Our computer had broken. It was no more. It had ceased to be. It had expired and gone to meet its maker, who I am pretty sure was Steve Jobs. It was an ex-computer.
It had served us well for 11 years, which basically made it the computer equivalent of Methuselah. But the time had come to get a new one, and that meant going to an Apple store.
Apple stores make me nervous. They remind me of that commercial the company ran in 1984 to announce the introduction of the Macintosh: It compared IBM computers and Microsoft to a dystopian society ruled by Big Brother.
Times change, and now I sense that same conformist cult vibe from the Apple store itself. Resistance, the employees and customers seem to be saying, is futile.
But none of that matters when you need a new computer and you happen to like Apple. After all, they last 11 years.
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So I went into my nearest Apple store, and then I quickly left it. The place was packed and Covid was on the rise yet again and in my imagination, at least, the employees were all wearing those black Heaven’s Gate cult tennis shoes. I decided to wait for my wife, who was shopping at another store.
She arrived, alas, and we went back in. We were immediately met by one of the bright-eyed, eager salespeople, who asked if he could help us.
“We’re looking for a new desktop computer,” we said.
He looked confused. “Do you mean a laptop?” he asked.
We assured him we wanted a desktop computer to place on the top of our desk. To his credit, he quickly recovered and led us to the table selling desktops.
Which had nobody there. The store, as I said, was packed. It was like steerage on an ocean liner in the 1910s. It was like the A train into Manhattan at 8:30 a.m.
But the table of desktops was eerily empty. Cobwebs grew on the computers. A few tiny tumbleweeds rolled across the table and clattered onto the floor. A lonesome train whistle blew mournfully in the distance. It was not difficult to understand why the salesman had been confused.
We asked for an entry-level computer. Our computing needs are modest. We don’t play computer games, we don’t edit videos, we don’t stream movies. Basically, we need a computer because typewriter ribbons are hard to find.
The salesman showed us the most basic computer, and naturally I looked for the price. There was no price. There are no prices anywhere in the store. Prices are for suckers. Prices are for the uncool. True Believers do not need prices.
The salesman looked at his handheld device and told us how much the desktop computer costs. I’m going to take his word on that. There is no way for me to know. He could have made up any old price to see how we reacted to it.
We decided to buy the computer, but first there was a question: What color did we want?
At some point in the last 11 years, Apple decided to give the back of their desktop computers a vivid color. The back of our desktop faces a wall and no one will ever see its color, but a hazy version of the hue also extends vaguely to a thin strip beneath the screen.
We don’t care what color that strip of computer is. We were standing next to a silver computer, so we said we wanted it to be silver.
“We’re out of silver.”
OK, we said, how about red?
“We’re out of red.”
They were also out of green, orange, yellow, purple and blue. They were out of every color they make. Only later did my wife point out that they apparently don’t sell many desktop computers, but they were sold out of every one they had.
We could have one delivered, the salesman said helpfully. We could have it shipped to our house, where it would make an early Christmas present for our porch pirates, or we could pick it up at the store. If we had it sent to the store, incidentally, we would still have to pay the shipping charge. The more I think about it, the less that makes sense.
We decided to have it shipped to the store — but there is one last problem: Delivery takes a month, which put it in the middle of our two-week vacation.
“We will be on vacation,” we said. “Will you hold it?”
He said they would hold it for one week.
“But it is a two-week vacation.”
He said the delivery cannot be postponed and the time that they hold it cannot be extended. In other words, they don’t have any in stock and we can’t have it delivered.
We have decided to order the computer we want, in the color we frankly don’t care about, while we are on vacation, to be delivered after we have returned.
We could have done that without going to the store.