Tonight I took my computer to dinner. I don’t mean to say that I brought a small laptop on which to get some pressing work done, or even to entertain myself while I dined alone. I mean that I brought an iMac desktop computer in all of its 21.5″ (diagonal) splendor, housed in its 2-foot-long, almost 2-foot-tall carrying case.
I can assure you that I did not do this for the fun of it. Upon arriving at the mall, I had been struck with a sudden pang of intense hunger, my body’s subtle way of reminding me I hadn’t eaten in a few hours. My low blood sugar and fast metabolism have been known take me from zero to ravenous without a moment’s warning. This time, my hunger hit at a very inopportune moment; I had a slim, black and silver rectangle of joy waiting for me at the Apple Store and an irrational fear that it was about to be handed off to someone else if I didn’t get there immediately. This was silly considering I’d custom ordered it, but after impatiently pacing through my last few hours of work and then flying my car through three cities to get to the mall, there was no way I was going to let a minor thing like starvation stand in my way.
I speed-walked past Islands, sucking up my drool, and turned into the Apple Store, where I was told to stand to the side and wait for the next available representative. Five minutes in, I began to see burgers where people’s heads should be. Fifteen minutes later, new computer in hand, I burst through the doors of Islands. I was slightly put off by the masses of people swarming around the restaurant. No problem, I’d get something to-go. I relayed this to the hostess, who smiled sweetly and directed me to the far end of the bar to the sign that said take-out. I nodded, picked up my twenty pound weight and turned to look for the sign. I spotted it easily, right at the end of the bar as she had said it would be. The only problem was getting through the crowd of people in between. Every bar seat was taken, as was every chair at every surrounding table, and a person everywhere an empty space should be. After a half a second of hesitation, I dove in, narrowly avoiding shins and chair legs and elbows.
I got to an impassable point where the walkway had disappeared beneath the feet of half a dozen thirty-something blonde women well on their way to drunk and disorderly, who had spilled out from a bar table and were shrieking in glee for no reason I could discern. Hoisting the computer up in front of me to rest on my thighs in an attempt go single file, I began a long series of excuse me’s that nobody seemed to hear over the music and their own shrill voices. The few people that saw me coming tried unsuccessfully to squeeze themselves against tables and each other to get out of my way, looking down at the giant white computer box and then glaring at me like I was insane. Hey, I wanted to say, I’m not judging you for partying at a mall Islands on a Thursday, so stop judging me. And you’re lucky I didn’t buy the 27″.
I got jostled and pushed and squeezed through to an open space, which I tripped into, the computer swinging out in front of me and slamming into a man’s calf. He was standing up against the bar talking to another man, and upon impact, he turned and looked at me in surprise, clearly not having seen the assault coming.
“Sorry, sorry!” I said, trying to get my baggage and my limbs back under control. The man’s friend asked him what was wrong and he said something that sounded like “just swinging that massive computer around and hitting people.” I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but I kept my eyes on the computer as I hastily moved on, throwing another sorry over my shoulder for good measure. I finally reached the takeout counter and placed my order in a hurry; my stomach seemed to have been quelled on the journey over but now seemed on the verge of eating itself.
“Should I just wait here?” I asked the waitress as I handed her the money.
“It’ll be about fifteen minutes, you can wait over at the bar,” she said, clearly not having witnessed my tumultuous entrance.
“Well, I kind of have a giant computer with me, so I don’t really think you want me at the bar.”
“Oh,” she said, confused. I guess she hadn’t been expecting that response. She leaned over the counter and looked down to where the huge white case was resting between the counter and my legs. “OH,” she said again, as if she hadn’t actually believed me before. “Well, I-uh, I’ll get you a table,” she said, turning around and disappearing, presumably to find me and my unusual dinner guest somewhere to sit.
I was putting my change back into my wallet when a man in a suit came up to me and said, “thank you very much,” reaching down to put his hand on the top of the case. I thought for a moment that he must work at Apple and was thanking me for my business, until he wrapped his hand around the handle and picked the whole thing up, extending his hand out to shake mine. “It was nice to meet you!” he said. Beginning to process what was happening, I reached out and shook his hand, playing along with his joke, thinking that obviously no one would try to steal something like this with so many witnesses around. But when he actually started to turn away with it I lunged forward to grab it back, suddenly unsure if this was in fact a joke. He turned back with a smug I-got-you! grin and placed the computer back down where it was, laughing at my startled expression. Before I could say a word, he turned and disappeared into the crowd. The waitress appeared again and directed me to a table. I followed in a daze, hugging my computer as close to my body as possible. I didn’t ask for all this strangeness; all I wanted was to get my burger and go eat somewhere in peace.
I grunted as I lifted the computer up onto one side of the booth and then settled myself onto the other, taking up half as much room as it did. People seated at the tables around me kept shooting me curious glances, no doubt wondering what a giant computer was doing sitting on a booth seat. I paid them no mind, sipping the complimentary strawberry lemonade the waitress had given me and taking pictures of my dinner date. I figured since people were staring anyway, I might as well go all out and stand up to get the picture from different angles. I looked back at the staring eyes, saying yes, I am photographing a computer that is sitting on the booth seat with some lemonade in front of it. So what?
The food finally came and I took it in one hand and the computer in the other and hobbled lopsidedly down the wide aisle lined with booths (filled with staring people) that lead to the entrance. It occurred to me that I could have gone this way to get to the takeout counter in the first place, but that was of little importance now.
I made it out of the mall and through the parking lot, hauling the computer into my trunk and getting in the front seat. I wanted to eat right then and there but a circling parking-spot vulture had followed me to my car and was waiting for me to back out. So I did, and crossed over into the empty Wells Fargo lot, making a mental note never to come back to the mall on a Thursday evening. I parked in the farthest spot and cut the engine, getting out my burger and inhaling it in under three minutes, reveling in the silence and solitude. I instagrammed one of the pictures I had taken of the computer in the booth drinking lemonade, and then pulled out of the parking lot and made my way home, looking forward to giving my computer a permanent home on my desk top and never having to dine with it again.