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Four hours at the Genius Bar

Early Saturday afternoon my computer froze and could not be revived. Many attempts to boot it in many different ways failed. It was suddenly seriously sick and none of the troubleshooting advice I found on the internet seemed to help.

Once I got through the requisite stages of panic and frustration there wasn’t much to do other than take a trip down to the local Apple store. The online reservation system wasn’t working so I headed over prepared to camp out for a long time.

Turns out it did take a long time. They were able to see me relatively quickly but unfortunately fixing my computer is a long and drawn out process.

It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to see a tech go through all the same steps I took and get the same results, which were that nothing is apparently very wrong with my computer at all, except for the fact that for no particular reason, it won’t start. The boot files are probably out of order so it gets confused part way through the process. All that needs doing is wiping the entire thing and starting over.

Seems like a rather draconian solution to me. It makes me wonder if one day we will look back upon these times as the dark ages of computer care, in much the same way we think about medical practices such as leeching or bleeding.

Wiping a computer doesn’t take a very long time. What does take a long time is trying to salvage all of your files before they’re wiped. I had about 220 gigs worth. And with my computer working at substantially less than it’s top speed, it took a long time to transfer. I hung out at the Genius Bar with a book for a period of about four hours.

Whenever I’m stuck waiting in a place for an unavoidably long time I make a game of it in my head. I convince myself that I’m doing ethnographic research and spend a lot of time people watching, collecting notes in my head.

I’m sure that there are people out there who have for whatever reason, received poor service at the Apple store but from my vantage point I saw a lot of Apple employees dealing very calmly with some difficult customers.

Like the person who arrived with a badly thrashed computer and was unhappy to be acquainted with the clause in her warranty that stated that the warranty really only covered hardware defects, not misuse by the owner. She went through a lot of employees before she left the store.

I watched a technician spend two hours with an elderly lady who didn’t know what her password was, didn’t speak English well and didn’t really understand what the issue was. Each time they attempted to retrieve or reset a password it would lead them to another email address for which she didn’t have the password. Resetting that password would lead to another impregnable email address and so on and so on until the whole process of non-retrieval circled ouroboros-like back upon itself. But despite not knowing her email password, she was convinced that she couldn’t access her email because her phone was broken. He tried over and over to explain that that was not the case. Halfway through her appointment she forgot the password for her phone and locked herself out of it, which only confirmed to her that the device didn’t work.

After he’d finally got her sorted, he disappeared into the back for a long time. I wonder if the Apple store has a screaming closet in the back. I think I would need it if I worked there.

Because I was so close to the door for the back room I got to watch the staff disappear and then magically reappear as normal people through some sort of invisible process. There seemed to be a hand sanitizing station right behind the door because though I couldn’t see it I could see the staff gathering in groups of communal hand wringing and commiseration after touching particularly grotty iPhones.

Staff began to comment on how awesome my desktop image was (nerds!). I was on the receiving end of some playful ribbing about bringing a book along to my appointment. One of the managers stopped by to chat a little. I got a lot of reading done, though in retrospect The Rings of Saturn is a little too dense for Apple store reading, as there’s a little too much distraction for me to concentrate adequately on what I’m reading.

After four hours my blood sugar was dropping so I headed home. I was able to complete the remainder of what needed to be done at home, so now my computer is thankfully working again. I’ve lost some things, but hopefully nothing major.

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