Thursday, December 12, 2013

Slices of Life

The young brunette behind the Apple store counter swiped my credit card and smiled. “Is this your first Mac?” she asked.
I started to tell her – but suppressed the words because they would make me sound like one of THOSE old people– that I’ve been using an Apple keyboard since about 10 years before she was born. Basically my entire adult life.
Slice 1: 1984. One small black and white Mac sat on a desk in an airless newsroom at the University of Arkansas. A hippie in the personal computer world. It was really just a fancy typewriter – a quicker but not always more convenient way to string together words. I still carried a reporter’s lined notebook and a couple of pens.
The newspaper adviser wore baggy khakis, one of his three velour pullovers and worn brown loafers. He was really old – probably at least 50. His graying blonde hair was rumpled and too long in the front, often falling across his eyebrows. There was always something either caught in –  or hanging from – his thick moustache. He kept a black flask in the bottom right drawer of his metal desk. Journalism students hung out in his office or upstairs in Hill Hall, swapping stories about university administrators and student senators. 
Slice 2: 1986. I met a copy editor in an Oklahoma newsroom. He was bearded, overweight, grumpy. A temper tantrum from this man could mean that a trash can got thrown across the newsroom or books were swept violently off of a desk. Some things got kicked too.
When he met me, a 22-year-old reporter anxious to show off my knowledge of leads and paraphrased quotes, he looked over his glasses and let out a grunt-sigh.
“Have you ever used a Mac?” he asked sullenly.
We spent many Saturday nights discussing trains and classic cars, eating cheeseburgers and listening to the police scanner.
From him, I learned how to send clandestine “intranet” messages to co-workers and how to do everything – well, that was possible at that time – on a Mac.
Newspapering was still a dirty job, and I would leave the office with X-Acto knife finger cuts and smelling of wax, ink and smoke, sometimes at 5 p.m., sometimes at 2 a.m.
Slice 3: 1990. I worked in a sterile, bare office run by a tall, gray-haired physician who wore a dark suit every day and could afford to publish anything he wanted in a full-color monthly magazine. He was punctilious about the time sheet. I always finished my work in about two weeks, so there was plenty of time to write poetry and drink Dr Pepper. 
Once, the doc surprised our four-person staff with a field trip to Braum’s. “Order any kind you want,” he said, waving his arm toward the ice cream bar. I was thinking chocolate almond and butter pecan but hesitated, since the double dip cones weren’t the $1.99 special. He ordered first and asked for a small scoop of vanilla. In a cup.
I used to sneak into the art director’s office to see the only Mac and, of course, to play with the fountain pens. The latter proved hazardous and resulted in a tetanus shot.
Slice 4: 1991. A one-bedroom apartment near the campus in Stillwater. The first Mac I ever owned – a little Classic that weighed 16 pounds and came equipped with four megabytes of memory, a floppy disk drive and a year of $100 monthly payments. The handy carrying case was a bonus!
Two years working toward a doctorate meant lots of time studying in the library, talking about professors over Hideaway pizza and eating in the car.
As a graduate assistant, I took the class none of the professors wanted – teaching undergraduates in the news writing labs. My adviser said I got the job because nobody in the department knew how to use the new Macs.
Slice 5: 1993.  A classroom that looked more like a storage room – crammed with Mac Classics and tucked in among the offices and the real classrooms on the second floor of the building.
I spent most of my time trying to keep all the computers running at the same time while figuring out how to teach PageMaker to 20 students who were sitting thigh-to-thigh. 
Nobody at the new instructors’ orientation meetings warned us about the real hazards of teaching. So, when two female students started pushing and slapping each other in my classroom, I ran out of the room. 
Soon after that, I changed my policy to allow students to pick their own group members.
Slice 6: 2013. An almond milk latté and my new MacBook Pro. I’m sitting in a bright, bustling coffee place. Sunshine streaming through the windows. My ears fill with conversations, music (CCR’s greatest hits), the clinking of forks against glass plates.
A young couple is meeting with a wedding planner, discussing candles, flowers, colors, whether to hand out rice bags or bubble bottles, dresses, location, music, finger food, decorations. (Whew!) A group of college students is assembling a presentation, looking intently at a shared laptop screen. (Should I offer advice?) Four moms, strollers parked, are laughing over Diet Cokes and a plate of blueberry muffins. (Sigh.)
The gray-haired man at the table next to mine looks frustrated. He’s using a new MacBook Air.
“What do you do when everything freezes?” he asks.
(Just so you know, command/option/escape will resolve many issues you may encounter when using a Mac. Well, the technical issues anyway.)
“You can escape,” I reply. “But I prefer to restart.”
Slice 7?

*Apple and Macintosh (Mac) are registered trademarks of Apple Inc.
*Braum's is a registered trademark of Braum's Inc.
*Hideaway is a registered trademark of Hideaway Pizza -2 Inc.
All are awesome.