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Your Digital Kids

If Apple’s Products Are so Easy, Then Why Is the Genius Bar so Crowded?

genius-barA lady walks into a bar–only this time the punch line is that it’s a Genius Bar. As a long-time PC user, my relationship to Apple is complicated. Love ‘em because they’re beautiful, admire the way they work. Hate ‘em because they’re closed systems, the complete antithesis of everything that the information age should be. Apple may be a benevolent despot, but a despot nonetheless.

Back to the Genius Bar. I made my maiden voyage with some trepidation, after upgrading my iPod Touch to Version 3.0 and encountering troubles. I brought my shhh…HP Pavilion along to show that I buy my music, most often from iTunes, and that while my podcasts, movies, and photos all made the upgrade, my music was still stuck in my PC’s library.

Quick Observations On the Bar

If I were a single woman looking to meet really smart, gangly, slightly geeky men, I would keep trouncing my Macs and heading back to the store. My visit gave Apple lust a new meaning.

Second, I felt as if I’d walked into some Lake Wobegone where all the shoppers were above average. The crowd was the same crowd that I see at NPR fundraisers and indie movies (with a strong pinch of foreign visitors tossed in for good measure). These were happy people and really smart looking–two things usually in short supply in any store in NYC.

Third, I had no idea you had to BOOK an appointment with a Genius. I thought it was spontaneous sort of thing, like the deli counter where you take a ticket number. So, I watched the LCD display behind the Bar for a few moments. It showed people’s rank on the waiting list, interspersed with did-ya-knows for Genius-wannabes. Finally, a competent young woman spotted me to ask if I needed anything.

“Help,” I said meekly.

“Did you make your appointment online,” she asked.

“Sorry,” I said, “I thought they ran it like a bar, not a doctor’s office.”

Sizing me up as a virgin, she somehow worked some magic and got me in as the last appointment of the Genius Bar’s day.

I stood, waited, and watched. (Stood because the two small benches in the Bar area barely held five size 6 bodies apiece.) I pulled out a hard copy of my New Yorker to read (definitely the only piece of hard copy in the store).

One guy was turned away from help because he’d bought his phone from an ASAP (Apple Authorized Service Provider), hence that needed to be his first stop. I’d be pissed. He was Hakuna matata.

Another guy did get a little testy when he explained he drove in from Brooklyn, paid for parking, and had to get his girlfriend’s Mac fixed. They gave him a place without an appointment, too.

Despite the fact that the woman estimated a 15-minute wait for my turn and I waited something more like 45 minutes, I, too, was happy (well, I would have been happier with a Starbuck’s franchise in the store).

Then came my turn. Displaying my Touch was no problem; maybe it was my paranoia, but I saw a bunch of raised eyeballs when I pulled out my HP Pavilion to show the synch stats. My Genius was clearly uncomfortable and uninterested. (Not helped by the fact that my battery was nearly dead, I had a few dozen Windows open as the machine awoke, and Vista was even slower than usual.) I was living confirmation of everything wrong with PCs even though it was my Touch that was not working.

First, he turned the cover of my HP notebook so that it faced the back of the Bar. Then he told me I should drive the PC. (Not my job, man.) The old Mars/Venus thing reared its ugly head and I know he was thinking that if I’d had a Mac I wouldn’t need a genius. And that I’d never be a genius because I didn’t have the sense to buy a Mac.

Ultimately, he did not fix the problem, but gave me enough information so that I could do a tedious restore and then manual synch myself.

I sent out a quick Facebook note asking others to share their Genius Bar war stories with me. I know a lot of people who like to complain. But all of them reported visiting the Genius Bar was more like visiting the spa than the dentist and were thankful for the help they received. As one friend so aptly nailed it, “I wonder what the lines would be like if the PC mfrs offered a Genius Bar for Windows products?”