Rumination 62: Carelessness

As a lifelong Mac user and general Apple fan, I believe strongly in caring for what are quite expensive, well-designed devices.

As a sign of my commitment to keeping products as close to their original condition as possible, I once took my then seven-year old unibody MacBook for a trackpad repair (where I worked at the time) and was told by the technician that it was the most pristine item that he had ever seen brought into the shop.

Not everyone, however, is as careful as this. I was reminded of just how unusual and careless some computer use can be during my recent flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Across the aisle from me, a young man had a 13-inch MacBook Pro in the pouch of the seat in front of him and was using an iPhone 11 Pro. When he wasn’t sleeping, he watched consecutive instalments of the Fast and Furious franchise on his iPhone. First, this was the unusual part: rather than preload his movie files (from iTunes in the TV app) to watch on the Mac’s larger display, he held the iPhone in his lap, hunching forwards and looking down. It’s odd not to want to use a larger display for movies but fair enough.

Then came the careless part, which made this choice seem stranger: tired of holding the iPhone and straining his neck to look down, he removed his Mac from the pouch, put it on the folding tray table and opened the lid slightly, in order to sandwich the iPhone between the trackpad and the top of the lid. He was using his pricey, current-generation MacBook Pro as an iPhone stand.

Eventually, he became tired of this too, as his iPhone repeatedly slipped out from underneath the display, hitting his Mac’s trackpad with a frustrating crunch. What was the solution? He closed his Mac’s lid and propped up the iPhone against the back of the seat in front of him, probably hoping that the person in front would not recline. Fortunately, they didn’t. Still, his iPhone slipped more than once.

I understand that not every Apple product user is going to be as much of a fan as I am. Damage happens and my own devices aren’t in perfect condition. What baffles me is that people who can afford such products are generally ungrateful for them and treat them poorly. Casting my mind back to when I worked for an authorised Apple reseller, I can recall people who brought in desktop Mac’s with heavily dinted edges, iPods that had been dropped in toilets, iPhones with smashed and missing bezels and laptops full of dog hair. I also remember my wife Natasha mentioning how she once distributed new staff iPads during a meeting, with one staff member deciding to place soy crisps on the her new iPad’s display like a plate, while it sat flat on the table in front of her.

More and more, we see people buying products that they perhaps don’t even need, just to fulfil their own personal desires or aspiration for fashion and status. Not once did this guy turn on his laptop during the entire 14-hour flight. This is the true mark of consumerism: not just lots of unnecessary stuff, but also treating it as disposable.

There are people all over the world who would love to be able to afford such devices. As those who are privileged, being careful with and grateful for what we have is the least that we can do to justify what we buy.