Saturday, May 21, 2011

The DF iPad saga: part I

I have long resisted the epidemic of Apple-product-lust that appears to be gripping the world. I walk past the Apple Store near my home regularly, and keep my eyes fixed firmly on the ground. I change the channel when TV commercials taunt me with visions of unfathomably hip technological gadgets of unclear but nonetheless impressive utility. And I remain faithful to my efficient yet un-fun BlackBerry, despite Verizon's recently making it so very tempting to switch over to the iPhone.

And yet, a couple months ago, temptation beckoned in a way I could not resist. I agreed to do an extracurricular project for a colleague, and was offered as part of my compensation a brand-new, delicious and gleaming iPad 2. This proved to be a highly efficacious incentive, as I finished my required work product apace, and soon after notified my employer that I was now entitled to aforementioned iPad.

This was, btw, early April. I figured that with shipping and processing, I'd have my hands on the iPad in two or three weeks, tops. Doesn't that seem reasonable? After all, it was then six weeks until my departure, and certainly I'd have the iPad before that. [Please note: The foregoing was "foreshadowing," wherein an author makes a statement pregnant with import to gesture at a forthcoming disaster. Truly, it is a sign of high-class literature.]

A few weeks later, I got an email from aforementioned employer (hereinafter, AE) explaining that there was a backlog of orders for the iPad 2, and so the process would take a bit longer. The arrival date was sometime earlier in May.

Oh. So, to be clear, at this point I'd given myself over completely to Apple lust, and in particular lust for the forthcoming iPad. It was as though all my abstemiousness had made the desire for the iPad that much more powerful, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the slim, new model that I'd been coveting. So the delay was disappointing, but not devastating--after all, it's just a material object, and not a strictly necessary one at that. I'm a grownup. I can wait.

Then, more news: A firm date was set. Arrival of iPad would occur on May 23. Yes, May 23: the day just after I was scheduled to leave for Argentina. Deep breath. Patience. Now clearly at this point I was growing ever more irritated, and in my mild defense, it's not just that I thought it would be fun to have the iPad, but I had also planned my trip around it to some extent. E.g., since for complex reasons I won't be able to use my BlackBerry while in Buenos Aires, I am planning to use the iPad for photo-taking, and hence for adorning this blog with apt images (I'm told there is an archaic instrument called a "camera" that can also perform this function, but I own no such device).

But there appeared to be an easy solution: nice AE set up expedited shipping, so that the iPad 2 would arrive just before my departure--May 19, to be exact. Marvelous. So the morning of May 19 dawned, and I awoke in gleeful anticipation of finally finally getting my hands on my beloved iPad. And just to be safe, I checked the UPS tracking link AE had sent me, to find that my iPad had arrived safely in ... Changdu, China.

Wait-- Changdu? China?

Ahem. Yes: Changdu. China. [At this point a blue streak of swearing ensued that was so ribald and, frankly, kinda impressive that if I tried to recreate it in print I'd probably be banned from Blogger, and it would also take me hours so moot point anyway.]

I called UPS and they were pretty clear that there's no way the iPad would get from Changdu, China, wherever the hell that is, to LA before next week, when I'd already be southern-hemispheric.

But wait: I came up with a clever solution! Why, there's an Apple Store just a few blocks from my home. I suggested to AE that I could merely go to that store, buy an iPad, and send them the receipt. AE agreed that this was a good and efficient way to go. And bright the next AM, I popped on over to the Apple Store right when it opened at 10am, bypassed a line of bedraggled-looking folks standing by the entrance, and cheerfully said to one of the dudes wearing blue, "One iPad 2, please."

This Apple employee looked at me as if I'd suggested that he sing the score of the "HMS Pinafore" in a falsetto. "There's a line for buying iPads, sir," he finally uttered when his shock and withering contempt wore off a bit. "If you want an iPad, you have to stand in line."


So I stood in line, figuring that the wait would only increase the delirious joy I'd feel when I finally got my hands on the iPad I'd been waiting for for such a long, long time. And twenty minutes later, I got to the front of the line, was matched up with the selfsame Apple employee who'd told me to wait in it, and again gave my order, "One iPad 2, please!" He asked me for specs, but this was not an issue. I had them, and rattled them off with practiced ease. Came the chilling reply: "We're all out of those." (And, it turned out, similar models. And also out of these models are pretty much every Apple Store in the greater LA area.)

So apparently I was wrong to think that one should be able to go to a store and purchase their flagship product with relative ease, especially on a weekday morning, when it's not a holiday season, and some months after the product's initial release.

This is generally true, of course, but not so much with the iPad 2. Apple, through an apparently fortunate combination of consumer demand, low supply of component parts, and (I suspect) a desire to stock product languorously in order to prime aforementioned demand, has created a shortage so intense that people are literally lining up outside their stores constantly even on weekday mornings to get their hands on one of these babies.

I went back home, frustrated but wiser, and frantically told AE NOT to cancel the shipment as we'd discussed. Much logistical kerfuffling ensued, as I discovered via UPS that the iPad had arrived from China and was in the US ... in Anchorage effing Alaska. I then learned that UPS will not re-route shipments out of the country (e.g., to Buenos Aires), so I accepted that I will not have the iPad for the flight down, and instead will simply have someone at work send it to me when it arrives in LA next week.

Sigh. All in, this is really not a big deal. I don't need an iPad, after all, I just really grew to want one. And I'll have it next week, barring some kind of logistical snafu (which, after these past few days, I'm totally not ruling out). So at the end of it all, what really bugs me is not so much all this marginal inconvenience, but that Apple finally got to me. I'd been so good about staying coolly above the consumer frenzy created whenever a new iSomething is released, and always reminded myself that in the absence of real necessity, such purchases tend to be regrettable wastes.

But when I finally gave myself over to iPad lust, I became one of those people who go embarrassingly ape-crap over the prospect of arguably necessary technological novelties. For years, I'd passed the Apple store like an AA person (presumably) passes a bar--with a twinge of temptation, but firm conviction that passing by is the best move. And then, when the smarmy Apple Store guy told me they were sold out (and acted as though not knowing about the iPad's historic scarcity made me contemptibly ignorant), it took all my strength not to knee him in the crotch, and I had become like the AA person who finally enters the bar and goes on a bender of world-class proportions.

So, I'm deeply disappointed in myself and my lack of technological dignity and self-control. And I am also still unfathomably, lustfully excited about the prospect of imminent (though by no means certain) iPad arrival. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.