"Welcome to the Apple Store, my name is Marc. How can I help you?” chirps the 20-30-something Apple greeter.

How can he help me? I gaze into his deep brown eyes, seeking a glint of hope in my despair. I’m tempted to wipe off the smudge on the right lens of his hipster glasses, his only bit of self-expression given the Apple uniform of dark blue golf shirt and black pants. But he can visit Cohen’s Fashion Optical across the mall on his own time.

“My MacBook is in a coma. I don’t know what to do.”

“Something must be going around,” he says, shaking his head, and following with a quick nod over his left shoulder to acknowledge the sea of frantic customers with their sick MacBooks and iPhones and assorted other Apple paraphernalia. Steve Jobs must be rolling over in his MacGrave.

“Ma’am, do you have an appointment?”

Does it look like I have an appointment? My MacBook is still dripping wet.

“Sorry, I don’t. I drove over here as soon as it happened.”

“OK, well let’s get you in the system right away. May I have your name?”

“Sara Stevens.”

“Found you right here! 3 iPhones, 2 iPads, 2 MacBooks.”

Yep, all of my family’s disposable income has ended up in this corner of Quaker Bridge. If only I’d bought Apple at $40.

“So, tell me what happened.”

I pause, and wonder, who else here has told the truth? I really don’t want to be laughed at in public. WWSJD?

“It got wet,” I sheepishly reply.

He stands there with a “well, DUH” expression.

“When you say wet, do you mean water-wet, or soda, or lemonade, or alcohol?”

How many people drop their Macs in a pitcher of Mint Juleps, I wonder.

“Water,” I offer.

“Alright. Still, sparkling, tap?”

I almost blurt out “Coffee Tea or Me” but quash my sarcasm. “Tap. Elizabethtown Water if you need to know the source.”

He rolls his eyes and types into his iPhone.

“Please follow me. Our technologists will handle it from here.”

We meander through the sea of MacProspects playing with their new MacToys and around the long horizontal Genius bar abutting a wall of monstrous slate gray iPhone images. Stainless steel envelops the room. How do they keep it clean, I wonder? I can’t even keep my kitchen faucet shiny.

But we don’t stop at the Genius bar. What, I don’t warrant help from a Genius? So who do they have doing the heavy lifting?

Marc delivers me to an uncomfortable stool at the end of the bar with no bartender, near some sort of an exit door. Mais Huis Clos. I feel dissed, seated in Siberia next to the WC by a snooty maitre’d at the old Lahiere’s. Too bad I didn’t bring my iFlask. Everyone at the table across from me is staring at their iPhone or iPad, and the few in my section are empty-handed and seem stranded on a desert island. Where are all those half-read New Yorkers when I need them? I flash back to the pre-McGreevey DMV, but this place is shinier.

“How long will this take?” I whine to Marc as he starts backing away.

“I hope not too long. You’re at the top of the list of people with really bad issues.”

Another Déjà vu: the Emergency Room at Princeton Healthcare System, but here in the Apple ER there are no curtains to cordon me off from the other screaming patients. I observe a couple across the aisle who seem to be in shock, plopped in front of a huge monitor that looks as if it was thrown off the end of a truck. Good luck with that.

Beside them is a catatonic boy, I’m guessing about 7, clinging to his iMac-less Magic Mouse. He gulps in between sobs and hiccups, eking out something about Bookworm.

To my right, a motley crew of young marrieds, old singles and college kids perch on the edge of their stools, device-less, unsure of what to do with these unfamiliar empty minutes. I am tempted to call out Bingo numbers.

A scrawny red-headed Technologist approaches us timidly, resembling a surgical intern with bad news after an operation on Grey’s Anatomy.


I raise my hand. “I’m Sara.”

“Nice to meet you, Sara, I’m Andrew. We’re going to try to save your MacBook, but first we need a few more details.”

I bite my lip. What the hay.

“It fell into the toilet,” I admit, my shoulders slumped, my courage wilted.

Andrew lets out a huge guffaw. The room gets quiet. Everyone sitting at the Genius Bar is now glaring at us.

“You’re kidding me, right?” he stares at me in disbelief.

“I wish I were,” I say, gazing over his shoulder to see if the crowd is still staring at us.

“So how could a MacBook fall into the toilet? Did it walk in there by itself and take a plunge?”

“I just turned 50,” I explain.

Andrew looks puzzled. He’s nowhere near 50, another one of those age-unknown Apple guys, the Tony Robbins set but no tan.

“Sorry. I don’t know what that means.”

“Fifty is the age for colonoscopies,” I say, reddening.

“Oh, I thought 50 is the new 30?” Andrew tries to joke.

He pauses and waits for more details.

“Hmm. When you turn 50 someday, you’ll get to drink a bottle of laxatives, and then down another box of laxatives, and then, wait.”

“That’s exactly why they invented the iPhone,” Andrew explains in earnest. “It’s not just a phone, it’ a smaller version of the MacBook. You can take it anywhere, even the bathroom. And it’s easier to hold on the toilet.”

Well, it was not so easy to work on a PowerPoint presentation that was due at work the next day when you are glued to the commode and then the doorbell rings, I consider sharing, but then move on.

“That’s good to know, Andrew. So what are my next steps?”

A grin spreads across his pimply face, and his bony shoulders start to shake as he tries to hold back a giggle. “To start with, I’d keep all electronic devices out of the bathroom. Let me bring it in the back, and we’ll see what we can do to save your Book.”

Andrew gingerly takes the Book, holding it like a bomb about to be detonated, and walks through the back door.

A few minutes later I hear a gaggle of howls coming from behind the wall of i-Images.

Then out walks Andrew followed by the first Apple female I’d seen that day. I hope she’s a little more amenable to my predicament.

“So I understand your MacBook took a potty break,” she chuckles.

“I can’t believe this has never happened before,” I reply defensively.

“Maybe so, but no one’s ever admitted it. I’ve heard of Macs in swimming pools, bathtubs, even dishwashers, but never a toilet. You must have a really big toilet.”

I decide not to comment. What good would it do? I’m ready to go home, or better yet, grab a Pina Colada at the Cheesecake Factory, leave the MacBook and convert back to Dell, where laptops are just a dime a dozen. I yearn for the days of MS-DOS.

All of a sudden, the iPhone on Andrew’s belt starts to vibrate. He grabs it and swipes his screen.

“Wow. This must be your lucky day.”

I wait for an explanation.

“Our store manager submits a “Challenge of the Week” to Apple HQ, and yours was just picked. You win a free replacement MacBook and an all-expense-paid trip to Cupertino.”

Cupertino? Why do I know that name? Then it dawns on me: my iPhone weather app. It never rains in Cupertino. I close my eyes and envision the trip. Welcome to the Hotel Cupertino: This could be Heaven or this could be Hell.

Wendell Wood Collins is director of corporate relations at the Bendheim Center for Finance at Princeton University. She and her family live in Pennington, along with a mixed bag of Apples and Dells. She is grateful to have been connected with the “Room At the Table” writer’s group at last year’s U.S. 1 summer fiction issue reception.

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