By Mitch Albom

They say there are nine planets in the solar system. But that is not true. There is a 10th.

The Apple Store.

On this planet, no one has a job or anyplace to go. They simply drift all day in an endless swirl of new products, most of them white. You need no food, no water; you can stay there for years with your mouth hanging open.

Some have gone and never returned, forgetting they have a family, a house or other clothes to wear. They spend the rest of their lives lifting a MacBook Air and yelling, "Feel how light this is!"

I am quite intimidated by Planet Apple Store. But I was forced to go there last week when my Mac computer stopped working. I started it up, the little apple appeared, the little doohickey spun around, but then the screen went blue and froze.

Naturally, I was embarrassed. I believed that Apple products never broke -- and if they did, it was your fault. You were an idiot who did something mean to the nice white machine, you big clumsy oaf, what on earth is wrong with you?

So I carried my Mac into Planet Apple Store, prepared to do what was expected, namely, drop to my knees and beg for mercy.

A place like no other

The mall in which this Planet Apple Store was located was virtually deserted. It was midweek and midday and as I approached the big white apple sign, I had reason to be optimistic, because if you shot a cannon down the corridor you'd hit nothing but a Rosetta Stone kiosk.

Wrong. Planet Apple Store was still as jammed as a Tokyo street crossing. At least half the people wore blue shirts with an apple on the front. These were the employees whom Apple calls "Geniuses," which, compared with you and me, is an understatement.

One such Genius signed me in (on a hand-held device, which I'm sure took my vital signs and spat out my SAT scores) and another summoned me to the Genius Bar, where the Geniuses presumably pour each other blue drinks like those "Star Wars" creatures, and where a redheaded female Genius with the tattoo of a something crawling up her arm looked me in the eye, smiled sweetly and said, "You pathetic imbecile."

She didn't say those words. That's just how I felt. Actually, once I told her what the problem was, she nodded pleasantly, gave a brief explanation of several possibilities, and told me "Don't worry." I felt like a man whose doctor looks at a troublesome X-ray and says, "It's nothing."

I wanted to kiss her sneakers.

A lesson in time

Then came the questions.

GENIUS: "Do you back up your data?"

ME: "Sure."

GENIUS: "Do you have a Time Machine?"

ME: "Who doesn't?"

GENIUS: "You may need to bring it in."

ME: "Sure, no problem."

I did not realize a Time Machine was a device Apple sold for data storage. I just figured the Geniuses had mastered time travel and assumed the rest of us dummies dropped by from the 17th century.

"After we reload the Time Machine, we can add RAM, upgrade the graphics card, increase the memory, maybe click in a terabyte," she said.

"Good, good, yeah, yeah," I said, nodding as if I had the slightest clue what she was talking about. A friend reminded me to be grateful because at least she lived in this country and wasn't talking to me over the phone.

She then wrote me a prescription, told me to drink lots of fluids and had me make an appointment with the nurse on the way out.

As I write this, I still don't have my Mac computer working. But that may be my own fault for not driving a time machine.

On my way out of Planet Apple Store, the Geniuses stared with pity. So I grabbed a MacBook Air, held it high and said, "Feel how light this is!"

Too late. It was already out of style.

Humor & Satire

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