WELCOME TO GOOD MEN & BAD ADVICE

Good Men and Bad Advice is an essay containing random observations of life.

My words and opinions may be offensive, crude and irrational to some, but may prove insightful to others.

My goal is to share my thoughts, judgements and opinions
and hopefully make the reader laugh, cry or just think about the subjects presented.

Many of these stories will appear in my upcoming book
"Good Men and Bad Advice: Cerebral Pollution" which will be released in 2011.

Please share your thoughts. Your feedback is welcome.

Enjoy! - B.T.

September 23, 2009

Slapping Down an Imbecile

Over the past twelve months I have been confronted with several situations that have left me very confused and sometimes a bit angry. The confusion stems from my all-time favorite subject, “Human Relations” and how the consistent trampling of logical communication never ceases to amaze me. From the “know-it-all teenage retail warrior” trying to grasp their own definition of customer service, to the “mid-thirties, cursed to always be single, big mouthed, over-fed troll” flashing their winning personality through the glass window at the local medical center, it has been my pleasure to experience a wide range of social grace over the past year.

If I were Victor Hugo, I may refer to these individuals as Le Imbéciles misérables or “The Miserable Imbeciles” since they are obviously miserable for being tortured in their own existence and just plain dumb for allowing this self made misery to direct their logic, sense, and overall behavior towards all other humans they encounter. Sometimes I feel those people who suffer from this personality disorder enjoy annoying their fellow man because it makes up for their own insecurities. Possibly, my writing about them is a sure sign of my own. Either way, the most important aspect of their existence is that they choose to deal with other human beings on a day-to-day basis. I find this incredibly humorous and disturbing in the same breath.

Even I, as some of you know from my writings, do not like most people, but work my hardest to adapt to the language, the dynamics and their behaviors just to make it through any given day. That is just common sense. These creatures seem to exist primarily to perpetuate ignorance, selfishness, stupidity, and laziness all for no apparent, logical reason. They can be fierce and attack without provocation or be incredibly passive and do most of their damage through simple frustrations, lack of vocabulary and basic non-sense. When in their presence you will repeatedly question their purpose, question your sanity and pray for divine intervention.

Their habitat is not like the Grizzly Bear, which you will find primarily in the uplands of Western North America. They lurk and roam everywhere and sometimes pop up where you least expect. They are increasingly appearing in every mall, restaurant, and customer service desk in the United States. They are more like the cockroach or the mosquito. Mostly everyone has seen one and more accurately had to deal with one at some point in their lives. Once confronted with one of them, you are immediately irritated, annoyed and after a short period of time are fantasizing about methods to remove them from your life. If it were only as simple as slapping one into oblivion as it tries to suck out your lifeblood, we would sleep easy. If we could smash them beneath our shoe, wrap them in a tissue and flush them into the sewer we would rejoice. Unfortunately, in the realm of reality, they can push us to consider many forms of verbal abuse, indecent gestures, or even assault to stop the torment, but most sane, educated people would not consider this a reasonable conclusion. Unfortunately, as I examined one of my most recent experiences, I believe I came very close to serving time in the county jail for “slapping down an imbecile”.

Recently at my office, one of our staff reported that the hard drive in their Apple laptop computer had committed suicide over the weekend. Since I am the individual responsible for rectifying these situations, and since the device was still under manufacturer warranty, I was given the assignment to bring the unit into our local Apple Store for repair. I am quite familiar with Apple culture since I have been an Apple customer since 1989 and have spent most of the past 20 years as a Macintosh Specialist in the creative realm, with music and video production, and the technical realm in product development and system support. I can say with confidence that I know my way around the operating system, the hardware designs, and most importantly the difference between an iMac and an iPhone, even though I’m not an owner of either model. Unlike most Mac users, I’m not an elitist. I like Windows as well and own a PC. I’m one of those rarities in the computer world-a “dual platformer”. I feel that all computers can be a royal pain in the ass and do not have a greater love for one that the other. Of course, when you walk into an Apple Store, this type of talk would be considered heresy. Every light-saber in the joint would be unsheathed and the rumble of the geeks would begin.

To me, walking into an Apple Store can be a strange experience. First, the huge Apple logo glows above the door ominously like a huge, neon cross found on the top of a number of small, Christian, churches along any highway in the heartland of America. It is a subliminal message that says “Come In. Get Saved. Buy a Mac” as an orange shirted member of the congregation with a small white Apple logo in the center of his chest meets you at the door with a robotic “Welcome to the Apple Store”. Once inside, you can’t decide if you have stumbled into an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute displaying the H.G. Wells vision of futuristic retail shopping, or a “meet n’ greet” for the fans of Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker and the makers of Dungeons and Dragons. There seems to be a lot of unwashed hair, overgrown beards, iPhones on belt clips, bright T-Shirts, guys that look like post-breakdown Brian Wilson and girls that look like Joni Mitchell in 1975. You also see lots of multi-media, flat screen monitors broadcasting constant streams of Apple propaganda, hip terminology, clips of software applications in action, and promises that you can conquer the world with an Apple computer. One day I’m hoping to see a holographic projection of Steve Jobs from the eye of one of the staff hipsters where he dressed as Princes Leia will appear and say “Help me Ob-Wan Kenobi. You are my only hope”. It’s the epitome of high-tech cool in a retail space, but all that technology and elegantly brushed aluminum seems to take the human warmth right out of the equation. The thing you will notice above all is the unbridled, geek lathered ego that seems to be a pre-requisite for all Apple Store employees, but most of the time they can mix the words “dude”, “cool” and “sweet” into there normal techno-banter and deal with anyone on any planet. Soon I was to find out how cool you have to be to be in this congregation.

From past visits, I knew that when you have an appointment at the Apple Store at a specific time, you should arrive at that time since it is run like a tight ship. Minutes could offset the well-executed schedule so radically a vibration this strong could damage the colony forever. I was certain I would arrive on time and have no problems getting in and most importantly, out. Now, keep in mind, we have done this many times before in this same store. We are a big Apple customer in our city and stand out for how many workstations we have at our facility, so you would think that we would be treated well and the process would be efficient. We had made an appointment to bring the laptop computer to the store’s “Genius Bar”, for 4:40pm. To me, walking up to a bar of pre-ordained geniuses is an uncomfortable experience just waiting to happen. Usually, we do a “quick drop” which does not require much mingling with the crew while standing on the deck of the Enterprise. Again, this is something we do quite often. On this day, I was to deal with someone who I have never met. I will call him “John”, an uncommon name for an Apple geek, but one more general than the textbook “Shawn”, “Eric”, “Josh” or “Aaron” which seem to overrun the payroll records at Apple.

I arrived at the temple of geekdom at around 4:30pm, knowing that this would give me plenty of time to check in the laptop, do the paperwork and make a quick escape. A tall, unshaven, young man who resembled an unkempt version of Ross from “Friends” greeted me. “Welcome to the Apple Store. Can I help you?” says our young Ross with a less than enthusiastic tone. After informing him that I had a 4:40pm appointment at the Genius Bar, he responds with a solemn, yet strange “Hmm, early” then proceeds to direct me to the rear of the store and wait for my name to be called. Above the bar is a large flat screen display, which lists all those in line for service. At this point, it is 4:35pm and in my mind I am more than prepared. We called the Apple store to arrange the repair over 24 hours before the appointment, so the rest of the procedure should be pretty painless, right? You would think so, but maybe my Jedi skills are not as sharp as the genius I was about to meet.

As my name was called, I noticed the genius behind the bar didn’t fit the geekish Apple stereotype. You would expect a scruffy, skinny, borderline "hip in his mind", artsy type possibly wearing thick black-framed glasses, Vans and a wallet chain protruding from his baggy jeans. You may even imagine an over weight, under bathed, young hobbit with a two week neck beard and a ponytail right out of a sixties documentary of the Haight-Ashbury. Well what I saw was much different. The one I refer to, as “John” was hairless, muscular, and dripped of badass wannabe punk rocker. Tattoos covered his arms and part of his neck. I imagine he loves intense hard-core music, or he claims. He seems to be infatuated with himself and his vast knowledge of everything and his vocabulary is filled with today’s hip phrases. He stood over his laptop like a big city bouncer with the newest Bluetooth earpiece clamped to his head like a secret service agent. He had this look of intensity on his face that rivaled Bruce Willis in Die Hard. His Para-military stance and over confidence suddenly transported me into a Michael Mann daydream where he declares that he will repair our laptop no matter how many people he needs to kill. At that moment, a new Ford Mustang comes crashing through the entrance of the store. He jumps up on the genius bar, empties his chrome Israeli assault rifle into the muscle car’s window and escapes with our laptop through a shower of broken glass and sparkling electricity. He was the Apple Store hero. Cool, calm, and conceited. Now he’ll know how to get the job done and done right.

A deep voiced bark of my name wakes me from my action flick daydream and prompts me to approach the genius bar area. Without raising his eyes from his laptop keyboard, he begins to engage in his form of communication. “I believe your appointment was scheduled for 4:40 this afternoon, correct? he snaps with an authoritative, yet egotistical tone. “Yes” I answered, “We called this in yesterday so I could stop by and check this in.” Then, as he slowly raises his eyes from the small screen, he replies, “Yup and five minutes too early.” He then punctuates the statement with a condescending sigh. I paused for a second and thought, “Oh, is early wrong, rude, unprofessional?” Well, maybe he was just clarifying the Apple Store appointment rules in his own little way. I tried to let it pass and move on in the process. John then asks “So, what brings you here early today?” keeping his own signature personality in tact. “We called in this laptop for warranty repair yesterday so I’m just dropping it off for service.” I answer with a slight undertone of aggravation in my voice. Again, John raises his eyes slowly and stops typing. Without a smile or expression he replies, “So, what does that mean exactly?”

A part of me wanted to respond, “What do you think that means? I want to buy a cookie. Yeah. That’s it. Do you have any Apple flavored cookies back there under the genius bar? I hear you guys make the best so I called in yesterday to make an appointment to eat one of your cookies.” Instead of responding, I stood silent for a number of seconds to think of an answer he would understand. “We set this appointment up yesterday and I am here to drop the unit off and sign the appropriate paperwork,” I said with full confidence. “Ok, again, what do you need?” he says with a bit of frustration. I then start to feel the needle on my frustration meter rise as I quickly respond. “Listen, we come into this store very often and I drop off workstations for repair all the time. This belongs to one of our staff members, they reported that it no longer works, and, as we always do, called into your store to schedule an appointment for repair. It is under warranty, so we were told to arrive at 4:40pm, come to the genius bar and do a quick drop off. Ok?” His response to this was both memorable and infuriating, “So, I assume that you want this laptop repaired, right? Maybe you could give me an idea of what is wrong with it? Why do you think it needs to be repaired by us?” I felt the top layer of teeth in my mouth dig into my tongue.

At this point, the Jon Sena clone that stands before me has that familiar look on his face that we often, but shockingly witness within the customer service realm. It is a look, which clearly states, “You are an annoying, demanding, idiot customer. I don’t get paid enough to do this job but I’ll put up with you since I get to wear a GENIUS T-Shirt and you don’t. Remember, this T-Shirt means I know everything. and I am much cooler than you.” Well, most often, when I’m caught in these situations, I play the manager card. We have built a good relationship with the store manager, who I will call “Bruce”. We set the original appointment up with Bruce. As an enterprise customer, we deal with Bruce most of the time and are treated reasonably well. At the end of my level of patience, I respond to our hero appropriately, “May I speak to Bruce please. We generally deal with him directly. I would like to speak to him or your current manager”. John then replies quickly without a flinching or delay, “Bruce is not here today.” a response I found odd since we were told he would be working all week. “I just want to make sure you are bringing this in for the right reasons.” he says like a preschool teacher addressing a delinquent child. He then fires off a number of questions, which seemed to take forever to list “Has the unit been dropped? Is it used more than ten hours daily? Was it being use outside when it failed? Is it allergic to any medications?” One after another, but all responded to in the same way, “I don’t know”, “I have no idea.” “No clue.” “Who knows?” I said with increasing degrees of apathy. Now both sides of the table were completely annoyed but at least we were moving forward.

At the end of this procedure, John made several references to his genius stature, and checked his look in the mirror-like Apple décor, which surrounded us in the store. He may have said many more things or asked me questions regarding the repair, but at this point I had successfully shut him off. At the conclusion of the transaction, Bruce, our store contact, appears from the back of the store with several technicians in tow. His appearance was obviously noticed by our young John, but neither explained or justified. He acted like his lie about Bruce’s absence did not exist. When Bruce saw me, he immediately asked if I have been helped and need anything further. Without an ounce of conscience, John put the paperwork in Bruce’s hand for him to review. Naturally, Bruce offered to finish the transaction, as any professional support professional should. John slid off stage left without a word, statement of thanks or appreciation for my business. As I observed this, I felt everything from shock, amazement, and disappointment to relief, frustration and a sense of normalcy. I looked around the store and realized that this was just another day in the world of modern retail. The Apple Store, its hippy roots and cool, shiny charm is just another corporate retail money machine infected with the same flaws and backward mentality that saturate the customer service field today. I know that “customer service” sounds horribly close to “customer: serve us” so now I know how certain creatures in the fold can get confused.

A part of me would like to salute my young John. He is an efficient, emotionless machine of corporate retail. He has broken the stereotypical mold, which has been protected and exploited by the technical retail world for decades. The predictable standard of the white, pocket protected, short sleeved, button down, dress shirt wearing, socially handicapped nerds controlling the employment of hundreds of computer specialized retail outlets has been disabled. With the introduction of my new friend John, the Apple Store has given me new hope that a new breed of egotistical, emotionless, apathetic, socially vacant, narcissistic, bullish, hipsters have a place in the already dysfunctional world of human relations. So, if you strive to be visually intimidating, have limited social skills, enjoy tattoos, avoid mature communication, practice selective listening and think you are the best thing since sliced bread, look into a career at the now revamped Apple Store. The place where you can be called a GENIUS, act like an ass and grow up to become a miserable imbecile with little or no effort.

Thanks Apple Store. You’ve finally arrived. You are just like everyone else.

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