The New Shrines for Our New Gods

The computer’s name is Mac. I like Mac. So do you.

New Mac, as greeted by its little/big brother the I-phone
                                      New Mac, as greeted by its little/big brother the I-phone

I’d only had my Acer for two years when it started giving me serious problems. Along the bottom of the screen, it started flashing these apocalyptic fonts of purple, reds, and bright greens, bleeding into every page I was reading. Once in a while, the screen would white out entirely, and it would only be when I dropped my fists down on the keyboard in a primeval rage that it would reboot and pretend like nothing happened between us. Yeah, there’s a number of things I could have done to treat it better. But two years? Give me a break PC. When my shitty Samsung phone had wasted away to a battery life of half an hour (give me a break Samsung), I caved in and got the phone that always wins in the customer satisfaction department. Our mutual I-Phone. It’s still the best electronic hardware I’ve ever bought, redefining the way I interact with technology in ways I’m still only beginning to understand. If the little guy was doing such a good job, couldn’t big-daddy Mac be even better?

And so this was the week of my final resistance to the Mac Empire.

Or maybe Mac Cult is closer to the point. UBC is a rather affluent university, and when you walk through our main library you’ll have rows upon rows of white cases and slightly-eaten fruit logos shine at you from the sides. You try to hold out—pretend your slower, heavier, clunkier computer is just as good—but slowly it wears you down, until you admit (to yourself for sure, to your friends eventually) that the only thing stopping you from getting your Mac is the money thing. And so you go.

But getting a rather substantial scholarship from UBC the same day my computer decides that this time it really will jump was too much of a coincidence to ignore. It’s fate: the Mac Gods are calling me. I can no longer ignore my purpose in life. My purpose to own a Mac.

I met one of the ushers at the front gate, wearing his robe of blue and his I-pad bible. He said “wait here, son,” and so I listened and twiddled my thumbs for five minutes but it felt like forever till he said, “okay, now it’s time.” And he lead me into a white room even the Pope would have a hard time not comparing to Heaven. Just rows upon rows of the prettiest darn computers you’ll ever see (just because they have four-figure price tags chaining them down doesn’t make it any less glorious). My refurbished mac is coming in the next couple of days, so I’m here to buy the case and keypad protectors like the expecting mother buys the stroller and outfit. Yes, that’s a mixed metaphor, but buying a mac is so wonderful it’s like bringing in new life and religious epiphany all at once. When I’m checking out with the excited lady at the front, she tells me—with almost uncontained glee—that I can actually pay with my I Phone. “Wow, that’s a wonderful feature!” I say with surprisingly little irony; she just smiles and nods, knowing that already—even before the computer arrives—I’m one of them now.

And I love the MacBook Air. It’s so sleek and fast; it’s so intuitive for user interface; its concerted minimalism has shown that a piece of computing technology can truly be an art form in of itself; and it’s mine. Mine! Sometimes I wake up and am just like “oh no, maybe it was all a dream, maybe it’s back to bleak PC life”. But she’s there, waiting for me with that little pseudo-retro branded ringtone of hers as she springs back to life.

Starting university, I never thought I’d be one of those people: I-pod I-phone I-computer. Devout disciple, cool-aid drinker and cool-aid giver (“have you seen my new MacBook? Isn’t it beautiful?”). But there is something seductive about being like just about everyone else.

Perhaps the actual computing power of the product only has a little bit to do with it—only a little bit to do with how fast it works and how long it stays alive. I didn’t want this because I needed it, I wanted it because I could. My other laptop had a whited out screen, sure, but I could have tried other things, could have done the video-card-oven trick (Youtube it). Conspicuous consumption: having it suddenly made me part of the group.

Sociologist Patrick Asper talks about the social status attached to stores—that stores are successful by marketing to a certain group, and are wired to be rude to those who don’t belong (too old for H and M, too poor for an art gallery). When I walked into that Mac store I was home– said the employees. And that felt a helluva lot better than the snooty Forever 21 clerks (still bitter ‘bout that one).

Obviously none of this is overt; maybe I just fucking wanted a new computer. But why did it need to be Mac? Did it honestly have nothing to do with the ten-thousand other beautiful Macs at UBC (potentially accurate statistic), or the fact that the only new computers available on campus are the—gasp—new Macs?

And then I get thinking about how my 2.5 year old computer will find its way to a landfill soon enough, that lithium battery bleeding out and burning through the ground. Then I’m thinking about all the workers making my MacBook’s brothers, who’ll never in their lives get the kind of money for a computer like this. Then I’m thinking about how much I’d be worth to the Cult of Mac if I stopped finding scholarships, stopped finding the drive to come back. Then I’m thinking…

The other day it was raining and I decided to try my first pumpkin spice latte.

Just your classic Vancouver typhoon
                                                              In just your classic Vancouver typhoon

So many buzzfeed articles, so many proclamations of basic-bitchery—well, how good does a thing need to be in order to be basic? So I buy it, and feel so embarrassed by the order– (the barista giving me a middling look, like I’m the embodiment of everything gone wrong in her life, I’m the reason she’s working on Thanksgiving, the person for whom the horrid drink was invented)—I promise I’ll never buy another one again. But as I look out on the rain the coffee churns the whip cream and pumpkin scent together, so I remember dry leaves and warm turkey and all those days I got presents. And life is good.

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