I recently made a brief visit to the U.S., to see my sister, newly moved to Florida, and afterward an old friend and business associate in NYC. While staying with the latter my younger daughter Angela emailed me a one-liner -
"Why not buy an i-Pad while you're there?"
So as not to be accused of being a complete Luddite (a similar, previous piece of advice - to buy an i-Book laptop - had ended in disaster), I dutifully got myself on the subway uptown from my friends' apartment to Apple's main store on 59th and 5th.
You enter through a glass cube - all that's 'visible' of the Apple store above ground. Descent into the maelstrom is either via glass spiral staircase, or, alternatively, by pneumatically operated cylindrical glass elevator. I chose the stairs - along with a vortex of other worshipers converging on the cube from all directions.
Below is a single, fairly (though not cavernously) large room where casually dressed geeks of all ages press forward to feast their eyes and ears on sleek electronic goodies tethered discreetly to white altars, elsewhere known as display tables. Blue-shirted avatars circulate among the throng, bestowing wisdom. Two walls are devoted to back lit pictorial renderings of the lives of two deities currently in vogue: the i-Phone G4, and - yes! - the object of my pilgrimage, the i-Pad! The width of the third wall is entirely taken up by acolytes handling the transactions of those whose prayers have been answered.
It's 5.30pm. Notices advise punters to shop during off-peak hours, to avoid the crush. I judge the current, off-peak through-put at about $2000/minute.
After about 20 minutes of cultural readjustment I locate a table on which i-Pads are displayed. A tall, bearded avatar in his late 50ies is extolling their virtues to a disciple, and I listen respectfully. True to liturgical form it's all mumbo jumbo, but I am enrapt. To purchase a tablet all I am to do is shuffle along in one of the lines to a sales point. No merchandise or paper to present - just state my wish and it will be granted.
"I want an i-Pad," I intone when eventually my moment of truth arrives, "- the entry version," (I am a neophyte after all). In seconds the object of my desire materializes, and there ensues a brief and seamless transaction involving both cash and card (I have been moved to spend more cash than I have, but local and foreign cards alike are acceptable. This is a tolerant religion; no distinction is made as to race or creed, no identification need be presented. My signature, scribbled on an electronic tablet, is sufficient sign of my good faith.)
But of course i-Pads and the like are not intended for old fogies like me, and since arriving home I've hardly laid eyes, let alone hands on the thing. With just one, brief, emailed suggestion Angela has spirited it away.