No matter what you're at the Apple Genius Bar for, it is a bewildering, sci-fi-sleek, calamity where you know nothing of your fate, and your torturers are tortured themselves.


It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I am sitting in a crowded bar that does not serve alcohol. My bartender, an endomorphic soyjak in a polo shirt with a chin strap, has been ignoring me for 45 minutes. He sees to other customers with quirky small talk reminiscent of Joss Whedon dialogue—a self-referential, overly familiar parody of “arch.” My flight response screams “run,” my fight response screams “murder this man,” but neither is an option, so I dumbly wait. He is a “genius,” and my entire livelihood is staked on this chipper castrato.

And I’m not the only one. This dive is so packed with barflies, some of us can’t even find a stool and are forced to mill around like confused Rambouillets desperately seeking their Australian Shepherd (sure he’s a pain, but he knows where to go), finding only a sea of “You betcha!” rictus stretched over T-800 skeletons.

Bureaucracy is a reliable boogeyman, especially for Americans. During the Cold War, it was the campfire stories of Soviet bread lines that kept the USA god-fearing. Today, your cultural touchstone might be Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, or Kafka’s The Trial, or (for the basic bitches) George Orwell’s 1984. (The latter is a tragically underrated victim of its own success, due in part to the fact that it gets assigned to minds not yet totally able to appreciate it. Seriously, it has one of the most romantic passages ever written, and it involves a woman delaying another clandestine tryst because she’s on her period). There’s also the old “why don’t they make the whole plane out of the black box” favorite, the Department (or Bureau, depending on your state) of Motor Vehicles, where you are forced to take a number, sit in a chair and wait among the hoi polloi. Like some peasant. 

Of course, Brazil, The Trial, and 1984 are all fiction (spare me arguments to the contrary, women definitely have sex on their periods). Even stories of Soviet rationing are rather exaggerated, taking place early on during the first five years of high-octane, rapid industrialization (1931 to 1935), and only again towards the actual collapse during Perestroika. So that leaves the DMV as the only comparable experience. But there is an essential difference between the DMV and the Genius Bar: everyone knows where they are in line at the DMV because it is on public display. You know your number and you know what number is next. You know what is going on at the DMV. 

Not so at the Apple Genius Bar, truly a new rung of hell. No matter what you’re there for, it is a bewildering, sci-fi-sleek calamity where you know nothing of your fate, and your torturers are tortured themselves.