Rita Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2008

Genius fails to cure ailing Apple;  computer’s release anticipated

After a long overdue computer upgrade at this newspaper last fall, we were surprised when Rupert’s iMac came up ailing last week. There was nothing else to do but take it in for repair, which we did last Friday. I was unprepared for what awaited us.

A number of years ago we had visited an Apple computer repairman’s shop which was filled with old monitors and equipment and tools. Sort of like an auto repair shop, but without the greasy rags.

The Apple Store in Germantown was not what I had expected.

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“Do you have an appointment?” the fresh-faced Apple associate asked when we arrived.

Of course, Rupert had the foresight to contact them ahead of time.

“Just go on back to the Genius Bar,” she instructed us.

The Genius Bar.

Working behind this stylish wooden partition were three certified Apple Geniuses. They’d been trained at Apple headquarters and had the t-shirts to prove it. Right there on their sleeves, printed discreetly, was their title: “Genius.”

We pulled up bar stools.

Our own personal Genius was a guy named Chris, a friendly sort who plays the cello when he’s not healing computers.

All the employees in the store, Geniuses or not, seemed capable, helpful and knowledgeable. They all wore blue jeans and Apple logo t-shirts. And they weren’t all young. There was a gray-haired lady and our Genius was actually middle-aged.

And they didn’t laugh at the customers.

“I can’t hear anything on my iPhone,” one distressed lady told her Genius.

“Let’s see,” he said, reaching across the bar to examine her hip new phone. “It’s still got the clear plastic cover on it. They don’t put holes in those, so unless you pull it off, you can’t hear.”

The lady seemed embarrassed.

“We all did it first,” the Genius told her. The other two Geniuses nodded in agreement.

Her Genius promptly peeled off the Saran and sold her a more durable plastic cover, this one with a hear hole.

Meanwhile I was entertaining myself watching the shoppers in this sleek computer boutique. Everyone who came in could have individual attention if they wanted it. There were computer stations set up around the perimeters with laptops and flatscreens and tigers and leopards.

There was a music station. A teenaged shopper kept turning up the rap music on the iPod on display. This really annoyed the Geniuses. 

There was a children’s section with five computers set up and kids there constantly playing games. One little girl, maybe two years old, was quite content as she sucked her pacifier and watched the screen. She couldn’t even write her name, but she knew what to do with the mouse.

Chris the cello player/computer doc  tried a number of tactics to diagnose our problem, but in the end he said the words we dreaded: “I’m going to have to check it in.”

So now Rupert’s computer is in the hospital.

I feel assured it is in capable hands.

We are hoping it will be released today.