I went to the mall, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, this weekend, in search of a pair of boots. I didn't find a pair I liked, but I did wander into the Apple outlet store.


Walking through that doorway is like stepping through the screen of an iMac. The walls are white, brilliant white. The shelves are black; the counters grey. Everything -- and I mean everything -- is backlit, so that the store itself seems to float in a sea of white. Everything is spotless, everything is austere and Zen.

David Foster Wallace, in "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" desribed cruise ships as floating mausoleums. In their obsessive sterility, he sees a form of death-denial, an attempt to scrub away all evidence of the physical world from their staterooms. Walking around the Apple store, I knew exactly what he meant.

Mock Steve Jobs all you want for his obsession with design; the man is a genius. Lots of companies built computers or software, but only Apple built a brand. From desktop to casing to store, Apple's every detail fits in with the brand image: cool, clean, smooth, transparent, and glowing unearthly white. Apple has branded immortality.

In the universe according to Apple, nothing ever breaks or gets dirty. You remain unchanged, but the rest of the world just floats away. Stress and danger and all the little things that pull you under can't reach you once you become one with your iMac.

I'm not a religious person, so I'm skeptical of those who offer Paradise. A place without crashes and bugs, where your software always works -- sure I'd like to believe, but I know better.

I hate Microsoft with a passion, and I have plenty of gripes with Unix, but at least I feel alive when I use Windows or bash. Every blue screen reminds me that software, like life, is not always easy or painless; every rm carries a whiff of the great rm -r * that waits for us all.

Computers are crap, but the Apple store offers a world without toilets.