For the longest time we avoided joining the Apple family. We computed on our Dells and called on our phones that possessed slightly below average intelligence. Then two years ago my wife finally got an iPhone. A few months ago she bought an iPad. On Tuesday afternoon, we took the next, inevitable step by venturing to the Apple store on the Upper West Side in Manhattan to purchase a Macbook Air. We entered a whole new world when we stepped through the glass doors and left with a whole new computer. We joined the 21st century, even if our technical skills are still somewhere in the 20th century.
I’d been to this Apple store one other time, last Christmas, when I was simply looking for a new case for Louise’s iPhone. I didn’t even understand what all of those people do at all of those tables that ring the floor on the top and bottom levels. Were they using their own computers and hooking up to the Internet? Were the computers just there in the open, put there by the store for anyone to use? I felt like if I approached one of them I’d have to explain myself to a helpful, eager, young, bearded gentleman who was forced to memorize Steve Jobs’ Wikipedia entry before he got hired. I didn’t see any cash registers. I saw an employee chattering to a group of folks, obviously giving them lessons on how to use all of the products that surrounded me. I left the store empty-handed that day.
Louise insisted on getting a Macbook this time. She works as a literary agent and stares at her computer screen 14 hours a day. Our original laptop died several years ago, but its brain never got that message. It still works, churning along like an old car that still starts up in a Minnesota winter but only out of habit. We never fixed the battery that runs the internal clock so the computer always thinks it’s May 2014 or June 2016 or April 2017. Fix it on the screen and it reverts back a few minutes later. The hard drive crashed two years ago. I found an outfit online that fixed it, but the guys running the small company might have simply been a front for Russian gangsters. When they returned it to us the keypad was suddenly hypersensitive. You can practically control it with a thought, the cursor jumping up 20 lines without warning.
Because she hauls her laptop around frequently, she wanted the light Macbook Air. She wanted something that could sync up to her iPad. Sync up. Is that the phrase, or are the techies among us already slowly shaking their heads in pity at my ignorance?
The place was crowded, though maybe that’s not the right description for this store. Maybe this was the equivalent of a Florida Marlins crowd compared to the days when Apple unleashes a new product on the world. We went downstairs first, in pursuit of a simple extension cord. As you walk down the spiral staircase it feels like Scorsese should be following for a tracking shot. Everyone’s happy in the store. Happy to touch the machines. Happy to play around with the machines. Happy to spend thousands. Happy to smile. Happy to stand with all the other true believers.
Upstairs we finally focused on the Macbook Air and an employee wandered over to help. He worked past our ignorance, as patient as a teacher instructing a 5-year-old how to read. He explained storage and what we could do with the Air, surely realizing we’d utilize 10 percent of what the machine is capable of doing. The transaction went down quickly and he took our credit card in this non-register store and directed us to another young helpful employee who would sync up — there’s that phrase — Louise’s iPad with the Macbook Air.
At this station — again, not sure if that’s the Apple-approved phrase; maybe it’s just a table — we stood across from a man in his thirties using one of the computers. He was talking to himself but was soon talking to me, while the Apple worker was talking to Louise.
“Where are we?” he asked.
When I failed to answer he asked again.
“The Apple store,” I said.
“No. Where? What street?”
“Uh, 67th and Broadway.”
“And where’s 54th?”
“Thirteen blocks south.”
By this time Louise had given me the look that indicated this conversation should end. I did wonder why he needed such precise directions, especially since he was surfing the Internet and the Apple worker had told him to Google 54th Street. What was he planning? Who was he on the phone with? Would I be charged as an accessory?
The worker cobbled together the information between our new computer and the iPad as Louise explained to him that “You have to explain it to me like I’m a 105-year-old woman. Because something will go wrong. What does Apple do if I get hacked?” He chuckled, assured her that wouldn’t happen. Two younger guys at the edge of the table — who had avoided our mystery man’s inquisition — laughed and told her, “Who gets hacked?” As if that was a foreign idea to youth raised on the legend of Jobs.
“It happens!” Louise said.
That won’t happen, the worker insisted.
“But what happens if I hit a button and the whole thing just goes black?”
The worker didn’t understand this. A screen go black? Did we realize we were standing in an Apple store, the happiest place on earth? A black screen on an Macbook Air? “That won’t happen,” he said.
Finally he finished with our machines and sent us on our way. Three hours later, I heard a call from the bedroom, followed by what might have been weeping. Louise had turned the Macbook on. It flickered…and then went to a black screen. The prophecy came true. Even the power of Apple is no match for the power of negative thinking. I hit the power and the keyboard lit up for a second but the screen remained black. We tried to tell these people — technology is not always a good mix in the Fury household. When we called the help number, another helpful young gentleman — probably with a beard — said he’d heard of this happening once before. Apparently the computer didn’t respond when we plugged it in at home because it had previously been plugged in at the store, which was a much greater power source. So the computer…thought it had been stolen? That was the sort-of explanation. And after he told Louise to hit some buttons it came to life. The black screen disappeared.
Louise used the computer all day Wednesday. Might have been 15 hours. I’m still using my old laptop. I use a Mac at work and for now that’s enough. I’m not ready to join the Apple cult quite yet. But I realize we’re all living in Apple’s world, unless it’s the weekend when Google has custody. And with three of their products now in our home, it’s time to acknowledge they’ve they’ve taken over our own little world.