At this point I gave up. I went outside and explained the situation (very calmly) to the girls, and how I would need to reinstall Windows to restore the machine to a useable state. I was expecting the worst; to be shunned, downtrodden, to have the chance of the sale dangled in front of my face only to have it yanked away at the last possible moment. The last thing I expected at a time like this was a miracle;
"Well, how long does this Windows install take? Is it hard? We could do it ourselves, couldn't we?"
Was I to betray the Nerdish custom of never returning a machine until it was fully functional? Was I to simply hand over the CD and wish them the best of luck? Was I to simply palm off the daunting task of restoring a full Windows installation from scratch? As it turned out, I was.
"Uh, not long, not long at all. I'll just grab a copy of the Windows CD and you can head off."
I want readers to note that I was not encouraging the "pirating" of software here, I am a strong believer in the correct adherence to both the spirit and the letter of copyright law (Free and Open Source Software rely on copyright to exist and flourish). I explained to the girls that there was a copy of windows on the "Rescue" CDs I gave them, but that they should install Windows from this other CD that I would give them in a moment. Either way, the license key was printed on a sticker on the bottom of the laptop, and that sticker was remaining firmly attached all the way to Newcastle.
I waved goodbye to the girls, breathed a sigh of relief, and started that fateful journey toward the iBook that I had craved for so long. As I was leaving Mike turned to me and said;
Mike: "So, you're buying an Apple? We will discuss this later, when I will proceed to give you shit about wasting your money."
Me: "I understand where you're coming from, but ocne you've used it you'll be eating your words. And that bagel."
Mike: "I don't think so."
Me: "I guarantee it."
Mike: "It'll never happen."
Me: "Then give me that bagel."
And off I went, bagel in hand. A short walk, a bus, a train, another bus, and another short walk (it was actually only a few blocks away, but I needed the thinking time), and I had arrived at...
The Apple Store.
Seeing those words upon that sign had always inspired mixed emotions. This was the company that made computers trendy - people could call their products "sexy" and not be laughed at - but they always seemed *just* out of reach. It was simply a matter of economics; I consider myself to be a strong computer enthusiast, but I could never fully justify spending more than the absolute minimum on a machine that would do what was necessary - web browser, word processor, email client. I don't do any software development or play many games, and any complex software packages that I need are either at work or at uni. Most of my hobbies in the past had involved making the most of ancient, second hand hardware - a far cry from the top-of-the-line kit that Apple portrays its products to be.
Laptops, however, are different. You can't pull apart old machines and build a laptop yourself, and a good second hand laptop is a rarety. There is a fairly well defined minimum market price for a reliable (new) laptop, and anything below that will either be stolen or of such low quality as to not be worth buying. When Apple dropped their consumer-level laptops to within spitting distance of that minimum price I honestly thought they would start flying off the shelves; the iBooks were now a genuine, dollar-for-dollar, better deal than many "mainstream" brands.
So I arrived at The Apple Store. Remember I had spoken to "Con" a few days earlier? I hadn't forgotten his little tidbit of salesmanship; hopefully his "good deal" would be worth the trip. So on that sunny Saturday afternoon I stepped into the store and spoke to the first salesperson I could see, a nice young girl whose name escapes me at the moment;
Me: "Hi, I'm interested in buying an iBook. Is Con in? I spoke to him a few days ago."
The Nice Sales Lady: "No."
Me: "Ah." Bugger.
The Nice Sales Lady: "As it happens I took his shift today, but he'll be back on Monday. Is there anything I can help you with?"
Me: "Bugger." Bugger.
Waiting until Monday was pushing it, as I really needed a computer to finish that group assignment. On any other weekend I would probably have been happy to wait, but not today. Oh well, best to cut my losses and just get this over and done with. At any rate, I'm fairly sure Apple sets its prices internationally, so I doubt Con would have had much room to negotiate.
Me: "Do you have any 12" G4 iBooks in stock? I'm hoping to get one today."
The Nice Sales Lady: "I'll just go check. Are you okay to just stand here and play with this iPod Mini while I do that?"
Me: "Just try and stop me."
As it turned out there were two left in the shop; one for me and one for the guy next to me who also happened to have just sold an Acer laptop to a crazed Canadian exchange student and wiped the MBR at the last moment, right before the sale. We exchanged business cards, but when I checked my pocket later that day all I found was a single square of toilet paper with my own phone number and the name "Tyler Durden" scrawled across it in soap. Weird.
The nice sales lady then brought my new laptop out of the storeroom and I handed over the cash. After the prolonged build up, my first purchase of an Apple computer was turning out to be a thoroughly underwhelming experience.
Me: "Aren't there supposed to be fireworks, or something? I was just expected, you know, something more. Some sort of initiation rite, perhaps?"