by RIP RENSE
(Aug. 10, 2005)
dared to set foot in an “Apple Store” the other
I have obviously outlived
my usefulness as a human being.
It was, oh, let’s see. .
.rather like a kindergarten playground, except the children had fully
matured glands and teeming hormones, and the playthings were computers and
money. Bare navels everywhere, tattoos, half-exposed breasts, unwashed
scruffy male heads, two-day beards, manic gum-chewing jaws beneath
panicked-horse eyeballs, T-shirts that said things like “Smut Peddler” and
“What part of ‘F--- You’ do you not understand?”
Brave new world.
All the adult children
were speaking loudly and at once, all with gimmegimme in their
voices. “Salespeople” were undistinguishable from buyers. Blue hair, strange
eyeglasses, all the hallmarks of corporate-endorsed “individuality” that
make one person indistinguishable from another.
minimalist---white walls and a few tiny white machines, a shrewd marketing
conceit that says product-is-everything. In the back was a serious
fellow with a headset mike and a huge video screen, giving serious
instructions about how to control the various G-4's and 4-H's and U-2's. Or
how to let them control you, I suppose.
Potter Fans! Read
"The Sorting Hat Speaks" here
It was all like something Arthur C. Clarke might have dreamed up. I mean,
here was an emporium where, for a few hundred bucks, you could purchase a
machine the size of a bedpan that is smarter than you are. That can perform
an almost infinite number of strange and magical calculations in almost any
imaginable discipline, if you push the right buttons.
And the shoppers were
like something H.G. Wells might have dreamed up---or rather, that he did
dream up, in “The Time Machine.” Yes, here were the Eloi---the sociopathic,
indolent, profoundly free and frighteningly wealthy USA youth of the
Instead of blithely
lining up like cattle to be eaten by the mutant beastial Morlocks, though,
these Eloi were blithely lining up like cattle to be eaten by the mutant
Yes, I hear you.
Grumpy old bastard. Or better still, that most favored of words used
(largely by women) to describe older men who express any disapproval of
anything for any reason: “cranky.”
Waaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I don’t want my bottle---I want my typewriter! My
mechanical one, at that.
Might as well wish for
young and supple glands again.
I had gone to the Apple
Store in order to purchase a lapdog, or notetop, or whatever they
are called, with which to finish writing my obsolete and irrelevant novel. I
can no longer write at home for long stretches. It causes me to
gain weight, despite all the power-walking I do between office area and
refrigerator. Using an Apple G-4 for writing purposes, of course, is like
buying the space shuttle to drive to the market, but what choice did I have,
if I wanted to set up and work in cool coffee houses, with all the
cool dudes and dudesses?
I have this silly and
typically neurotic writerly idea, see, that if I work in a populated
environment, I will be able to feed off the manic urban hustle-and-bustle
around me to fuel my industriousness. And that the theatrical, romantic and
intense pose I strike as I type will make my writing more theatrical,
romantic and intense. Hell, it worked for me for years in manic, bustling,
romantic, theatrical newsrooms. Besides, I think I’ve been too long not i’
the sun, to paraphrase the Bard. I have developed a telecommuting tan.
So I stood there, surveying the
white-walled store, where a dozen or so white computers were being smeared
with all manner of staph and strep and viruses by greasy little consumer
fingers eagerly trying them out.
I waited my turn, then applied my big technological test to determine the
viability of these machines---the standard by which I, recipient of a “D” in high
school algebra, would expertly assess these microchip marvels, these
veritable brain prostheses. . .
Is it comfortable to
I am very finicky about
the feel of a keyboard. I insist, for instance, that my home computer keys
actually depress and go clat-a-clat-a-clat. Otherwise, I get really
depressed and make noises much louder than clat-a-clat-a-clat. The kinds of
keys that barely move or sound when you push them confound the hell out of
finger muscles developed over 38 years of hunting and pecking.
And there I was,
trying to type on the Apple G-4 bedpan. That is, I would have if I could
have figured out how to get a blank page on the screen. Eventually, sometime
before my beard turned completely white, a young female with mauve hair,
blue glasses, and a nose diamond asked if I needed help. Before I could
respond, a young male customer blurted out a question, and she proceeded to
answer him at great length instead.
I always forget to blurt.
I spend weeks of my life waiting politely.
At last Mauve Hair
returned to me, poker-faced. I asked how to activate a writing program. She
showed me an Apple thingy insidiously called “Pages,” as well as Microsoft
Word. Ah, I was familiar with Word, I said, to which she added, “well, if
you buy the machine, it doesn’t come with it.”
Not to worry! It does
come with a program that allows one to create living pigs entirely from
water and baking soda. I’m sure.
In time, I got a blank
“Pages” screen, somehow, and began typing various Beatles lyrics, as is my
wont: “crabalocker fishwife pornographic priestess boy you’ve been a
naughty girl you let your knickers down.” (I have a ridiculous lefotover
teenaged notion that this might outrage someone.) Immediately, strange boxes
began appearing--- long, skinny rectangles that jiggled around as I added
sentences. I could do nothing to make them vanish. Obviously, to use
“Pages,” I would have to go to school for years, get tattoos, and walk
around with a bare midriff saying, “cool" into a cell phone.
Well, I typed anyhow.
It was one of those teency-touch keyboards, of course, so I started a
mantra in my head: “you’ll get used to it, you’ll get used to it, you’ll. .
.” Then I discovered that the quotation mark key and the delete key were one
stop over from where they usually are on keyboards(!), and this, well, gee,
how can I put it? It made me. . .cranky. I turned to my poor, poor
female superior, who puts up with more profanity from me than from a drunken
“Why the ---- are the
----ing keys in the wrong ----ing place! Jesus ---ing Christ!”
I gave up, perusing other
such Clarke-ian devices designed for everything imaginable except writing.
For a moment, I found myself attracted by one that none of the adult
children seemed to be looking at, until I was elbowed aside by a clerk---or
“sales consultant specialist first class,” or whatever they are called---who
was using it to ring up orders.
That's correct, the store
was laid out so playfully, so calculatedly informally, that you couldn’t
tell the checkstand from the product.
I wanted to scream, and
wantonly destroy all the machines in the room. I wanted to have all the
little adult Apple children line up and stand in an orderly fashion,
speaking only when spoken to, and beginning each sentence with “Mr. Rense,
how nice it is to see you today.”
And I really wanted to
finish my goddamn book. I have been ready for months now to finish my
goddamn book. I wish to accomplish this in hip cool cafes, as I said,
or parks, or massage parlors. Anywhere but home.
Aw hell, just throw
me to the Morlocks.
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