The Park Avenue MacBook Blues

(Note: This was started a loooong time ago, after my computer crashed in March.)

Within the first twelve hours that I was reunited with my computer, I watched one episode of the new season of House of Cards, the first two episodes of Black Mirror (if you have any inclinations whatsoever toward The Twilight Zone, find Black Mirror on Netflix NOW), and four YouTube videos. I downloaded five songs and sent six emails.

Despite overworking my computer’s RAM–that’s a thing, right?–I’ve been treating my computer as though it is a loved one who has just returned from an intensive care unit, showering it with excessive care, coddling it in such a way that I haven’t cared for it since…well, spring of 2010, when I first received it as a graduation gift. I am aware that in a couple of weeks I will probably forget that my computer was ever in danger of being gone forever, and take it for granted as I’d grown accustomed to doing before our separation that fateful Wednesday morning at Grand Central Station.

As promised, I will recount the details of that trip.

I woke up bright and early so I could make my early morning Genius Bar appointment. I got on one crowded subway to Manhattan, then transferred onto an even more crowded uptown subway to Grand Central. Straddled between my legs was my bag, in order to make room for the other less patient individuals who couldn’t wait for the next 4 or 5 train that was undoubtedly coming right behind that one. Someone’s face was in my armpit, and a man in a business seat was squinting at me a little more than I would have liked, but none of it really mattered because I had a writing submission due in a few days and I had no idea what the fate of my laptop would be.

A few minutes later I found myself in Grand Central. It was weird being surrounded by people hustling and bustling to go someplace else while I was already at my final destination. I pushed my way past indecisive walkers, oblivious tourists taking pictures, and a lot of men in suits who didn’t have time to squint at me because they were rushing to their respective skyscraper offices. I climbed the (marble?) stairs up to, then past, the glowing fruit that sits on every MacBook computer–a low-hanging sun in the sky of unknown possibility that is the Apple Store.

“I have an appointment,” I mumbled to the greeter in the blue shirt waiting at the top of the stairs.

He cheerfully gave me some directions, complete with some helpful pointing. He looked content.

I wanted to be that content.

Minutes later I found myself sitting at the Genius Bar, heart pounding. On my right, a couple of stools down, sat an older gentleman whose tech dude was schooling him on all things iCloud. I could have used that tutorial session, but I zoned out most of the specifics of their discussion–except for the fact that this older gentleman had a working computer and I did not.

Their conversation was painfully jovial, but listening to it did leave me feeling rather hopeful. The enthusiastic tech dude, whose name was something common like Andrew or William, promised the man that if he ever needed to come back he could just ask for him because he was the only tech dude named Andrew/William in the entire Grand Central Apple Store. Wow, right? You’da thunk we were at a bar, they were so friendly.

I waited a few moments longer for my own appointment to begin. Finally, a young guy behind the bar came up to me. He looked at me expectantly. I blinked back.

“Hi,” I finally said. “How are you?” This confused me. It wasn’t my job to make him feel comfortable, but our staring contest was super awkward and I wanted to get the ball rolling.

The silent tech dude muttered something, then asked how he could help me. He wasn’t as friendly as Andrew/William. I felt swindled. After a few more exchanges he disappeared with my laptop.

I felt even more swindled when another giant tech dude came up and called out his own interpretation of my name. “How can I help you today?” Tall Tech Dude asked once I made my presence known. He was equally cheerily–even more so–than Andrew/William, and a thousand times more cheery than Silent Tech Dude. I wished I’d had him from the start.

“Actually, someone already–”

Andrew/William excused himself from his cocktail conversation beside us conversation long enough to tell Tall Tech Dude that Silent Tech Dude had already taken my computer. Tall Tech Dude looked as baffled as I did, then disappeared in the direction of my laptop.

Even more stressed–Apple needs to get their s*** together, I was thinking–I looked over at another situation occurring on my left.The guy who was on my side of the Genius Bar was having problems with his hard drive. His tech dude (who was very attractive, I might add) didn’t sound cheery. His voice was grim. The computer’s data might all be lost. It would cost xxx amount of money. They’d have to hold on to his computer for an x amount of time.

It didn’t hit me until then that I, too, might be in that same position. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was at the Genius Bar but was instead in a hospital waiting room. The idea that my laptop would be held on to had never crossed my mind; suddenly, I realized that that could be me–computer-less–in a few minutes.

Prior to my computer dying on me, I’d already been having issues with the charging equipment (read: part of the cord was frayed to the wire, and that gray rectangle metal piece that inserts into the charging port would often stay in the charging port even when I pulled the rest of the cord out. In short, my cord was one big ball of plastic packing tape). So when I arrived to my workshop that evening and my computer refused to charge whatsoever, I was mildly miffed but not totally surprised. We’d made it through five years of stormy weather so far–surely, the problem would work itself out.

Apparently, though, the literal stormy weather that was occurring outside the night my laptop died had managed to find itself into my charger port. Alas, my MacBook had reached its (temporary) end.

Tall Tech Dude came back. Five minutes later I was walking out of Grand Central Station, both my physical load and my head much lighter.

As childish as it sounds, I felt like I was about to cry. Tears brimmed my eyes as I wondered how much money I could afford to spend on my laptop should the problem be deemed something more serious once it had been sent out. I wondered how many hours I would have to spend in the blasted New School library, how much time it would take me to finish my writing submission that I’d already started and hadn’t backed up recently. Stupid. Everything was just stupid.

I was about to exit the doors onto 42nd Street, reaching for my phone so I could call my mom and cry it out, when a Brooklyn-accented man said beside me, “Age before beauty!”

I mustered the best smile I could muster. “Thanks,” I said, sniffing. He was an old man, maybe in his late sixties, nearly my height, stout. He was red-faced, an aspect even more prominent due to the fact that the little hair he did have was snow white. He was dressed in a business suit and carried a briefcase that knocked against my right leg.

“I like your hat,” he said to me, a big grin on his face.

“Oh, thank you,” I said through tears.

“What’s your name? Let’s be friends! Where are you headed?” He linked his arm in mine.

Normally, in situations such as these, I will fabricate some kind of name and some kind of location that is conveniently a few feet away, so I will not have to talk to a stranger very long. But by this point, on this sunny Wednesday morning in Manhattan, all of my mental energy had gone toward realizing how screwed I would be if my computer decided to die on me then. For forever.

I told the old man my name, and that I was heading to the Starbucks on 29th and Park.

What a coincidence! He was walking to 32nd and Park. We might as well be walking partners.

He was a bit weird at first–he kissed my hand in that charming way that suitors tend to do when they intend to be charming–and I eventually did end up un-linking my arm from his, because I didn’t want to look like one of those sugar babies you see shamelessly walking down Park Avenue with an older dude who is filthy rich. (At least, I feel like that’s something one would see. I can’t say I ever have.) But we discovered that we had odd things in common–his wife lived right outside Hamden, and she had studied at The New School many, many years ago.

The walk might have lasted ten minutes or so, but the man and I chatted for roughly half of it. The other half we tread in silence, one of us speaking every now and then to make a comment or an observation.

After I “dropped him off” at his no-doubt fancy shmancy office, he gave me a farewell hug. I felt as though everyone was staring at us because we were an odd couple, me in my jeans and my Keds and my scarf, him in his business suit and old age. But I also didn’t care. I appreciated not having had to spend that walk downtown on my cell phone but instead enjoying the city around me, in all of its wonderful, random glory.

The man wished me luck with my computer. “Everything will work out,” he promised me with a smile. “You seem like a very intelligent young lady. Good things will come your way.” I couldn’t help but think of my library friend when he gave me a wink and headed into his building.

Once I arrived at my own destination of Starbucks, I did end up calling my mother. But the first thing that came out of my mouth wasn’t about my laptop or my writing assignment or how terrible I thought my life was at the moment. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “You will not believe what just happened…”

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