writer’s block

We recently purchased five iPads for use in the library, which I’m quite proud of because I don’t honestly think it would have happened without my pushing for it and figuring out how we can circulate them to patrons. Probably because of this, it’s fallen to me to set these iPads up, train our staff on them, and prepare them for circulation.(1)

For a while I’ve been convinced that part of the reason for the wild popularity of Apple’s devices is because they’re so pretty, and it was easy, in the midst of all the soft angles and curves and lovely screens, to believe that I’m right on that one. Of course, I knew I was going to have to mar these Zen surfaces with barcodes. I was caught between wanting someone else to do it so I wouldn’t have to be the one to incur the Wrath of Jobs and wanting not to leave it up to philistines.

But when my boss asked me to write the name of our library on the backs of the iPads with indelible ink…I thought about just quitting right there. I tried to reason with her, that it wasn’t precisely necessary especially since we have Find my iPad activated on each of them. But it was a losing battle, and I knew it.

She also wanted to write on the front of the iPad, in one of the corners, on the glass but off the screen. I felt the big one coming on. I really did. People everywhere go on about the iPhone’s retina display, but personally I find the iPad’s screen much nicer to look at. So sullying that surface was so unimaginable to me that I deployed a strategy of bamboozlement. I tossed out the assertion that it wouldn’t work – the even indelible ink wouldn’t stay – and used worlds like oleophobic coating and ionic bonds and cations and electron exchange to support my claim. Which of course I have no idea if it was true or not. I finished up with that most flagrant – yet effective – of logical conclusion: “This isn’t regular glass. This is Gorilla Glass.

Lame as that was, it worked. Whew.

But it still meant I had to write on the back of the iPad. I practiced on scrap paper with the verve of  a jr. high girl with a wicked crush. I tried every variation I could imagine, letter-spacing, font-size, arrangement, until I settled upon what I thought would look best. I reminded myself of my tendency to over-embellish(2) and cautioned myself against it. Then I took a deep breath…

And put pen to iPad.

Or, really, more like right above iPad.

And I sat there like that so long I had to take a picture of how ridiculous I was being about this.

I just couldn’t do it. There has been less hesitation with really poor, life-affecting decisions than the arrest I was experiencing here. One time a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to try a rope to his back bumper and ski behind him as he drove down the icy streets in the (obviously) small town in which I grew up. That happened  – including locating and tying the rope – in less time than this was taking.

I would think: ok…go! And nothing would happen. It was the inverse of so many cinematic comedic moments: rather than my hand doing things I don’t want it to do, it wasn’t doing something I was telling it to do.

And here I am again, honestly five minutes later…

I tried reminding myself that it’s just a device that it’s not alive that an object simply can’t possess beauty on this level. Because this was the same hesitation I experienced literally every time ever I’ve wanted to ask a girl out. I reminded myself that this is not the face that launched a thousand ships.

It wasn’t working.

So eventually I just closed my eyes and made a small dot on the back. The surface already marred by my hand, my only choice was to make the graffiti look as nice as possible. And I did. Slowly. And I thought, if nothing else, it’s at least a reminder that I did this: that I brought iPads to my people. Maybe it’s not quite on par with rescuing Jews from Egyptian slavery, but getting a state-funded university to pony up cash for this type of unnecessary purchase is at least as difficult as parting the Red Sea. And, unlike Moses, I didn’t have God on my side. Though maybe Jobs was.

  1.  The iPads, not the staff.
  2. Yes, I even over-embellish when it comes to penmanship. It’s a way of life, yo.
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