There are some places where one is simply happy. If Holly Golightly had Tiffany’s to go to when she had an attack of the mean reds, I have Bloomingdales in New York (which I have only visited once but which I fell deeply, dippily in love with). As I live in London, not New York, I have had to find alternatives. Before I had my Kindle, I had bookshops. Now I have my iPad, I have the Apple Store in Covent Garden. I love Bloomingdales and the Apple Store for precisely the same reason: life seems better there because all the people are exceptionally nice and genuinely seem to care.
Over the years, I have become fairly geeky. I have always liked computers and games; I even worked at a computer game shop for six listless months after I graduated. I actually read T3 and Stuff magazines cover to cover, regularly. And then there’s Apple. I started my love affair with Apple two or three years ago when for no other reason than I felt I ought, I purchased an iPod Touch from John Lewis. The woman in the shop assured me I would love my iPod. I sat looking at it on the way home on the bus. It wouldn’t switch on, other than to tell me to plug it into a computer. I muttered darkly to myself, wondering what the point of that was. Then I plugged my iPod into my computer, discovered iTunes and the App store, and next thing I know I’ve got an iPhone 4 and I’m queueing with thousands of other geeks for my iPad2, all the while checking my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Incidentally, whenever there is an Apple launch people always say “I just don’t get why people would queue like that when you can just walk in and buy it in the shop the next day.” Probably you can, but there was something very comradely about standing with the other Apple fans, chatting from time to time about nothing in particular, observing just how diverse the Apple fan base is. There we stood: black, white, old, young, rich, poor, male, female, gay, straight, presumably of all manner of faiths and persuasions, and all of just joined by nothing except a single product. After four hours of queueing, we were applauded vigorously by a team of eight crack Apple people, who had spent all day cheering and high-fiving people who had done nothing more significant than queue for hours. They did this with no evidence whatsoever of diminishing enthusiasm. I wouldn’t do it every time there’s an Apple launch by any means, but it was certainly worth doing the once.
Anyway, I would not even try to tell you that buying things in the Apple Store is going to cost you £10 or less, because… well, it just won’t. Worse than that, buying things in the Apple Store is an addictive thing, because the Apple people know who you are, and in their happy Californian low-key way, they will lure you into making additional purchases without saying a word. Your iPod is basically a gateway drug. They may lure you in with their free wi-fi and their demonstration models, but sooner or later, you’ll make a purchase. Then you’ll find you’ll need docking stations and keyboards and covers and then you’ll need cases to hold all that stuff. And you’ll be genuinely happy about all of it because this stuff is that rarest of things, stuff that actually does make your life a little bit better. This is why I miss Steve Jobs, by the way. I’m so grateful to him for his vision and commitment to making so many people’s lives that little bit better.
But Appleland has its tragedies too, and I had one. My iPad2, the one I queued for and on which I write most of my blog posts, had for some time had a touch and go relationship with its sim card. It meant that unless I was attached to wi-fi I could not use it for e-mail and Internet, which is a great shame as that is essentially what I use it for. Eventually, no amount of switching it off and on again would make my iPad work. I could put it off no longer. I downloaded the Apple Store app and made a booking for the Genius Bar at the world’s largest Apple Store in Covent Garden. I arrived and checked myself in on my app, marvelling that I really was in the 21st century. It was a bit like checking oneself into a private hospital on a rather bad day.
There was a queue for the Genius Bar for a start, which I really hadn’t expected what with the hyper-flash booking system and all. A ginger gentleman checked my details and asked what was wrong with the patient. He looked genuinely sorrowful as I explained about the sim card issue, and on the point of prostrating himself as he explained that they were running 25 minutes late, and would I mind sitting on one of the benches to wait. I did splutter a bit, but reasoning it would take me event longer to get round to rearranging the visit, I sat done and played with one of my apps. Eventually I was called to the bar, and I presented the patient to an Apple man called Andy. Andy looked at my iPad, discussed its symptoms, checked that the sim card was actually working, pressed a few buttons, and then turned back to me, his eyes sparkling like the stars in the sky. “Have you backed up your iPad?” “Um, yes,” I said. “I upgraded to Ios 5 the other day.” “Excellent,” he said, reaching for a box with my name on. “Here’s your new iPad.” I was gobsmacked. “But what are you going to do with my old one?” “Well, we’ll recycle it, melt down the aluminium and the plastic, and turn it into new iPads. Unless you want to keep your old one instead?” I gulped. My old one had been exposed to the rigours of my handbag, which is not a friendly environment for delicate electronic equipment. This one would be shiny and new and fully equipped with protective gear from the outset. Feeling disloyal to my core I accepted the new sheeny shiny pad. Andy waited patiently while I e-mailed myself all my blog posts, just to be on the safe side, and then my beloved iPad was separated from me, and the new sheeny one shone back. I felt vindicated as the duff sim card sparked into life as Andy inserted it. Andy smiled, apparently genuinely fondly, as he sent me off into the wide blue yonder, iPad glimmering under its protective covers.
The ghost of my recycled iPad chuckled silently from silicon heaven when I restored my settings and lost half my apps and files: honestly, I felt it was fair.
Details of the Covent Garden apple store can be accessed from here: http://www.apple.com/uk/retail/coventgarden/