Welcome To Stankonia (AKA The Apple Store)

Let me preface this entry by saying I genuinely appreciate Apple products. Function is important, but so is form, and I think Apple captures that best with their gadgets and gizmos. I still remember the computer lab from second grade, equipped with nothing but Apple IIe machines. I remember the Mac we used in our high school publishing class. I remember a friend I visited in college, who also had a Mac on her dorm room desk. Even then I appreciated the outward simplicity and the aesthetic appeal that was missing on bigger, clunkier PC desktops and towers, with their busy keyboards, tangled up cords and enormous CRT monitors.

I like to remind my husband that I was the catalyst in the decision to dump our P.O.S. Gateway Desktop for an Apple (this is one part of my master plan to ensure that he never forgets how fantastic his life is with me in it--it's like getting a color television after watching black & white for 23 years). Regarding "the switch", he fought and fought, but eventually he gave in and voila, we are an Apple household.

While I like most things Apple related, boy do I hate going to the House of Apple; in fact, a few posts ago I promised to write about my hatred of the Apple Store. Why? Because it's always more fun to read a rant. No one wants to hear about the love because they don't want the sweet--they want the bitter. This is the same reason why the villians are almost always more complicated and interesting than the heros.

Without further ado, here are my Reasons For Hating The Apple Store:

1) The place is stink, stank, stunk.
Even in an airy mall, once you're two steps into the Apple store, you're confronted with the funk of the ages. After the iPod came about, Apple was no longer a secret held close by a few. This means the stores are swarmed with people, and also, their various degrees of stink. My husband likened it to the way Zion must smell (from the Matrix). The city was home to thousands of people, stuck deep underground, living in cavelike dwellings with limited resources. Think of the logistics of that. Think of the stink. I'd say my husband is not far off in his assessment.

2) The Genius Bar.
First of all, what is up with the name? I can take Geek Squad or Dorks on Call, but Genius Bar? Do I need to ask what that implies of the rest of us? Is insulting the customers the way to go these days?

And now, with the influx of new Apple Customers, you can't even get a same day appointment at the Genius Bar anymore. Boo.

3) Some of the "geniuses."
Technically this belongs in the previous complaint, I know, but in my warped little mind it's a separate issue. The last trip I made to the genius bar involved a cracked case on the MacBook I bought two months earlier. I couldn't believe it happened. I went online and found that this is a common problem. I clicked through a bunch of photos of cracked macs--there was even a group on flickr created specifically because of this problem.

When I took it to the store, the "genius" assigned to my case smugly informed me that the crack formed because I was closing it too hard. O-kay...somehow the 5 year old ibook I replaced took the beatings just fine, but this new laptop was a delicate little flower. The funny part was that one of the MacBooks that the "geniuses" use was cracked in the same exact place as mine. Case cracked closed: It's a design flaw. It would have been better for this "genius" to admit that instead of blaming me.

He took my laptop and I received it two days later, repaired for free under the warranty.

"This has a reinforced plastic case now," says the genius, "it should be fine."

Well guess what--three months later it's cracked again (okay, this is turning into a product complaint, but what the hell, I'm going with it). I guess the reinforced plastic lasted an additional month of use before it gave out. I hesitate to return to the store because it doesn't affect the computer at all, it's just aesthetic damage, or, in the words of Monty Python's black knight, "'Tis but a scratch!" In the meantime, I have a bandaid holding things together. I'll get it fixed; I just need to go on a day when I have some built up nasal congestion so I can deal with the stink. Or else I'll send my husband to do it (ah, the beauty of being married--you can send your spouse to do your dirty work. Bonus points if he or she actually likes doing it.)


Pond Water People

(please note that this story contains a misspelled profanity of the F variety.)

My commute is mostly a ride on the metro with one transfer between trains. In the mornings it’s red line to yellow line, and in the evenings it’s the reverse (duh). The morning transfer involves a trip down to the lower platform, via the escalator. Due to the timing of the trains, you usually have a wait, but sometimes, if you’re fast enough, you can get off of the red train and get down to the yellow before the doors close.

This is assuming you don't have a crowd of people moving like pond water in front of you. Even then, moving quickly is not a guarantee you'll make the train. You might reach the platform in time, but you're too slow to bridge the distance between the bottom step and the open doors. Missing a train by seconds leaves you just enough time for you to hit the brakes before you smack into the closed doors. At that point, it's not even about catching the train, it's about salvaging your pride, which is harder if the people inside of the train witnessed the whole thing.

If you're close enough to the front car, sometimes you can look over and see the train operator with his or her head poked out of the window. If it’s a merciful person, he or she might open the doors, or wait for everyone running down the steps before shutting them. If it’s a sadist, the operator will make eye contact and smirk at you for a second, and then, just as you think the doors will open, the train operator retracts his or her head back into the train and leaves you to watch what could’ve been your ride as it disappears down the dark tunnel.

One of the things I gained from going to West Point was the ability to walk quickly. “Move with a purpose” was the running motto for most of the first year you spent in the place. It gets so ingrained that after awhile, you no longer know how to move at a relaxed pace. Living on the sixth floor transferred this skill to being able to descend a stairwell in eight tenths of a second. All of these skills are helpful if you have to hurry up to catch a train. And if there are pond water people in front of you, the art of moving with a purpose quickly turns into a curse.

This morning, guess what—I had the pond water people in front of me. From the down escalator, I had a perfect view of the yellow train with its open doors and empty seats. Sure, everyone was walking down the escalator steps, but this was a Friday crowd on the eve of a summertime weekend. No one was moving with a purpose, except me. I wanted to say something. “Move it or lose it” was trapped in my throat as I watched the doors close and found myself only midway down the escalator.

As the train pulled off, I exhaled. I was not going to be like that woman, I told myself.

What woman?

The one who was in a similar predicament on one of my more recent commutes. You see, that day I was the pond water person. Usually I will hurry down the steps, but the people ahead of me were slow. Besides, the train waiting at the platform was not a yellow line train, but a green line train, so I was content to move with the slow flow that morning.

Even with my back to her, I could feel the anger bursting to the surface. You know how it goes, the impatient breathing, the sensation that someone’s toes are grazing your heels—but what could I do? The escalator was packed and the people ahead weren’t going any faster. This was rush hour traffic without the cars.

Then, just as I approached the bottom of the steps, the warning chime sounded and the train doors closed.


Look, I know that feeling. I’ve said it many times in my head and out loud. But never in a crowded train station when the next train was due to arrive in two minutes. I even felt like that today, but you didn't hear a peep out of me. Not even a sanitized “Fudge” could be justified. I calmly accepted my fate, stepped onto the platform and waited for the next train.

And what did I do after the woman's outburst?

I ducked my head down after she said it, partly because I was hiding a disbelieving smile and partly because I figured the blows would be coming next. With a smirk, I took my place on the platform and watched her train disappear down the dark tunnel.