How Smart is the Genius Bar? Fear and Loathing at the Mac Store
My computer crashed yesterday. The screen flickered in a horrific spectacle of color and code, froze, and went black like midnight in the country. I stared at dust speckled stars, finger smudges and grime. I blinked dumbly and pressed restart. Nothing. Restart. Nothing. Fuck. I’m tech savvy; like, I use TweetDeck and like iPads tech savvy. But cut off the power and I’m basically a caveman manhandling a microwave.
I picked up my computer and shook it a little. I put my ear to the base, listened, flipped it over, smacked it with the palm of my hand, grunted, tossed it up and down, kicked it and then finally started staring again. Nothing happened. I resigned myself, “There’s not much more for me to do here…. Let’s go Genius Bar!”
Quick inquiry about the genius bar: How smart are Mac employees supposed to be? Every time I go to the Apple Store I find myself treating these guys like my doctor. I’m ultra respectful, supplicating, laugh at their jokes and desperately cling to any information they give me. It’s a fucking hospital. The employee takes your baby to the back room. You wait, plagued by vague and distant smiles from other employees. Finally your guy comes back with a solemn expression. “Mr. Kouri?” “Yes.” “Here’s what we were able to do…”
In my case, they weren’t able to do anything. “How does it look?” I asked. “Your computer is dead.” “Dead?” “Dead.” I can’t say I was particularly shocked. I bought it when iPods still looked like something I’d forcefully shove a Pokémon cartridge in. Really, I was pretty enthusiastic about any passing excuse to spend roughly one tenth of a yearly salary on a new computer. I asked, “What do I do?” “You can buy another computer.” “Do you think that’s what I should do?” “Yes, I think so.”
That was all the encouragement I needed. Who’s sentimental about their technology? Not me. I went with a MacBook Pro, 15-inch antiglare screen, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7; Apple Care, Word, and all that other shit. I was ecstatic, delirious, high on iCloud 9.
Anybody who has the nasty little habit of spending more money than they have has a billion little tricks to make themselves feel better about it. I’m no different. My consolation: “I’ll write something brilliant about this!”
I was at the Upper West Side store that consists of one fantastic open room and a basement tomb. Make no mistake, the Mac Store is a sanctuary. Before leaving, I let the calming light from the massive iPad 2 and MacBook Air displays wash over me. These were the disciples of the Bitten Apple that hangs from the ceiling like Christ in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
That’s as hyperbolic as you want it to be, but there’s truly something religious about leaving the Mac store. Being a new Mac owner fills me with a perverted baptismal pride that I bet every Mac owner has to some extent, knowingly or unknowingly. Whatever. Back at home I got to work. I downloaded my Chrome, my Spotify, my Word and my TweetDeck. I wanted to start a trending hashtag. I wanted to write something viral. Listen to a song that screams the story of my life.
Nothing happened. I blinked dumbly and stared at the screen; the Andromeda Galaxy glowed spectacularly but I was still just a caveman in awe. There was no instant clarity; no vast and greater understanding. Kind of begrudgingly, not without effort to suppress it, a thought came to me: “So, like, this is just like my last computer.” Then I fell back into my normal routine. I ended the night looking up the Wikipedia article on Rasputin’s death and watching half an episode of South Park on Netflix.
I don’t know what that means. Clearly, a lot of us are infatuated with the material side of technology. It’s awesome to have a new computer. I feel drunk when I hold the new iPhone next to someone who has the old one. The iPad 2 is a statement; fuck that ancient first one. But alone, that doesn’t really get you anywhere. There’s something else, something we pine over endlessly that’s in between us and the screen. Most likely it doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t really matter. It never mattered. It’s all about the search.
Follow Kyle Kouri on Twitter @KyleKouri
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