Waiting in Silence

I called the Apple support line and was informed that, not only would my conversation be recorded, but that, while I was on hold, I had a choice of music with which I could pass the time.

Though my memory isn’t what it was, I believe I was told that I could press 1 for pop music, 2 for classical, 3 for jazz and 4 to wait in silence.

I picked jazz because I feel that music that is based on improvisation is the most vital in that it contains all other kinds of music (I say this knowing that classical, or what I prefer to call European historically composed music that was mostly favored by priests, ministers and the aristocracy until those 20th century malcontents took over, has its improvisational opportunities). I pressed 3 and was horrified.

What came out was so distorted that it was worse than unlistenable: it was audibly offensive. I couldn’t bear to have the phone near my ear.

I could imagine some Apple “genius” telling me that if I had only used an Apple phone to make my call, the music would play perfectly. Apple is the triumphant American version of that Germanic esthetic that you find in BMWs and Mercedes: we’ve figured out what you need from a vehicle. Do what we tell you, drive the way we want you, and everything will be okay.

Until, of course, the machine breaks, as my Ipod did, or it wears out to the extent that maintaining and repairing it costs more than the machine is worth (as has happened to my wife’s Mercedes). Then you have one choice if you want to maintain the cool, clean, seemingly effortless elan of technology ownership: buy the new model.

I wish I was the kind of person that Steve Jobs imagined, who immediately understands ergonomic design, speaks geek and so thoroughly trusts a corporation as to let it tell me what I want, even if I don’t know that I want it and can’t quite figure out how to get it.

A few years ago I replaced a Dell laptop with a MacBook Pro because everybody–including my two sons–said it was the absolute best laptop made. I unpacked it, noticing how clever Apple was in constructing an experience with packaging. I fired it up and…

I didn’t get it. It wasn’t intuitive for me. It was confusing in a maddening way. I couldn’t do what I had learned to do with bulky, blocky, greedy, clumsy, lobotomized and preternaturally evil Windows: start the thing and just write. I was assured by so many, many people that this is exactly what happens with the MacBook Pro, that I would come around, step into the light, accept Steve Jobs as my savior and realize that Apple (a company in which I own stock!) was on this earth to help me discover myself (or some such gassy ideal).

It didn’t happen. I avoided the thing and finally gave it to my wife, who made the transition.

I went back to my clunky desktop, feeling somehow betrayed by the future that, as a youthful science fiction fan, I so wanted to embrace.

So I was listening to the horribly distorted music, got to some person in a strange corner of the world who barely understood what I was saying, and got an appointment to see a genius. I asked for an e-mail confirmation and didn’t get it. So I called back and this time, I chose silence.

I sat there, hearing nothing and…it made sense.  Music, an art that I love that has saved my mind, heart, soul and life so many times, was no longer a thing to fill air, occupy space, distract, or remind me how limited my cellphone was.

I got my e-mail confirmation but then found out that my Ipod probably couldn’t be fixed. It’s the old 160, and Apple not only doesn’t make them anymore, the Apple stores don’t even have the parts. I could go someplace that my be able to do something with it or….buy myself a shiny new Ipod Touch 128 for $399!

And, you know I wanted to buy it. I wanted to hop in my car, zoom down to that place and strut out of that store with my new toy, so I could carry my music with me, wrap it around me like a cloak as I exercised, let it surround me while I was stuck in traffic in my car, pop it in the player in the kitchen to augment the occasional romantic dinner.

Then I remembered how I liked that little bit of silence.

Just a little bit.

Now, I’m not giving up on music. Never, never, never. But, is it possible that our greatest feats of technological brilliance have something to teach us…when they break down?






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