I love my iPod Shuffle.
It’s not one of the teeny new metallic ones that seemingly have no controls on them; it’s not even one of the ones before that, or before that. It’s first-generation. You know – the white plastic ones that came with their own Handy Neck Lanyard.
The Shuffle was a pretty revolutionary concept for its time; at least in my very-late-adopter’s mind it was. It was the perfect accessory for the gym; much more convenient than the bulky CD Walkman I had been hauling around in a hip sack up until that point. With the Sleek New iPod Shuffle proudly displayed around my neck, I imagined myself to be cool as I listened to the same 50 songs being randomized over and over again. You could even use it as a USB key!
Despite reports of the eventual demise of the FGIS (First-generation iPod Shuffle) of almost every other owner I knew, mine was a true workhorse. Through years of use and abuse and days of being bullied into service in all kinds of nasty weather and sweaty conditions, it never so much as threw a single hissy-fit on me. Why upgrade to a newer, fancier one, when this one served me perfectly well?
That was, until a few weeks ago.
One day as I was gearing up to go for a nice long run, I pressed the “play” button on my FGIS and....nothing. After all these years of trusty performance and reliability it had quietly decided to launch a first, final and fatal protest. I was devastated.
FGIS forced me to make my first-ever visit to the Apple Store in downtown Montreal. As I glided through the giant glass doors and past the security guard I was immediately surrounded by buzzing hives of high-tech activity on all sides, while beads of We’re-Way-Cooler-Than-You’ll-Ever-Be dripped down onto me from the steel beams high above. Self-consciously I pushed the FGIS deep down into my pocket and tucked away my suddenly-very-antique-feeling Blackberry smartphone (though it was but a week old).
Eventually, of course, I bit the bullet and displayed the source of my anguish. FGIS had fallen ill, and was there anything to be done? The rumply teenaged salesperson stood agape, staring at FGIS. “Thatisthecoolest. Shuffledesign. Ever.” He’d never seen one of the antique ones before and was magnetically drawn to its retro style. I puffed a little with pride.
I was spirited upstairs to meet with a Genuis (an under-twenty Genuis! Right here in front of me!) who, after a quick and efficient diagnosis, reported that FGIS was indeed dead and nothing could be done to revive it. He was very smart.
It was time for a new Shuffle. I trudged back downstairs, stumbling over one of the gigantic acrylic-slab steps on the way. Cool.
As I perused the rainbow selection of New and Improved Teenytiny Shuffles, I felt deflated. I liked my big old plastic retro Shuffle (and so did at least one other person in Apple Mecca). The controls were right there on the Shuffle where I could see them (and not on the cord of the earphones, like the new ones? Puzzlement?) True, it didn’t have so much memory; but to date I’d never once run far or long enough to make it through all the songs it held. Did I need more?
Suddenly I was Charlie Brown at the Christmas tree lot. Sure, the new Shuffles made sense. Smaller size; more memory. Updated design. Cheap. So why did buying one feel like a sell-out?
Rumply sensed my hesitation and approached me to let me in on a secret. “You know,” he whispered, “There is one other option: Apple keeps a supply of the original Shuffle in stock for situations just like this. I could order you one. It will cost you the same as the new one that has twice the memory, though.”
A few days later another Genius called me (I think they just like me) to let me know that my clunky new-old Shuffle had arrived in-store. Back down at Cool Central, a cashier with tattoos and designer eyewear informed me that he had to ask me something before he could hand over my purchase: Why would I buy this old Shuffle when for the same money, I could have the new-and-improved model? I reminded him that the real question is this: Why is Apple charging the same money for an older, inferior product as they are for a new, superior one? He didn’t ask me anything else after that.
I left the store with my overpriced, unwarrantied, unboxed, plain old-new FGIS. And I was happy.
Marching to the beat of your own drum takes moxie. You won’t always feel cool. You’ll most likely feel insecure at times; left behind and a tad out-of-step with what’s going on in the more mainstream sectors of society. You will question your choices and decisions and so will others. Your friends may not understand what that jig is you’re doing and in fact may even move on from you, embarrassed by your funky moves and bewildered by your unorthodox life choices.
If I may give you a piece of advice: Stick to it, warrior. Always go with your gut. It’s never wrong. Keep on marching, even if that kooky drum beat is being piped into your ears via the big foamy headphones of a Sony Walkman.
The only one who truly has to “get it” is you; and while some days it will feel like it takes balls of steel just to put one foot in front of the other on this precarious path of unknowns, keep calm and carry on. Have faith and know that the road you’re shuffling down is full of awesome treasures the likes of which the world has never seen.
You’re a genius.
"What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe