Close Encounters of the Genius Kind


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Dec 21, 2012
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Close Encounters of the Genius Kind

What follows is a haphazard (hopefully entertaining) journey of a Windows Guy into that mystical magical world swirling about a crystal apple at its core...a journey to the Apple Store...more specifically to the Genius Bar. Odd that there's nothing on-tap there.


The approaching dinner hour was abruptly shattered by The Wife returning home from work declaring that her iPhone screen showed only vertical lines. Things were tense as I envisioned a speedy trip to the ER to reattach her finely tuned iPhone arm, because it surely must have been cut off at that juncture.

[Full Disclosure] Being a Windows Guy, I have a W10 Desktop, W10 tablet and of course a Windows Phone 8 :) The Wife has an iPhone, iPad, iWatch....and a W10 laptop (I know....a disturbance in The Force).

Being the helpful Windows Guy, I asked what was wrong. An iPhone with vertical lines was thrust into my face. There was panicked mutterings about fading screen, unresponsive phone, ending with "ALL my passwords are stored in there and I NEED them....NOW". Well I knew right then that dinner was a bust and proceeded to reassure her that all her info was likely stored in backups and possibly also in the iCloud. A deer-in-the-headlights could not have looked more realistic....quickly followed by the classic thousand yard stare. "You do have Backups turned on right?" "I dunno know....I dunno know". Well she didn't. "What should I do...go down to Verizon?" "No, go directly to the Apple Store" (open late until 9 PM) was 7 now. Off she flew on a journey as epic as the Flight of the Phoenix.

Recounted to me over the phone (the iWatch still linked to the iPhone and she could make calls) and again upon return...she was greeted at the Apple Store with 'how could she be helped to purchase something this evening'. After asking for Tech help she was answered by a barely contained smirk that it was 'nigh unto impossible this evening'. But that 'they take walk-ins starting at 10AM....people often line up at 9:45". Or she could make an appointment for 4 days hence. So guess who gets to go down and wait outside the Apple Store tomorrow?

The Crystal Cathedral

Having done a few wait-for-the-doors-to-open events before, I arrived at 9:30. Sadly at least a half hour later than those most eager. A small crowd recounted their broken iPhone stories to one another. The bonding had begun. A few minutes before 10AM an iPad clad 20-something started taking names and emails to form the official queque. When the 1" thick glass doors were opened, the faithful rushed in, surging past the waiting iPad clasped t-shirted sales force directly to the back of the the Genius Bar....waiting area. Empty stools abounded, eyed heavily by the waiting hordes.

Now I had been in an Apple Store before, but I was still somewhat awestruck by the apparent transport into an augmented reality. The floor-to-ceiling glass entry wall gave way to stark concrete floors upon which long polished wooden tables of seemingly endless arrays of iPhones, iPads and laptops were displayed....perfectly. The center of the displays was highlighted by a glass covered case of iWatches with every sort of band you could think of. The side walls were wrapped with stainless steel to the rear Genius Bar with the most seamless doors possible allowing entry and exit to the mystical rear employees-only area where surely the Apple products were doted on by Woody Allen inspired white jump-suited technicians in dustless, airtight anticeptic conditions. But I could only imagine at this point.

Apple or Applebee's

Apparently to manage the throngs of customers, Apple has embraced the 'team service' approach. Each associate handles every task, none has accountability thus there is no 'contact' person. Despite the campaign on Apple's part to portray itself as cradle-to-grave, white glove full service for all your technical device needs, there is a gap and I'm not talking about the store next door. Visiting the Apple Store is kind of like visiting a franchise restaurant where 'team service' rules the roost. The 'gap' is that while every associate is polite and helpful, the customer never knows how their service is progressing. There is no 'warm' handoff or continuity of any sort. The iPad is the closest thing that comes to any continuity. And lo be the day the Apple network fails as they might as well close the doors and have the associates park cars out front. Nothing would move without that iPad. So after leaving the Apple Store it's kind of like you just ate at Applebee' feel full, service was adequate....but you have no idea what you just ate.

The Borg

Through the crowd of early risers now traveled the line of people who had made appointments 4 days prior. I was informed my 'walk-in' was bumped an hour to accomodate them. Ok so I took a seat...or tried to. No seats around the tables or anywere other than at the Genius Bar...still empty as we approached 10:30. Eventually, I was quequed to a closer table to the Genius Bar much as the Doctor's offices shuffle waiting patients from one waiting 'space' to another. Still no taps anywhere in sight at the Bar. Then, like a magical elf, an iPad clasping emmissary surveyed The Wife's troubled iPhone and said it could be fixed in 30 minutes at a small cost since it was without AppleCare and out-of-warranty. I agreed without hesitation. Now as a Windows Guy, I had somewhat...well alot...dreaded this whole experience. Thinking I was in store for alot of attitude, alot of pretension and a good dose of smugness. So far none of that had presented itself. Of course I had gone deep undercover hiding my Windows Phone from sight. But what was presented was disorganization by hordes of iWorkers scurrying around, some doing busy work, all working very busily on their the appearance of a finely tuned hive. How it worked, I know not.

When I returned 30 minutes later, I hunted down an associate and they determined it would be another 5 or 10 minutes as the first replacement screen didn't work. I resolved myself to wait patiently as afterall this was an unique opportunity to study the hive at its inner-most core.....the soft underbelly if you will. I studied the nearby table of Apple Camp kids being indoctrinated in the finer usage of Apple games on the omnipresent iPads. I studied the wide variety of waiting faithful for their broken iWhatevers to be replaced or repaired. And the line continued to stream in to the Genius Bar queque. I began to have sympathy for the associates scurrying about as if this were a fast-food tech store. Efficiency, I thought was obviously encouraged by invisible shock collars or some such. As the noon hour approached, what I thought of as hunger pains foretold of something worse...rather anguish that the extended screen replacement had devolved into an unfixable warranty and off AppleCare. I started overhearing horror stories by others nearby of water damage corroding the iGuts out of their reality extension...various forms of drops, slams and crunching of their beloved iPhones. My hopes has bottomed out in a plethora of imagined scenerios.

Good News...or Bad?

That's the question I asked the smiling associate who returned the iPhone fully repaired and functional a few minutes later. Cyber paperwork was signed, credit card was passed and charged and he disappeared as quickly as he came...onto yet another desperate looking client.

Take Away

What did I learn from this experience? Things are never as bleak as they seem, especially when pre-built upon fear and loathing. And Apple people are people too even if they don't know their product isn't that special or what a Bar is supposed to be used for. Oh and back-up your stuff to the cloud. I do have to say that the Apple Store Thanks guys(and gals) it was certainly enlightening, if only for awhile, to delve into that other mystical world out there. And by-the-way, the packaging really is that nice.

Any other close encounters of the Genius kind out there?
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