Saturday, February 8, 2014

Farming in the new age

The past couple of weeks have been technologically challenging. My laptop was acting up and then one day the screen started flickering and the edges went wonky, and I thought for sure it was going to burn up and die on me, taking all my photos and files with it.

Just believe me when I say, I tried a lot of alternatives hoping to avoid the inevitable. Eventually though, I knew I had to go to an Apple store in person.

I love my Mac, I do, but I hate Apple stores.

They're bright and they're crowded, like an amusement park. They're located in congested urban zones, or, worse, malls, and they don't even work like normal stores. There are at least a dozen steps you have to go through before you get to speak to the person who might know, for instance, which power adapter goes with your particular laptop. The people manning the first three or four steps don't speak human-ese and they work off of some bizarre script known only to themselves. Yes, getting help is a nightmare. A nightmare in an amusement park wrapped up in a traffic jam. 

Nonetheless, I know when I am beat. I HAD to have help. 

Sigh. Not even calling ahead and making an appointment at the Genius Bar was going to help me though, when my assigned Genius took one look at my screen and said with, I'll admit, a certain human sadness in his voice, Ohhhh, yeah, it's cracked. 

This surprised me, because you couldn't see or feel a physical crack, but apparently, he knew what he was looking at. He took it in the back to get a better look with the scope, and to decide, he suggested, whether it could be fixed.

Really he was checking to see if there was any evidence of it having been dropped. Um, everybody has dropped their laptop once or twice, right? They’re laptops. They get handled.

Sure enough, after a few minutes he returned to point out the slight, but quite clear dent in the case of the screen where the crack was. 

Twelve hundred and forty dollars, plus tax, he says. The sadness still in his voice. 

I don't suppose the warranty covers this? I say. 

Not when it's dropped, he says.

Even braving the torture of the Apple store has not helped. 

As long as I'm here, I say, hoping to salvage some small scrap of good from this trip, could you take a look at my phone. It went wonky yesterday. 

He nods, obviously feeling badly for me. I explain that the phone overheated yesterday, for no apparent reason, just sitting in my pocket. I turned it off to let it cool down and now it won’t charge back up.

He plugged it in and fooled with it for a few minutes until he finally believed me – it wouldn’t charge back up.

Let me take it in back to get a better look, he says.

Oh no, I think, but what choice do I have and off he goes. Could this visit get worse, I’m thinking. I can negotiate the lack of computer, if my smartphone works. I can negotiate the lack of smartphone, if my computer works. Losing both simultaneously, however, cuts me off from the world as surely as being cast away on a desert island. And my island is cold, snowy, and filled with frozen water buckets to boot.

When he returns, he has a funny look on his face and something cupped in the palm of his hand.

Do you know what this is, he asks, as he holds his palm out for me to see. Inside is a smattering of tiny green and brown and yellow flakes.

I can feel my face flush.

Um, hay, I say. It’s hay.

In my head, I’m wondering if there is a policy against hay and iphones. Is getting hay inside an iphone like dropping a laptop? Are farmers even allowed to have iphones? Does Apple have a policy against using iphones in barns?

I knew it!  He practically jumps out of his shoes.

They didn’t believe me, he says, but I grew up on a farm and I know hay. I told them this was hay. It even smells sweet.

He was so excited about finding the hay inside the phone, that I had to laugh. I wondered if I should maybe confess to the egg that broke over the phone in my pocket recently. I wasn’t sure where this was going, so I held my tongue.

Yes, I smiled. Hay. I have a barn, and animals, and lots of hay. 

My Genius laughed some more, let me vacuum it out and see if we can get it back on.  

A few minutes later he’s back.

The hay caught fire. Your phone is toast.

Oh no. Laughing and crying at the same time now.

But THIS I can fix, he says.

I couldn’t fix your computer, but your phone is no problem. I’ll just give you a new one.

No warranty issues? I ask. I still see gooey yellow yolk smeared across the black screen in my mind's eye.

Nope, no warranty issues, he says. The boss doesn’t have to know it was hay. 

Or egg, I think.

Then he pulls out a box with a brand new phone inside and makes it mine. While he filled out the paperwork, he began to chat.

Turns out my Genius grew up on one of only two merino sheep farms in all of Ireland. His grandmother invented a way to insulate the doorframes of their stone cottage with felted wool. His father patented the invention and now all the stone cottages in the area use wool insulation around their doors. He works as a Genius in an Apple store in a Disney-inspired mall in America, but he clearly longs for his days on the farm and the smell of fresh hay and wool.

My computer screen still flickers, but the hard disk is intact, my phone is shiny and new and egg free, and the sheep are in the barn waiting for their snack of sweet hay before bedtime. 

Modern farming.


  1. Great story!! I don't think I could get through a day without my Mac computer, a desktop though, not a laptop. I have a cover for my phone and periodically have to clean the hay out of the case. For some strange reason it's comforting to know that a down-home Irish country boy is working for Apple. I think it would make the dreaded trip to the Mall a little easier.


  2. I love this post!! How cool to find a fellow sheepie person in the awful Apple store in the mall! I'm glad he was able to help with the phone. :)