Technology

How I escaped the Apple, Part I

A few weeks ago my lovely 23″ Apple HD Cinema Display — Apple’s term for a computer monitor — died. Stopped working. Flatline.

It was my first and last Apple product. I’d owned the monitor for 2 years and two weeks when it died. The $159 replacement plan I’d bought from CompUSA, where I bought the monitor, expired precisely 2 weeks before the device failed.

I wrangled over whether to buy the monitor way back in the summer of ’05, when I finally decided that no one could produce LCD clarity the way Apple could. I had never owned a Mac or an iPod, primarily because I’ve never been convinced these devices are as special as Apple and their cash-cow cultists would like the rest of the civilized world to believe. And I’ve never been impressed with their prices, which suggest a thumb, a nose, and a gorgeously manicured middle finger. Sort of the DWR approach, eh?

The monitor served me very well. I used it for watching DVDs before I bought a TV. It was the homo sapiens to my second monitor, a lowly 15″ neanderthal, which, like the kid with pimples and braces, lay dwarfed in the wake of its more handsome, more brilliant kin. Honestly, I really liked the Apple monitor.

Apple purists will gag to learn that I attached that monitor to a honkin’ Nvidia card just so I could use it on my PC. They played well together, those two.

As an early adopter of the Apple monitor, I paid through the nose ($1,500) for quality no competitor could come close to offering. It was worth it.

But then it died.

I heard from a colleague that it could be the power brick that failed, so I threw on a cloak, grabbed my staff and ventured into the dark night of Apple “customer care.”

To the Apple store in downtown San Francisco I went. It was a first for me, and as annoying and cunty as I’d expected. Preciously and precisely laid out, with Apple zombies happily zoning out in their little slice of the Matrix. Geeks, families, the moneyed and well-educated, the elites among all consumers, a class of technology buyer that makes your CompUSA customer look like a thug.

I asked a gentleman if he sold one of these (holding before him the power brick I’d brought along). He was friendly and confident and told me to go upstairs and look at the section with numerous green & white boxes. I went there and found power adapters for many devices, but not mine. I asked another gentleman if he sold one of these (again brandishing my power brick). He said, more confidently than convivially, “No.” Pause. Blink. Now giving Apple employee several seconds to make the most of this. Eventually, I said, “OK, so how do I go about getting one. The web? Got a phone number? A manager, maybe?”

“Talk to a genius.”

Pause. Blink. Now calculating the breadth and depth of my ignorance about Apple culture. Slowly, I turned, feeling the hot gaze of Sauron on several gorgeous monitors — excuse me, HD cinema displays — over the long diner counter Apple calls the Genius Bar. Black-clad soldiers arranged like Fisher-Price people behind their perfectly Procrustean brushed chrome machines stared out at the crowd gathering about the bar. This crowd waited, waited, never exasperated, never conscious of its astonishing resemblance to those throngs who queue in Epcot.

I asked a young man who was standing around if he was in line. Pause. Blink. Now trying to understand if and how I had just made an idiot of myself. He said, “There’s no line, but, yeah, I’m waiting.” I didn’t get it and tried to reveal this through eyes rimmed with the scantest trace of tears. He emerged lazily from his computer-geek slouch to point me in the direction of the computer kiosk I was supposed to use to announce my presence to the Genius network. There, I went, listening along the way to a couple of Geniuses helping their customers with a mixture of empty charm and flirty arrogance.

Lucky for me, I got a slot only 25 minutes away. Not quite as gratifying as having a deli ticket that’s 4 numbers from being served, but, hey, I was willing to play Apple’s game…for a while.

When they called my name, I leapt up from my exquisitely wrought Norwegian maple bench and, for the final time that day, flashed my presumably failed power brick.

“I think it’s broken,” I said, “How do I get another one.”

“What’s your name?”

“Andrew Lynch.”

“Hmm, nope. Do you have a serial number?”

“For what?”

“For the monitor.”

“No, not with me. Does the serial number have anything to do with this [languidly waving my power brick before her face]?”

“We could order this for you, but we’d need a serial number. Is there anyone at home you could call?”

“Uh, well, my dogs are pretty smart, but I don’t think they can help.”

Blank stare. Westworld automatons don’t understand pet humor. Took deep breath.

“OK, I’ll go home and get my serial number. Do I need anything else?”

“Bring the power supply and a serial number and we can order one for you. We’ll charge you at the time we order it and take this one.”

“This one?”

“The broken one.”

“That I paid for? Why do you need that?”

Big grin. “We recycle.”

Of course you do.

I walked a block to CompUSA to see if they might have some power bricks. I stood in the store’s unusual Apple pentagram down in the basement, where three Apple employees were educating zombies who could get no help from the nearby Apple store. And I learned something amazing. Apple consumers love to talk about buying Apple products before they actually buy them. They ask the sort of questions you’d expect a person who had never seen a car or a pair of shoes to ask. Tired of waiting, I went to a service counter and asked a wonderfully open employee if she could order one of these [waving power brick]. You would have thought I had asked for a pill to cure my fatal disease. “Apple doesn’t let us do that sort of thing. They like to be in charge.” I giggled, nodded knowingly, and, for a special cosmic moment, that woman and I were one.

I returned to the Apple store the next day with my CompUSA receipt and my power brick. I reported to the kiosk and, through it, announced to the Geniuses that I had returned and could sure use their help. It was about 2:30 on a lovely Sunday afternoon. How surprised was I when I learned that no Genius could see me until 6:45 later that day? You can imagine the flood of emotions I felt: disgust, abandonment. It was as if one of those monolithic walls from the dream sequences in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil had busted through the earth, shooting skyward, blocking me from the object of my desire, in this case, not an angel, but a $68 computer part.

To be continued in Part II, where my Apple-friendly boyfriend takes command of the problem and schools Apple Geniuses, or, how I got a new power brick that didn’t solve the problem in under 48 hours and how we responsibly disposed of the accursed monitor at a Best Buy that just didn’t get it.

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