s New iPad
Once upon a time there lived an Empress whose only worry in life was to have the latest gadgets. She changed devices almost every hour and loved to show them off to her people.
Word of the Empress’s refined habits spread over her kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Empress’s vanity decided to take advantage of it. They presented themselves at the gate of the palace with a scheme in mind.
“We are two master Apple engineers and after many years of research we have finished an extraordinary new upgrade to the iPad that is so awesome and costly that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.”
The Empress’s curiosity got the better of her. She’d heard tell of this upgrade through various tech blogs and instructed the men to begin work immediately.
A few days later, the Empress called the old and wise prime minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.
“Go and see how the work is proceeding,” the Empress told him, “and come back to let me know.”
The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.
“We’re almost finished, but we need a lot more platinum and coltan. Here, Excellency! Admire the sheen, feel the palpable trendiness!” The old man bent over the workbench and tried to see the upgrade that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.
“I can’t see anything,” he thought. “If I see nothing, that means I’m stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!” If the prime minister admitted that he didn’t see anything, he would be discharged from his office.
“What a marvellous upgrade, he said then. “I’ll certainly tell the Empress.” The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More coltan was requested to finish the work.
Finally, the Empress received the announcement that the two geniuses were almost finished.
“Come in,” the Empress ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels pretended to be holding a significantly different and better iPad in their hands.
“Here it is your Highness, the result of our labour,” the scoundrels said. “We have worked night and day but, at last, the most up to date tablet in the world is ready for you. Look at the colours and see how much faster it is.” Of course the Empress did not see any colours and could not see any noticeable speed increase. She panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind her and she sat down. But when she realized that no one could know that she did not see any upgrade, she felt better. Nobody could find out she was stupid and incompetent. And the Empress didn’t know that everybody else around her thought and did the very same thing.
The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it.
“Your Majesty,” the prime minister said, “we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary upgrade and they are anxious to see you and your new iPad.” The Empress was doubtful about showing herself naked to the people, but then she abandoned her fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.
“All right,” she said. “I will grant the people this privilege.” She summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. Applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Empress passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: “Look at the Empress’s new iPad. It’s a marked advance from the previous model that came out but six months ago!”
A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
“The Empress is naked,” he said.
“Fool!” his father reprimanded, running after him. “Don’t talk nonsense!” He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy’s remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:
“The boy is right! The Empress is naked! It’s true! Also that iPad isn’t worth the money it costs to upgrade it when the improvements over the previous model are only marginal at best.”