A Visit to the iDoctor
The genius will see you now
By Maria Johnson
I sigh as I pull into the crowded parking lot. Everyone is here because they have reached a critical juncture in their lives.
Somewhere behind these walls, we hope, there is someone with enough wisdom and compassion to guide us through an important passage: the birth of the next generation, the patching of the broken, or the saving of the acutely ill.
That’s right. I’m at an Apple store.
I take a deep breath and check my cute coral iPhone XR one more time. Maybe her symptoms have miraculously disappeared?
No such luck. Her camera screen is dark, and I’ve tried all of the home remedies. I need help.
I pry open the front door, a heavy glass slab that announces I’m entering a cultural institution.
Inside, the air and the environs are undeniably cool.
A muscular iBouncer awaits.
“What can we do for you today,” he says through a mask. It’s not really a question.
I explain the problem and he points me to the next stop, a young woman who’s wearing a bucket hat and wielding a tablet. I wade through the nursery, where they keep the new phones. So bright and unscratched and full of unused storage.
This phone here? Why, it could shoot and edit an Oscar-winning movie.
And this one? It could discover and model the Grand Unified Theory.
I check in with Ms. Bucket Hat, who walks me, tap by tap, through a number of settings.
Her diagnosis: I need an appointment at the hallowed Genius Bar.
How long will it take to get in? Hours? Days? Weeks?
Twenty minutes??!!! I fairly jump for joy. I’m a walk-in, and the docs will see me in 20 minutes!
I prop myself on a stool in the waiting area. Everyone looks nervous. Some of us cradle our loved ones. Can they be restored to what they were? Can we go home today, or will this require an admission?
“Mara?” a voice asks gently.
“My name is Ahmad” — of course it is; Ahmad is a cool name — “and I’m here to be the nurse to your doctor.”
I swear on a stack of iPhone 12 minis that he says these words.
“Can you tell me what the problem is?”
I spill the symptoms again, as one must do in these situations. He gently removes my phone from her OtterBox and runs some diagnostics. The results appear, wirelessly, on his tablet. He furrows his brow.
He tells me to wait for the doctor, who breaks the news that my phone will have to be admitted, though hopefully as an outpatient.
“This is more than a software issue . . .” he says gently. “It’s a hardware problem.”
“But I didn’t even drop her,” I protest. “OK, once. Last week. But she didn’t crack, and she took pictures after that!”
He nodded patiently. He’s heard this all before.
I return later that evening to pick her up.
She looks so thin and vulnerable when they bring her out.
But she powers up immediately. That’s my girl!
They have performed a total camera replacement.
But for some mother-boardin’ reason that Phillip, the discharging doc, attempts to explain, her back camera (the one I use to take pics) will work but the front camera (the one that handles facial recognition and selfies) will never be the same.
Do I want to trade her in?
Hmm. I don’t take many selfies, and I really don’t like the idea of facial recognition anyway.
Thanks, but no thanks.
It’s dark when I throw my weight against the heavy glass door for the last time.
It’s slightly chipped around the edges, I notice.
One day, it’ll be replaced.
But for now, it’s still formidable. And functional. And cool . . . enough. OH
Maria Johnson is a contributing editor of O.Henry. Email her at