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How’s your Self-Esteem? Good? Yeah? You feeling pretty okay about yourself lately? Maybe feel like getting knocked down a few pegs? Then get yerself down to your nearest Apple Store pronto!

Don’t get me wrong. I love Apple as much as the next girl. I’m writing this on my brand new MacBook (Q.T. Computi), which replaced my old iBook (Cookie.) I have an iPod (Mr. Greenjeans) and even an iPhone (Silky.) Impressive, no? Well not if you’re one of the freakin’ geniuses who work at the local retail establishment. Genius, you ask? Isn’t that pushing it? You know those black T-shirt clad pre-teens who get to diagnose your antiquated Apple gear? They’re officially known as “geniuses.” As in:

“Help! Something’s wrong with Mr. Greenjeans!”

“Did you make an appointment with a Genius?”

“I don’t know if I need a genius. It might just be the battery.”

Genius? For reals? I mean, is Apple really give these kids IQ tests? What if I asked for proof? Can they produce a laminated club card? Do they even have laminated club cards? I’m just not comfortable being in the company of so many so-called Geniuses.

Geek I could get behind. Apple-Nerd too. Expert? Specialist? Even Technology Doctor. Or how about Patronizing Elitist Gadget Snobs (or PEGS if you’re into acronyms.) But Genius? Isn’t that kind of isolating to the rest of us? Not to mention, it makes me question if I want to invest in products that only a genius can troubleshoot. Why not call yourselves super models or first class citizens or A-list celebrities. What if I wish to be known as a High Priestess? Bring me your geniuses so I can dump their supercilious IQ’s in the volcano!

And you have to make an appointment to be condescended to by a Genius. Geniuses don’t like walk-ins.

“What do you think this is, Nails of Joy? No walk-ins!”

“But no one is even in the store! You’re all just sitting here!”

“No appointment, no assistance. Apple rules.”

Apple rules in the privacy of my own home where I’m the official genius (ranking over my temporary cat who is a close second) and a couple of houseplants. But in the Apple Store, it’s more like a regime. If you didn’t make the stupid appointment, and the Geniuses are clearly sitting on their high stools (how apropos!) behind the high bar (also named for them, looking bored and saddened by the technology-challenged serfs below), they force you to use one of the Apple computers in the store to MAKE A STUPID APPOINTMENT! It’s 4:02 PM. Next available appointment is: NOW. Yes, please, I’ll take that one. I sign in. Two and a half seconds later, Shelly M, is projected onto the wall behind the Genius Bar. The three Geniuses look behind them, then at their computer screens, then at each other, before one—the one who yelled at me to make this stupid appointment—finally calls out, Shelly M? (Yawn.)

Oh gee, thanks Mr. Genius for taking the time out of your Genius lifestyle to talk to little old me. You know, someone needs to remind these boys and girls that we’re not actually making appointments to talk to them. We’re making appointments because our “K” key is stuck to the keyboard or our iPhones won’t sync to our computer or in my case, my iPod won’t turn on. We’ve already got issues, Geniuses! Don’t make things worse!

I bring Mr. Greenjeans to the Genius like I’m offering a sacrifice to a rain god.

“My iPod is broken. Nothing happens when I turn it on.”

Much to my surprise (because really this is too much for even an average genius to do) the little bastard bursts out laughing. He holds Mr. Greenjeans like he’s holding a dead squirrel and dangles him before his genius friends.

“Look! A mini! I haven’t seen one of these since circa 2006?”

The other geniuses laugh too. Guffaw really, which is probably equivalent to a belly laugh for us mere mortals.

“No wonder it doesn’t work!”

“Can’t believe it lasted this long!”

“It probably turned itself off because it’s ashamed to be seen in public!”

Oh come on! Is this any way to talk about the products you’re in charge of seeing through to another day? Is this any way to talk to the people who are essentially responsible for keeping those black T-shirts on your backs?

“He’s not that old,” I tell the Geniuses. “And up until yesterday I had no problems with it. Ever.”

“It’s vintage,” one of them says. But unlike a Chanel suit, iPods clearly go out of style.

“I’m not sure we can fix this,” Teen Genius says. “We probably don’t have parts for it anymore.”

“You have parts for it,” I say. “Don’t lie to me. Your efforts to condescend me into buying a new iPod won’t work!” I wasn’t born yesterday (which is probably all too apparent to the little zygotes before me.)

“It’s just that there have been about a zillion incarnations of the iPod since you bought this one—what? Four, five years ago? I’m assuming you’ve seen the newer versions?”

“Of course I’ve seen the newer versions. I’ve also seen million dollar houses and llamas and 1972 Ford Granadas. I’m not obligated to buy one of those too am I?”

The Genius goes on to explain that it would probably be cheaper to buy a new iPod than find the parts to fix Mr. Greenjeans.

“It’s clearly not under warranty,” he says. “Even Apple doesn’t offer a warranty that long.” He says this like he’s saying, What’s an old lady like you doing with a portable MP3 listening device anyway?

“So I guess that means you don’t have any accessories in stock for this?” I ask. Too bad. I really needed an armband for when I’m working out.

“Try eBay,” he says.


I must look sad. Desperate even because the Genius does something really incredible. He pokes his thumb right through Mr. Greenjeans’ screen.

“Oops,” he says. “My bad.”

“What have you done?” I shout. “You killed Mr. Greenjeans!”

“Looks like I broke it,” he said. “It was an accident. Don’t worry. We’ll get you a replacement. It will be here in a few days.”

I swear I saw The Genius wink at me but more likely it was part of his over-stuffed brain juice leaking down his forehead into his eye.

“Fill this out,” he said and whisked Mr. Greenjeans in the back room.

I never saw Mr. Greenjeans again. At least not that Mr. Greenjeans. I got a call from another Genius a few days later telling me my iPod had arrived. Still unsure of what this meant I made another degrading and demeaning trip to the Apple store.

“A Genius killed my iPod,” I said when I was finally summoned to the Genius Bar. “I’m here for his remains.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” another Genius said. “Had a hell of a time finding a replacement. These things are almost extinct.”

“Uh huh, save it. I already told you I won’t be humiliated into an upgrade!” Besides, my iPhone holds 3x as many songs as Mr. Greenjeans. And they sell armbands for it.

The Genius opens a package (which he has considerable problems doing. A Genius can take apart a computer and put it back together faster and stronger, but packing tape and cardboard seem to allude him.)

“Do you want me to help you?” I ask.

Before he answers a brand spankin’ new Mr. Greenjeans slides out of the box.

“Mr. Greenjeans!” I can’t hide my excitement. “He’s back!”

The Genius makes sure he works. He does. He repacks him in the complicated cardboard and hands him over.

“Sorry about the mishap,” he says. “But I guess it was a good thing. If we didn’t “break” your old one, you’d be out an iPod. The old one was unfixable.”

There’s that wink again!

I don’t like to be winked at. It’s cheesy and coy. If you need to wink at someone you’re either saying “I’m not funny enough for you to get my joke” or “I’m from an era where this constituted flirting and the girls went crazy for it, thank you very much.”

I thank him and leave the store carrying my trendy white bag—the white bag I can’t help but feel a little superior toting around. Somewhere between the Jamba Juice and Crate and Barrel, I realize The Genius was certainly not flirting and he wasn’t trying to be funny although this is clearly a joke. An inside joke between him and me. We’ve duped our friends at Apple! He killed Mr. Greenjeans on purpose because it was the only way to get me a free replacement. Is it possible The Geniuses have hearts? Oh please, I hope not. All that compassion and brains too? Now I loathe them even more.

Shelly Mazzanoble

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