My 16-year-old and I recently enjoyed a very 21st century mother-daughter outing: we made a pilgrimage to the Apple store to purchase the new iPhone 4S. (Each of us was using a phone with a screen so shattered it routinely imparted glass splinters.) Naturally, I was irritated even before we got to the mall. We’d had to go online the night before–at exactly 9 pm–to reserve the phones for in-store pick-up the following day, which I found a little cloying. Why not just deliver the phones to the store and then sell them on a first come, first served basis? Plus we only had a little over an hour before my daughter had to get back to school.
The short line snaking between barricades outside the Apple store did nothing to ease my agitation. An assortment of unhurried looking customers of all ages calmly texted or played “Angry Birds” while they waited for a blue-shirted savior to call them. “Go see if we have to wait in this line!” I instructed my daughter in a stage whisper. She approached one of the blue shirts, who checked his iPad and talked into his pretentious little earpiece before sending her back with an affirmative nod. Everyone in line had “reserved” a new iPhone the night before.
Now, I love Apple products, but the Apple store itself makes me queasy: the “Genius Bar,” the squishy little ball seats pulled up invitingly to the sample products displayed on uncluttered blonde-wood tables, the geeky-chic employees sporting all manner of tattoos, piercings and horned-rim glasses–it’s all a bit too precious and artificially nonchalant. Maybe I’d feel differently if they provided free drop-off babysitting service.
Or maybe I’m simply the modern-day equivalent of an immigrant arriving at Ellis Island: an anxious and exhausted stranger navigating an alien but promising new land. As soon as the blue-shirt called us–and it was soon–it became clear that I am not the hip multimedia-savvy, techhie mom I imagine myself to be, but a visitor from the Old World dependent on my bi-cultural young daughter for translation. “Mom, give him your old iPhone,” she said slowly, as if speaking to a deaf and batty old aunt. Then they exchanged a lot of words and numbers I didn’t understand: “32 gig… OS 5… the cloud… 8 megapixels… Apple ID… GMS…” I felt a little like the dog in the old Gary Larson cartoon, who comprehends only her name–“blah blah blah Ginger”–when her owner speaks to her: “blah blah Mom blah blah iPhone.” I tuned out and watched someone’s impossibly happy photos dissolve into one another on the iPad display.
“Mom!” I heard my name again. “Your credit card?” Now that I understood. My daughter clutched two elegant little boxes–far more alluring than the proverbial blue ones from Tiffany. Not surprisingly, the digital native had her phone loaded, running and sending voice-activated text messages by the time we got home. Mine? Well, it’s a process.