The computer toy store

Apple Store
2700 Clarendon Blvd.
Arlington, Va.
Friday, Feb. 6
11 a.m.

I’ve used an Apple computer once in my life. During finals freshman year, facing a full-to-capacity PC lab at Mount Vernon’s Eckles Library, I ran up to the second-floor Mac lab. I fumbled a bit, managed to open Microsoft Word, typed a quickie one-page paper, searched for the print function and accidentally closed the page. Of course I didn’t save it. Who saves a page?

This one scarring incident replayed itself over and over again in my head as I rode the Orange Line to Clarendon, Va., home of the Apple Store, the Mac user’s Holy Grail.

Arriving at the Clarendon Metro, I promptly walked in the wrong direction. I took a lovely spill on a yet-to-be-plowed-frozen-solid-piece-of-week-old snow and ice. I stumbled my way back to the Metro stop, took another route, and there, out of a sea of dark gray office buildings, appeared a colorful suburban paradise, complete with a Barnes and Noble, a Williams-Somona and … the Apple store.

The Apple store is far too cool to have a sign that reads, “Apple Store.” Instead, the sign is simply the famous Apple logo, a light crystal gray color, set against a black wall. The giant storefront windows are designed to look like windows on your desktop – one overlapping the other and all transparent. I felt like even the windows were mocking me. There were obviously more than two programs open on that fake desktop, and it showed no signs of crashing.

Once inside, I realized that the Apple store is the closest thing to the Matrix in the modern world. All of the employees look like they were imported directly from the Pacific Northwest. They wear black Apple T-shirts and speak a whole other language. There were no mundane categories like “customer service desk” or “computers.” The Apple store prefers terms like “genius,” “movies,” “music” and ” etc.” for scanners, printers and cameras. Of course, all of the headings are only written in lowercase letters. Everything in the store echoes Apple’s attitude – fashionable, chic and a level of cool that PC users can only aspire to.

The best part is, you can test-drive pretty much the entire place. The giant 20-inch flat-screen monitor, with a far better picture than my television set, was mine to play the “Finding Nemo” video game. I could open and shut the iMac, just so I could see it “sleep,” to my heart’s content. When the iMac is on and you close the lid, a tiny light alternatively goes dark and then slowly brighter, as if the computer were breathing. And it doesn’t snore.

Only happy people exist in the world of Apple. The first two walls had giant, mural-like, crystal clear pictures of smiling faces, ostensibly Apple owners, frolicking on the beach and through grassy fields. I bet their Macs never froze on them in the middle of a 10-page paper.

Leave it to Apple to make its own products works of art. The entire back wall is plastered with portrait-type black and white photographs of iPods, iMacs, iBooks, headphones, cameras, scanners and CDs. I wish I had used Apple’s photographer for my senior portrait.

The staff was knowledgeable and courteous. They seemed to sense that I was on the verge of an epiphany and left me to my own devices. I highly recommend sitting at the kids’ table, as they have the coolest games by far.

Already crazed with jealousy and making promises to myself that my next computer purchase will be an Apple, the final straw came as I walked out of the store and passed an iPod – the “it” product of 2004.

I quickly found out how easy it is to use. You hook it up to your bright, bubbly Apple computer. You put the iPod in its dock. And – poof! – there’s your music – no CDs, no crashing of your burner program and, if you use iTunes, no threat of litigation.

As I walked back to the Metro, I couldn’t help but throw a longing glance back at the store, in its gleaming greatness. One day, Apple. One day.

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