Where am I? I ask, gazing round the sleek silver and white space that is heaving with frenzied shoppers hanging on every word of smiley tech-chat from fast-fingered kids. All are united by the longing to caress their own beautiful slender i-thing. And when the whole place erupts in applause and whoops of joy at someone’s purchase I think this must be what it’s like in a religious cult, only we are worshipping the great god Steve. It’s Apple-land and I want in.
Suddenly I despise my clunky pedestrian Kindle and I lust after the sexy and strokable i-pad. It’s the difference between afternoon tea with your nice old auntie and cocktails with your gorgeous young friends (imaginary, in my case).
I want to possess this talisman – doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s got i- in front of it. I want to ward off all the difficulties of life like finding my own way to the next street, or making sure I am loved and be-friended. I won’t even have to trouble my neck muscles to look up to see the night sky, and never again will I have to fear being alone with my own horrible and scary thoughts. I will be able to find the don’t-worry-about-anything App that will fix me up till it’s time for a gin and tonic. And even my sad old life looks beautiful when viewed through the i-lens. My tatty address book will now be slickly organized in seductive fonts that appear with a caress of my fingers, and that trip to Bribie Island will look like a brochure for the Seychelles as my family sweep elegantly across the screen before anyone can see how badly-dressed and ugly we all are.
But what if it breaks down? What if it won’t do something you have now come to depend on? What if you feel nauseous if you can’t check the stock market or Facebook or the temperature in Beijing whenever you need to? Don’t worry, Help is at hand, however you may find yourself having to summon the virtues you used to have before technology consigned them to the trash. I used to be patient and calm and able to marvel at the speed with which dial-up connected me to the miracle that was the internet. Now I find myself in a lather of impatience if I cannot book plane tickets, find a recipe for pollo al mattone and buy a sofa on e-bay…all before breakfast. So when Safari kept quitting on my Mac last week I had only to imagine for a minute or two a World Without Wifi www.mylifeisover,com before logging on to Apple Help. And Helpful they were… patient and methodical and either trained to suppress the how can you be so dumb you silly old cow? response to my inept fumbling, or using some electronic device that brings up a sweet why don’t we try that again? to give them time for a quiet vomit. I now have a number, which they passed on so that all four of my Helpers could access my case and offer a different solution. That took a day of my life, which I won’t get back, and it still wasn’t fixed.
That’s how I end up at the Genius Bar in the Apple shop. And despite being assiduously looked after by real and really nice people – actually called geniuses (!) – intently pressing buttons and swiping touch pads, after five hours at the bar without a drink in sight I had Safari back but couldn’t get Skype! When I suggested that the bar was a touch hubristically named, James – one of the “leaders”, who was about fifteen, managed an ironic smile before telling me it was Skype’s problem, not theirs! Another day I won’t get back.
So then it was a day of trying to access Skype, which doesn’t do phone help – pretty ironic, for a PHONE service – but kept offering really polite and helpful remarks like We are sorry you are experiencing difficulty. Well – here’s a newsflash – SO AM I! Not just sorry – absolutely ballistically and murderously enraged that I AM EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTY and if you were not at a help centre in Mumbai I would come over and personally see to it that you experienced difficulty every time you wanted to breathe in future! So the magic of technology has turned this mild-mannered little old lady into a raging homicidal maniac. How did that happen?
And it’s not over. It will give you some insight into my state of mind that I then tried to access Microsoft Help, because someone said that they now own Skype. Well I got onto something that looked like Microsoft, smelled like Microsoft, tasted like Microsoft but turned out to be Fred in some nameless part of the world who is licensed by Microsoft to look into my computer and help me. By this time I’m prepared to let anyone come in and rifle through my bank accounts just so I can get it fixed, so I say yes and turns out that Fred can see the difficulty, it’s in corrupted updates, would he like me to fix it? Er, yes! There will be a small charge. How much? $99 for this fix but I should take the CHEAPER option of $399 for two years of help!!! As my mother used to say, do you think I came down the Clyde on a tea biscuit? I don’t say this, as I fear it may get lost in translation, and simply say, I’ll think about it and get back to you, before I go to the window (the real one, not the electronic one) and try to think calming thoughts.
One of my calming thoughts is to go back to the Apple shop – with or without Erin Brockovich if I can’t get hold of her- and leave it with them till they fix it. I figured I went in with Skype and came out without it, so it must be in there somewhere! This is what I do, and to their credit, they accept it and quite a few of them repeat the mantra thank you for letting us help you. They obviously have an App that tells them when a customer has lost all reason and is likely to spray the shop with machine gun bullets, so they give me to Gavin. He is about thirteen, listens calmly, tells me he can fix it and does. Then I see it. He has lovely slender fingers – elegant okra where mine are a pound of pork sausages. They fly over the touch pad like a hummingbird where mine lumber clumsily like an elephant in Lego – land. No wonder I keep pressing the wrong things and getting flashed with error warnings, which at my age are far more scary than some old geezer in a raincoat. It’s a digital world now, and only delicate digits need apply. They just don’t want ugly fat fingers pawing their beautiful interfaces, and who can blame them?
So what to do about my generously proportioned digits? A sagging face can be lifted, a wobbly tummy tucked and drooping boobs can be pumped with silly-con. But I think you have to lose half your body weight before it affects your fingers. I could start a protest movement: Hands off our fingers! has a certain ring to it –lol! But I will still be stuck in a nano world with a nana problem. Then I remember the famous fat-fingered salute from Winston Churchill that got Britain through WW2. A guy with thin fingers would have lost the war! Imagine trying to inspire a whole nation in its Darkest Hour with a couple of twigs! I feel much better now…if a pair of fat fingers can defeat the forces of evil, surely they can manage a few updates.