I really wish I hadn’t bought my MacBook in a bad mood.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love my new laptop to death, but the ordeal I had to go through to obtain it was beyond “inconvenient” (as the folks at the Apple Store so lightly put it). It wasn’t completely their fault either – I’ll just point that out – but they did play their part in full-out antagonizing me along with a number of other individuals, whether animate or not. I’m not going to assume any religious view here, but if any higher power exists, they really took some steps to keep that Apple out of my reach.
But first some back-story:
In the beginning I was not an Honor Roll student. Then I was. Apparently I had missed some rather large award ceremony wherein every winner was invited to trip onto the stage and retrieve their gilded certificates first-hand. In its place, Coach Taylor, and apparent errand boy, presented me with my certificate no less unceremoniously in the middle of one of my classes, as if receiving a lunch detention. Branching out from that obligatory and half-interested celebration in Biology (“Everybody give Manny a round of applause!”), my father, later back at home, decided right then and there to buy me a new laptop.
“But oh father,” I said with an exaggerated back-of-hand-to-forehead pose, “From where shall we gather fortunes to repay for such a monumental bestowal?”
My dad, who was currently sitting in his underwear watching football, replied, “Nothing to disquiet you, Manuel, my eldest of sons, for I have been granted access to a magnificent set of shekels from that of the Governmental Administration!”
Eyes widened, and with a new smile across my face, I asked with feigned surprise, “Hath we arrived on Taxmas already?”
“Most certainly!” my dad boasted with a toothy grin. Taxmas is the one time every February when the US government, through some likely boring process I don’t understand, decides to give my dad large sums of money. I’ve learned to predict the event for several years now, and I always refrain from asking for things a few weeks in advance so I can be justified when I ask for expensive electronics.
But this year… a laptop! I’ve been asking for one since forever, but it was really more of a piped-ream. Either way I took advantage of this temporary lapse in sanity my father was having and he instructed me to start doing some shopping to find the model I wanted.
I’ve been using Macintosh computers ever since elementary school days when my teachers began instructing us in a then-highly important skill we needed to learn: typing. Employing a 3D animation game called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, my group of 4th graders were grouped into a room full of square and grey computers that froze only if something that wasn’t supposed to be done, was done on them. Like typing. Or moving the mouse. Or trying to use the Macintosh Computer in any way other than looking at its cement-like surface.
Astonishingly, I never learned to type; at least not in the traditional manner (I still have to look at the keys), but I can still have my hands whizzing across the board at least half as fast as any educated typist. Okay, fine, any educated monkey typist. Okay, any educated monkey who really had no chance at all of typing anything that could possibly remotely resemble, even with an infinite amount of time, any work of Shakespeare’s.
From there, though, Apple’s line of computers received only two notable changes worthy enough to write down: they started using white as a primary color motif and they started lasting enough time for me to type a few letters before they froze. This is when I started enjoying computers as tools rather than cheap purveyors of the Ludovico Technique.
This would be the knowledge I look back on in choosing my first personal computer.
And so it begins.
I settle my ponderous thoughts and tell my father I want a MacBook. I’m going to refrain myself from spilling every tiny detail about the laptop, saving this piece from being nine pages of how glossy the screen is and how flat the keys are, but I will say it’s nice.
There are basically only three versions of the MacBook: cheap, medium, and expensive (price depending on how much memory and which processors you want). They all have the glowing Apple logo on the back, all have teeny cameras built into them, all have Wifi capabilities; the differences, if any beside price, are negligible to me. I opt for the “cheap” $1000 model. We may be temporarily rich, but this in no way is going to be an easy purchase for my father. Maybe we can scrounge for some kind of Water World vacation next year.
My father, though presently insane, is, and always will be, a strong believer in “shopping around”. Despite my frequent audible-thoughts that a laptop’s price is about as varying as pre-packaged “homemade” muffins, he encourages me to take a week to sample what is available on the Internet and to have a look around contactable stores.
Taking a look at what online-shops the school’s filters let me touch (1 result), I arrive at Apple.com and stroll over to their product pages. Quickly finding my preferred MacBook, I click a few more times and am greeted by the product’s marked-down and exclusive online offered price: $999. Oh wow. My dad fortunately is allowed to save one entire dollar.
We decide to forgo the use of the Web, and instead go out to find the Book as our ancestors would have: we go hunting. Before heading out, though, we do use the tiny scrap of the Internet that is applicable in this case: typing in “Apple Store Denver” into Google Maps, I hastily print out a location in Cherry Creek. That seems about right.
My father has a plan. We have four locations to scout: Best Buy, CompUSA, the Apple Store from Google Maps, and the Apple Store in the Cherry Creek Mall (which we visited once before). There are two reasons for this order: they are in relation to the distance from my home, and the Apple Store in the mall is knowingly where the Book will be more expensive and thus last. Firing up the Grand Am – which takes a few minutes because you have to jiggle the key – we set out.
Best Buy, famous purveyor of the Squad of Geeks, broken Guitar Hero demos, and future employer of Christina Danek, has no Apple computers. I remembered reading something on the store stocking Macs (which is why we were searching there), but looking back, it must have been an article on how they were soon to be stocking Apple computers. This was more of a mistake than I had anticipated; the store introduced my father to the idea of a cheap laptop. With the thought of a $1000 purchase looming over his head, watching him gravitate towards brands with names like “Tech Co.” had me mentally dragging him out of the store as he dug his fingernails into the bargain-basement carpet.
I was NOT going to settle for a Windows PC after a week of giddy anticipation. I told him so and he thankfully agreed. We continued forward.
CompUSA was much more productive; they did stock Apple computers. Or at least one, along with a couple of wires, a length of cable, and many, many emptied-out shelves piled atop each other. Unknown to me before entering the store, CompUSA had apparently gone bankrupt and was forced to sell everything in its possession at eye-catching clearance prices. Thus the store had been CLEARED-OUT and left as the bare bones of a once almighty computer nerd boutique.
With some crazy luck I found a MacBook after sifting through the debris and, with the same degree of fortune, only in reverse, it’s black. Now, the color wouldn’t have been so terrible, but it was rather expensive, as it was one of the higher-end models, so I dismiss it and we head out the door toward our next destination.
Once we’re on the road, I whip out the Google Map from my pocket and trace a path toward our destination. It’s in Cherry Creek, and by the looks of it, suspiciously close to the same Apple Store in the Cherry Creek Mall. But my doubts are diverted by a force much more powerful than any kind of manipulation I can muster: my father is hungry.
“But FATHER,” I exclaim, “Can you not withhold your mere mortal desires? We are but at the cusp of reaching our destination, and in a paltry few moments, nay, instants, we can achieve our terminus! Sustenance can tarry!” This is of course a lie. I have little to no idea where the map will take us and I fully expect us to be in the store for at least an hour once we do find it. Dinner will be a long way off if we do buy the laptop first.
My dad knows this oh too well and tells me this through a glare to his side. “I know what you are doing. We are eating. No discussion.” I mumble under my breath and play with my fingers as we swerve into the parking lot of Hoi Pay Skai: Dollar a Scoop Chinese.
I was almost fully prepared to cross my arms and tap my foot as he orders our dinner of Styrofoam boxes filled with cheap and greasy Chinese food. But the smells overtook the best of me, and realizing my own hunger, I connected fork to noodles with as little indignation as I could pull off. Now, full and still hysterically impatient, we spring into the Grand Am (or at least I do), and speed off (or at least I imagine) towards Cherry Creek.
But the car is bobbing a bit to the left and it’s making a weird clunking sound. “No” I say quietly to myself as my eyes widen in horror. My father pulls over onto a residential street. “No” I repeat a little louder, as if the words will command the car into returning to the roads. My dad opens the trunk and takes out a spare tire. “NOOO!” I yell as I jump out of the car to help my dad fix the flat tire.
Changing a flat is painstaking. Every wheel is fastened to the axle by a number of bolts that require a Herculean amount of pressure to be unscrewed. To unscrew them, one has to use a large steel X to twist each one off, and then on again once the spare is in place. I was the Hulk for those fifteen minutes we took prying off those bolts. Whether it was me yanking the X backwards as if pulling back a runaway train or slamming it downwards with my feet like an insane orangutan, I put every fiber of my materialistic being into changing that tire.
Once we were back into the commercial streets I could focus my slightly delusional attention on outlining a straight path towards our mapped Apple Store. But as we drew nearer and nearer to Point B, my suspicions started to gain some ground. The neighborhood was mostly commonplace residential houses, a few chic mom-and-pop stores with names like Dog Dog, and many green parks, not the kind of place an Apple Store would be located. Or at least not an electronics-selling Apple Store. Suppose the Apple Store we were looking for, in actuality, sold apples? We stop just outside the exact address. There are baskets of fruit in the windows. We drive away.
And so, my journey ends in front of the legit Apple Store in the Cherry Creek Mall: incredibly trendy, incredibly expensive, and incredibly breathtaking as I see my model sitting on an oblong table further in. My pace having accelerated threefold since first leaving my house, I zoom towards the MacBook and start playing with the track pad and iSight camera that are so familiar to me now. My father eventually bumbles his way through the mass of people playing with iPods and MacBook Airs and reaches me as I’m fiddling with the Book. I half discuss with him, half to myself, about what applications I’m going to needs afterward and how the first thing I need to do is install Firefox on this thing.
While I’m entertaining myself with the Photo Booth program, my dad takes to lifting up the small card to the side of the computer that displays the price. I see a slight grimace. My father has promised me an Apple laptop and he would sooner throw himself in front of a truck full of hammers before telling me he wouldn’t; but in any case, if my dad would prefer a bit more convincing before taking the leap, I call over an Apple employee.
Her name is Barbara and she is distinguishable amongst the crowd only from a nametag/necklace that bears the Apple logo. She is pleasant and everything, explaining to my father and me the basics of the Macs, much of which I know already, but I’m attentive if only for my father’s sake. She has a very soft voice though, and by the time she withdraws for a moment to leave us room to discuss between ourselves, I find myself repeating everything she says back to my dad who hasn’t understood a thing. I sigh, hopefully for the last time this evening, and I question if we should ask for an estimate on price.
“Is it truly your most coveted possession in this emporium?” my dad asks one final time – just to make sure. “Yes, of course,” I say, as we both start grinning. We gesture for Barbara and, acknowledging our request, she professionally punches in an estimate on the calculator widget on one of the iMacs. This takes a while, as Barbara needs to consult with a few managers concerning how much tax charges here in the US (It’s 7.7% sweetie), eventually snowballing into an issue involving the extras of insurance, a broken cash register, and a terrifying fumble.
But by the bit at the end, my father is handing over his credit card, and Barbara says, “Sorry for the inconvenience.” I’m tempted to tear-up a few manila envelopes in her face. I refrain, simply gripping the handle of my MacBook box, and my dad and I both walk out into the bustling mall and later into the dark and twinkling evening.
And I drop it.
(No, I don’t. But imagine how horrific that would have been.)