New York. Number Three uptown train, 8:03 p.m.—It's not every day that inspiration strikes—and it's not every subway rant that actually makes sense. But that's just what happened recently when one gentleman got a look at a fellow passenger's new ultrathin cell phone. This conversation really did happen.
"Damn, baby, how do your fingers even dial the numbers on that thing?"
"I dunno. Small hands, I guess."
"Does that thing work down here?"
"So what are you doing?"
"I'm playing a game. I'm right in the middle of it."
"If you can't use that thing down here to make a call, what good is it? I mean, what if this train crashes right now? Then what you gonna do?"
"Climb out the window, I guess."
"I know. That thing needs a flashlight. Why can't you put a flashlight on that phone? You get in an emergency, and you just push a button, and your flashlight goes on. Why can't they do that?"
Passenger eyebrows go up.
"Look at that dude over there in the suit. He knows this is big money."
"You actually could put a light on the back. You should get that patented."
"Patented? Damn, listen to this guy! I know what's gonna happen. He's gonna steal my idea. Next thing I know, I'll be on the train and everybody will have flashlights on their goddamn cell phones. . . . Baby, if I strike it rich, you think I could call you?"
A version of this article appeared in the February 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.