Brittany Lofton spots them all the time: teens and college students clutching their beat-up cellphones, with screens so cracked that spider-web-like patterns creep across the glass.
Sure, the screen's razory shards make reading a text and posting Instagram photos super blurry, not to mention slightly painful.
But that's part of the appeal.
Introducing the cracked cellphone screen, which raises the bar by lowering it. Think of it as the tech generation's ripped jeans or unwashed hair. Unshaven faces. Low-riding jeans. People who love high-low decor and city streets. The Black Cat, or any dive bar with rotting picnic benches and watery beer.
The blanket-of-broken-glass look infuriates many parents who can pay a couple hundred dollars to fix the screen or, if that's not possible, up to $600 for a replacement phone.
Meanwhile, some young people say a cracked screen gives you a sort of street cred, like you've been through some real-life stuff, even if it happened on the mean streets of Bethesda. It's tough, subversive and just kinda cool.
It's that age-old teenage narrative: the desire to define your identity. In this generation, the awkward tumble toward independence is personified in one slim device, which also happens to hold a teen's entire social life.
"It's this total trend, because it's not like we're rushing out to get them fixed," smirks Lofton, 23, who works at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda, Md., a favorite hangout. "A cracked screen is, like, this really cool scar."
"Plus, it's a great conversation starter," chimed in her friend and co-worker Samantha Lasky, also 23.
"How did you crack your cellphone?"
"I dropped it in my cat's water bowl."