July 14, 2011

But he lied to me. Best Buy has precisely the same MacBook for ninety dollars less. I hold their store card, too, which gets me a zero-percent financing deal. I decide to buy my daughter a MacBook from Best Buy. The decision is silent, though. I need a sign-off from the Mrs. on large purchases. I want my daughter to know that spending $1,710 is a matter of some moment to me, and I still nurse faint traces of resentment at having been talked into getting her a foppish, frivolous-elite Mac instead of an honest working citizen’s Intel.

The lass is going to college in September. Our household falls into the unhappy zone of being too well-off to qualify for financial aid yet not prosperous enough to pay private-college fees. My daughter falls into a different but equally frustrating zone: bright enough for acceptance yet not bright enough for scholarships or waived fees. Since she has no particular notion of a career, we have forbidden her to sink herself in student-loan debt.

Appropriate compromises were made. She will be attending an excellent state college. It’s right for her and it’s right for us; we are doing our best, and it would be absurd to feel any guilt at not having done better. The urge is strong nonetheless to sweeten the compromises with a favor or two, and she wanted a Mac. So dad let himself be talked into getting Princess a Mac, even though dad, from class-addled England, thinks Macs are effete (“gay,” I would say if I were my son’s age), while mom, from pre-boom China, thinks college students should go ragged and hungry to class and spend vacations out in the fields learning from the poor and lower-middle peasants.

Far, far back, when I had for some years been making a living programming mainframe computers, someone paid me to write some code for an Apple IIGS. I had already mastered MASM, the low-level coding language for early Intel PCs, so I purchased the Apple equivalent—Merlin, it was called—and set to work. I got the job done at last, but it was like breaking rocks. Merlin was nowhere near as intuitive and subtle as the Intel chip code. (SCASB! XLAT! ASSUME! Those who understand, will understand.) I tell you this only to fend off accusations that my Apple-o-phobia is mere blind prejudice. Not so: I have grappled with the beast “down to the metal,” as we used to say. Trust me: Apple Inc. is a limb of Satan.

Talking alone with my son later, he tells me knowledgeable people prefer Macs, even with the extra expense, because they don’t get viruses. Is that so? Then it’s time someone cooked up a Mac virus just to teach all those soft-handed private-school toffs what life is like for the working man in this gritty fallen world. Wonder if I still have that copy of Merlin….



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