Like a Kid in an Apple Store
The early 2010's was a magical period for me.
It's difficult to comprehend a life where work starts at 9AM and finishes at 3PM, weekends are a thing, and the luxury of having nothing to do is a familiar state.
Imagine having 13 weeks annual leave, plus public holidays, unlimited sick days, and the occasional inset day - whatever that is. This was life, not that long ago.
As an unsophisticated, hormonal teenager, pondering over how to fill this time was perhaps the most cognitively challenging task of the day.
Waking up at whatever O'clock, taking a long shower, and enjoying a balanced breakfast comprised of sugar-filled cereal and toasted croissants, whilst mindlessly re-watching American sitcoms might just be the secret morning routine utilised by the most successful billionaire CEO athletes around the world.
Eventually though, Top Gear finishes, and I'm left with nothing but Jeremy Kyle or Judge Judy and their antagonists to nourish my innocent, developing mind before the quiz shows and cartoons start up around mid-afternoon. So as soon as my mother has bought me my third cup of tea, I must begin my preparations to seize the day.
One of the highlights of every half-term was the trip to the Mall, Cribbs Causeway. I would make arrangements to meet all of my friends - fortunately, I wasn't that popular, so this wasn't too difficult to co-ordinate - though group chats (not yet invented) would have made social arrangements a lot more efficient.
We would take the X5 double decker bus from Portishead (which despite the promises of youth parliament, was not free for under 16's), hop off near the mall, and immediately seek out fast-food, mischief and trouble.
These trips taught me financial discipline and budgeting. I usually had about £20.00 to stretch across the day, which had to cover a return bus ticket, cinema ticket, food and drink - helped by the odd Snickers bar somehow falling into my back pocket in WHSmith. The frugal life of a teenager was good training for our impending economic crisis.
I was too poor for sit-down restaurants, too old for the toy stores, and too young to appreciate a good appliance store. I had very little time for browsing fashion outlets. What I did love though, were the technology stores. Nothing could capture and hold my fragile attention span quite like a shiny gadget, mobile phone, video game, or other electronic wizardry.
The pinnacle of this, at the time, was the Apple Store.
A huge open space. Bright lights bouncing off brilliant white and silver. Beautiful demo products laid out uniformly on clean wooden surfaces. Annoying "Genius" employees asking if I needed any help today. Not today, friend.
On the surface, I was every business' worst customer. A clumsy kid with greasy hands and empty pockets, with total disregard for the safety and wellbeing of other shoppers. I had no intention of spending any money, but having travelled this far, I'd be damned if I wasn't going to get my moneys worth. And so i'd spend hours playing with just about every app on the iPhone, before doing the same on the iPad. Then, I would jump on an iMac to take several hundred snaps with various filters in the Photo Booth app (pictured), before using the Mac to post an update on Facebook to let every one know that I was having a great day at the Mall with my mates.
As I revisited the Apple store every half-term, I experienced the technology developing first-hand. Each subsequent visit gave me a feeling best described as awe, exhilaration and overwhelm all rolled into one. The fact that you could use the gyroscope to pretend to drink a beer on a phone, or create geometric art with your finger on an iPad, to me, was pure magic. Maybe the beer was real. Or maybe I was just easily amazed.
I wasn't the only person with a hunger for new tech. The Apple store was always the busiest unit in the shopping centre. Clearly, a large proportion of the population was also fascinated by touch screens and selfie cameras. A sea of people, young and old; male, female; blue-collar, white-collar; all with comically intense expressions on their face, striving for a top-score on Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or Temple Run.
It's worth noting that as passionate as I was/am, you'll never catch me queuing up outside an Apple store for 22 hours to be one of the first people to get their hands on a brand new product.
I could see that all this stuff - the iPhone, the iPad, apps, software and media were the future. I could feel the power of the brand. If I'd known what an investment portfolio was, I'd have been all in on Apple. What initially appeared as novelty and innocent fun, was becoming an increasingly useful set of tools. Even so, I could never have predicted how technology would transform the way we work, communicate or consume entertainment over the subsequent decade - nor could I confidently forecast how it will change the coming decade.
Yet whilst I was doing nothing but costing them electricity at the time, little did I know that the crafty Apple Mafia were planting their Apple seeds deep inside my small, impressionable brain. They were capitalising on my sincere love for technology, in hope that I would grow up to become a loyal and obedient citizen within the Apple ecosystem; spending thousands of pounds over my lifetime on products and subscriptions, before training and handing over my own offspring to repeat the cycle.
As a man of refined taste, I actually use an Android phone for my day-to-day. Even so, I have personally owned an iPod, iPhone and iPad. I've sacrificed my fair share to the cause.
More notably, I have dedicated a rather large proportion of my early life to the continued adoption of Apple products, as well as other technologies. Every day, I buy, sell, repair, and teach people how to utilize technology to make their lives better. This is how I provide value to the world, make a living, and avoid daytime TV re-runs.
As a result of good fortune and a little bit of work, I have more than compensated for my loitering in Apple stores by both fixing and re-selling tens-of-thousands of devices. Yes - we really are just about breaking into the twenty-thousands on our sales and repair databases!
My current life circumstances are to a large degree directly attributable to the magic that I experienced on my half-term trips to the Mall.
Humans are adaptive creatures - technology is now just an ordinary part of every day life. Like addicts, we consume more to gain less; forever chasing that first high. In my opinion, it is vital that we occasionally step back to appreciate what we have and how amazing it really is, so that we can re-capture a little bit of the enchantment that we felt in the Apple store just a decade ago.
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