I use a Mac. Forty years ago that meant something completely different but today it defines my relationship with a sleek, silver laptop. It was not one founded on love at first sight such as many of my friends have experienced; rather, it was like an arranged marriage, one in which I was a reluctant suitor. Initially, my Mac sat idle while I refused to abandon my first love, a dull looking Toshiba that I decided was a trusty, more honest workhorse compared with the Mac's preening, design-led persona. But the Toshiba became less trusty and when it suddenly died, I grudgingly turned to the bride I had neglected for almost a year. We would give it a go, the Mac and I. And while I have never experienced, nor I doubt ever will, the soaring passions felt by other Mac users, my conversion is both complete and irreversible.
I began to flex my Mac wings soon after accepting my lot in life by buying a hideously expensive Mighty Mouse. But this, I reasoned was all part of the Mac lifestyle. Mac people didn't just buy any old mouse. That would detract from the overall aesthetic that Steve Jobs has toiled so hard to create and so, if like me you recoil from using a touch pad, there really was no other option. Soon after my Mighty Mouse purchase, and much to my annoyance, Apple launched the sleeker and sexier Magic Mouse. My wife (the real one) had just about calmed down from her reaction to the first purchase ("why can't you just use an ordinary mouse like anyone else?") so an upgrade would have thrown the marital planets out of alignment.
Imagine my joy when, after a year, the scroll ball on the Mighty Mouse jammed. I went to the Mac user forums. This was, by all accounts, a common problem remedied by either blowing or pressing down hard to remove the offending gunk. It worked for a while but on Monday, my mouse, almost as suddenly as my dull old Toshiba (sigh?), gave up the ghost. Half an hour and US$120 (Dh440.78) later I had my Magic Mouse, which the assistant at the Mac shop at the ABC Mall in Achrafieh assured me was compatible with my MacBook OS-X 10.5.8 (remember those numbers). "Just pair it with Bluetooth and you're away," he said calling over his shoulder as he was sucked into a melee of agitated customers.
I headed home experiencing a delayed sense of epiphany. This was the beauty of Macs. None of this formatting nonsense for computer illiterates such as myself. It was all very straightforward. The device would be located, paired and, as the man said, I would be "away". Well that was the idea. My Magic Mouse did pair but only up to a point. It was able to point and click by the delicious scrolling option that defined the Mighty Mouse was absent. There was no scroll ball so maybe the Magic Mouse didn't scroll at all. Had I spent $120 on a mouse that did less than the $20 Genius I used on the Toshiba? Surely a company such as Apple with a market capitalisation of $222 billion wouldn't skimp on research and development and deliver a mouse that did less than its predecessor?
The geeks who inhabit the online forums led me to an answer. The Magic Mouse did scroll. It was by all accounts the mouse to end all mice. The trouble was, to activate the scrolling option I needed ? wait for it ? the OS-X 10.6.1 upgrade. I had a deadline but there was nothing for it except to trudge back to the Mac shop. The previous assistant had gone home but in his place was Mike, an intense young man who appeared up for anything. "Sir, I promise you won't leave this shop till your mouse works."
The upgrade would take an hour so I waited and I watched Mike go about operating as a lone salesman in one of the busiest shops in the mall. It was relentless: there were gaggles of brats who knocked over everything they touched; fathers with sons whose affection they were seeking to buy with an iPad; doe-eyed teenage girls with mothers demanding an iPhone; and a well-defined woman who said she simply couldn't exercise ("you don't understand, I need to swim") without the waterproof "jacket" for her iPod. She had brought it in the previous week and she wanted to know what Mike was going to do about it. He was, if you will excuse the cliche, grace under pressure.
At one point there were at least four groups of customers in the shop of about 14 square metres. This was war and they all wanted a bit of Mike. He served everyone while never losing it and all the time kept an eye on my laptop as it downloaded. "Don't you get tired?" I asked. He shrugged, what could he do? It was his job. The CD downloaded and my Magic Mouse still didn't scroll. I pondered on the downside of Mike's promise as an extended family of Kuwaitis marched into the shop and demanded to know the price of everything. I waited. Mike pulled away and paired another Magic Mouse with my Mac. Still nothing. "It might be a problem with the laptop," he said, before being dragged back into the fray. I felt sick. I wanted to say: "But Mike, you promised."
The Kuwaitis departed, Mike called a service engineer who suggested an upgrade to OSX 10.6.2. "Another hour?" I was getting desperate. "No, no," assured the ever-phlegmatic Mike. "Five minutes." And, guess what? Unlike every other "five minutes" in Lebanon, it was. In six, we were "away". I wanted to hug Mike but instead we just shook hands. "You're welcome, sir." No emotion. All in a day's work. I hope his boss is reading this. I'd hire Mike tomorrow.
Michael Karam is a communication and publishing consultant based in Beirut