The great irony of the mobile revolution is that as the devices become more common, their batteries are less and less removable, less and less replaceable. So even as we’re freed from cables to connect to the internet, we’re often reshackled just as quickly by power cords to recharge the first-party nonremovable rechargeable battery buried deep in our cell phone or computer. Newer places with high portable power needs, like airports, are often built with dozens more outlets than would have been de rigueur before the iPhone revolution.

And older places? Things can get ugly around the few places to plug in.

Take for example Terminal 1 at New York’s JFK airport (a misnamed aerodrome if ever there was one, as Kennedy’s famous nasal Massachusetts accent makes clear). It was built, and renovated, long before the advent of modern post-9/11 security, much less iPhones. That’s why the giant x-ray scanners are floating in the middle of the ticketing area instead of behind the scenes, and why the security checkpoint overflows into the presidium between Korean Air and Japan Airlines.

It’s also why duels over the 8 recharging stations in the food court overlooking said presidium are always so fierce.

First you’ve got your campers: people who move in on an off time and take all four outlets at one of the two “Recharge Here” stations for themselves. iPhone, iPad, iBook, the i’s have it and they all need juice like hyperactive toddlers. And using them for even an instant brings the level of that precious juice way down–the last thing you need before a 10-hour transatlantic flight. So why not stay plugged in, all four devices, your entire 11-hour layover? The JFK people try to discourage this camping with their Marquis de Sade brand chairs, whose backrest is only comfortable if you don’t have a spine, but if people can master the seats on a subway they can master anything.

Then you’ve got the abandoners. They slip in and plug in a single device–a phone, usually–and then vanish for hours, possibly days. Secure in the knowledge that the campers will call out anyone who tries to take their stuff, the abandoners feel free to wader the terminal, the city, and the state unfettered by the vulnerable electronics slowly charging in the food court. While others often hope that some purse-snatching lowlife will help themselves to an abandoner’s iPad, they never seem to.

The snipers are also prevalent. They’ll swoop in and unplug someone else’s gizmo when they’re not looking–an abandoner, usually, but sometimes a camper. They try to nip into an outlet quickly, grabbing only enough charge to make one phone call or play one game of Angry Birds, but usually won’t replace the plug they’ve co-opted. Only when the camper runs out of juice near the Azores or the abandoner returns from Mongolia do they learn of the unpluggery that went on behind their backs.

Finally, the beggars. They will approach the campers or snipers, looking forlorn, and choose whichever one looks the kindest, most gullible, or most awake. Then they’ll pour out their whole life story, weaving a tale of woe and despair to try and guilt their way into power. Even though the worst thing to happen to them in years may be a slightly burned order of McDonald’s fries, the beggars will nevertheless speak of their recent arrival from Auschwitz, their debilitation brain tumor, the callous way a Mercedes driver ran over their pet nutria. If their victim isn’t moved, additional woe is added until they give in.

Naturally, JFK being JFK, the aforementioned types will not speak the same language, use the same body language, or have the same conception of personal space. The occasional violence, such as the Great Plug Brawl of 2012, is due as much to this as the aforementioned subtypes.

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