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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bird Lives

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The ghost of Charlie Parker wanders the catacombs beneath DaimlerChrysler Headquarters. He may even be alive (since he's universally recognized as immortal), but he's trapped behind a wall. I tried to locate him the other day when I heard a sax where no sax should be. I have witnesses.

It should have come as no surprise. Band instruments can be heard here with alarming frequency.

whirring fans, big boxes, and mad hookups at the house of blue lights

The following entry contains freakish synchronicity and was, I swear, saved to draft before seeing a commerical featuring Patti Labelle on the prowl for a midnight snack. It was also saved to draft before I heard a store PA the other day with a singer repeating what sounded like "I stubbed my toe" 40 times. Further evidence that the thought police have my number.

The unclever "I'm a Mac" and "I'm a PC" ads conveniently leave one important thing out--you have to be the old, stodgy dude from central accounting to afford the machine touted by the young scruffy dude from central shipping. Mac prices have always been high; today they're flat out insane.

I know this because I've spent the last month of my life chanting the words "No, thanks, I'm fine, really" to a legion of twenty-somethings in blue and red polo shirts. They have names like Chad and Jeremy. I'd add that Chad and Jeremy must have really got around back in the day, but these sideburned wonderkids could qualify as their grandchildren.

The mission? Procure and set up a kickass AAN (apartment area network) incorporating secure wireless, non-sucky(TM) printing, mothership and mobile workstations for me and (mini)me, and generous storage/backup. In short, a snappy rig that wouldn't consume my life. I've met people who name computers as if they were christening children. They fill me with melancholia.

Here at BestOfficeMartMaxClub, there is always a stereo with subsonic bass working steadily on my last nerve. Somewhere in a forgotten corner, behind a hidden rotating wall, maybe behind the hollywood facade masquerading as a refrigerator section, there is a discoteque where they relax on settees and marvel at the zombified masses from behind a one way mirror. "Hey, get a load of the rube in aisle 6 with a fistful of Fergie CDs."

Or maybe not. Usually it's just a boombox or five cranked way too loud. I've fallen into the habit of walking the entire portable audio aisle and turning them all off. Mostly it's the help shooting me the wounded looks. Screw it. I am customer, hear me...not roar.

Sometimes, I'm not so lucky and the bombast is hard wired to an overhead PA. In this case, it is without fail the programming product of some Arbitron refugee who wound up at chain store HQ with orders to take the sub out of suburban. Imagine a four-second loop of Patti Labelle stubbing her toe en route to a midnight snack. Now imagine it being played for 7:39. Come back, Perry Como, all is forgiven.

There is also a trend that involves providing giant plastic SUVs used to maneuver quiet, well-mannered children down various aisles filled with fragile, high-dollar electronic equipment. Actually, this doesn't bug me nearly as much as the people pushing empty carts down cramped aisles for no apparent reason. Other than to maybe lean on something, and occasionally raise their glasses to eye level by flexing their noses.

Chad and Jeremy, or their possible grandsons, were tired of my act by day 2 of this project. I can't blame them. What I want in a computer, or anything really, can't be put into English. Specs and branding don't even begin to approximate it. It's the seven pillars of unreason. You know yours when you see it. It's like opening the dryer and knowing within 1 second that the sock making its escape doesn't belong to you. You could witness a murder 10 feet away and not pick the culprit out of a lineup. Line up ten identical white socks, and you can pick yours out blindfolded.

They simply knew, somehow, not to whip out the car engine analogies on me. The ones they used on poor nightshift nurses from Howell and their compliant, clueless husbands. "Ya see your Sempron, that's like your 4 cylinder Ford, and the Core 2 Duo, you know that's a Ferrari. So, like, I picture you in at least a six cylinder." A thousand times I heard how their lack of a commission kept them neutral and unbiased. They didst protest too much.

Hang around one of these places long enough, and you can watch 3-4 salespeople break into a kind of vaudeville routine of inside jokes, pop culture yip-yap, and general slapstickery. They'll form up for an audience of one. One outsider makes the inside joke that much more...insidery. Humor them, I say! Computer inventory tracking or not, these people HORDE THE SALE MACHINES and dole them out to whomever they see fit. These things are like bottles of Moet in Moscow circa 1952.

I also found that display machines are mostly a mess. It simply didn't dawn on me until well into the bake-off that they are subject to only slightly less button mashing than an Xbox 360 display.

What boxes did I wind up with? I can't tell you what they are, but there are two initials involved. I had a blast digging in and configuring all the electrowidgets. It all works, it's all bright and snappy, and my place now has more blue lights than an overstocked K-Mart. TTFN, iMac....