Tag Archives: teenager

Graduation and Last-Minute Parenting Panic


*This is a post I wrote two years ago when my oldest son graduated from high school. My middle child graduates in a few weeks. I’m re-posting for all the mamas I’ve loved and commiserated with over the years!

I’m out of time. My son leaves for college soon. He thinks he’s ready, but I find myself lying in bed at 3 AM, staring at the clock on my bedside table, worrying about all the things I have forgotten to tell him, teach him, explain to him, or warn him about. Recently, I’ve jumped out of bed in the middle of the night and flown down the stairs to impart words of wisdom that simply cannot wait until dawn.

“Sweetie? Are you awake?” I ask, after tiptoeing into my son’s bedroom like a jewelry thief, looming over the side of the bed like a stalker fan, and poking him sharply in the side until he acknowledges my presence.

“Barely. What do you want this time, Mom?” he asks in a resigned voice, peeling back one eyelid, and staring at me bleary-eyed with fatigue.

“Promise me you will not accept any credit card offers, okay? Credit card companies prey on college kids. You could rack up thousands of dollars of debt!” I explain in an urgent tone of voice, gesticulating wildly with my hands to punctuate every word, increasing my volume and becoming more worked up with each second.

“Um. Okay, mom. I’ve got your card for emergencies, so we’re good,” he reassures me, rolling over so I have to move to the other side of the bed to maintain eye contact.

“You could end up with a bad credit score! You wouldn’t be able to buy your own home one day!” I warn, not fully convinced I have his undivided attention.

“Mom, could we worry about buying my first home later? I have a history test in four hours for HIGH SCHOOL. Okay?”

“Sure, sure! Go back to sleep, honey. I just thought since you were awake, we could talk,” I respond, a tad defensively.

A few minutes tick by. I remain frozen by my son’s bed, unable to move, my hands hovering over his body, which is now twice the size of my own, praying silently a sort of desperate litany to God, fate, Mother Nature, the lottery, and anything and anyone else who might listen.

“Are you going to stand there much longer, Mom?” my son asks in a dry voice, without opening his eyes, “’Cause I have to say it:  you’re kind of creeping me out.”

“Nope! On my way upstairs right now!” I reply, a trifle huffily.

“Good deal. See you in the morning, Mom.”

“’Nightloveyousomuch, son.”

“Loveyoutoo,” he mumbles in return.

Lately, every time we’re alone in an enclosed space—the kitchen, an elevator, the car–for more than five minutes, I find myself talking to my child in rapid-fire, staccato syntax as if I’m a drill sergeant, and I’ve been forced to send him to the front lines for hand-to-hand combat. I can’t seem to stop preaching mini-sermons, making dire predictions, or offering dangerous hypothetical scenarios for him to figure out while he’s still geographically close to me so we can talk through the options.

Like the sergeant, I feel it’s my job to keep this boy safe. I know how many dangers and temptations lurk just around the corner for him. Like all eighteen-year-olds, he is oblivious and thinks he is immortal. He’s poised on the starting block, grinning from ear-to-ear, out of his mind with excitement.

My heart races when I think of setting my child free, unchaperoned and curfew-less into the world. I feel like I’m throwing him off a pier into the deep end of the ocean with only his iPhone, a debit card, a high school diploma, and some monogrammed towels to help him on his way.

He’s bound to hit some white water. Everybody does. There are going to be treacherous currents, vicious undertow, barges that appear out of nowhere, hurricanes, whirlpools, sharks, and other predators. And that’s just the college years!

I’m worried about all the pitfalls I haven’t pointed out: pyramid schemes, cheating spouses, door-to-door solicitors, the importance of separating the whites and darks when he does laundry, and remembering to text his younger sister, the sibling who dreads being on the receiving end of my undivided attention.

I’ve covered everything I can think of: good grades, safe sex, binge drinking, illegal drugs, texting and driving, and the importance of choosing friends wisely. He’s going to make some whopping mistakes. I know that. I just don’t want them to be split-second decisions that result in eighteen years of child support payments or an interstate pile-up.

He’s heard it all before. He knows the lectures by heart, and he can repeat them with me in a singsong voice. Wear your seatbelt. Mind your manners. Take your vitamins. Don’t text and drive. Go to class. Do your homework. Write thank-you notes. Call your grandparents. Be a gentleman.

“I know, Mom, You’ve told me a thousand times already,” he says every time I open my mouth.

“Yeah,” I nod, fighting off a panic attack.

Is it enough? Does he hear my voice in his head? Will it cause him to pause, think twice, and reconsider before bungee jumping off a bridge on a college dare or eloping with the first girl he falls in love with?When my teenagers were babies, they were more afraid of me than God Almighty. That was a good thing. Back then, that was enough.

“You have to quit trying to cram everything into my head, Mom!” he begged me this week. “I’m going to college, not outer space. You’re going to see me again. I don’t have any money of my own.”

True. That’s one of my jobs as the mother of teenagers: I am a slightly overweight, farsighted, menopausal ATM machine. I am also a: short order cook, chauffeur, laundress, coach, nurse, tutor, psychiatrist, spiritual advisor, and social secretary. Parenting teenagers requires flexibility. You have to be able to clean up vomit, talk about condoms, cough up a small fortune in acne products, and love unconditionally and with fierce, illogical abandon. It also helps if you have a smart mouth and a sharp pen, in my experience. I have both in spades.


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The Appliance Body Count


Have you ever had a week where every appliance in your house breaks down, gets struck by lightning, or just seems to inexplicably and suddenly become contrary?

I’m having one of those weeks. The appliance bodies are piling up for the landfill. It’s like there’s something viral being passed along the electrical circuits in my house, just waiting to fry every appliance we own. Now that I think about it, I don’t ever remember a time when only ONE appliance died. It’s ALWAYS more than one, as if something as contagious as the plague is lurking in our vents just looking for a way to cause trouble and force me to write big checks. This time, so many appliances have died that it feels like Monopoly money I’m doling out.

To start the week, an obnoxious, ill-mannered man creamed one of our cars, while it was parked in the Target parking lot. I was shopping and didn’t discover the damage until I came out to find an off-duty cop leaning against my car with his arms crossed, clearly determined to prevent Mr. Bad Manners from scampering away. God bless that cop.

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of my middle child screaming, “It’s raining over my bed AGAIN, Mom!” as if this was somehow my fault and something I had chosen to happen as a way to screw with his day. Just for the record, we re-roofed two years ago. This shouldn’t be possible. We’re aware there’s a leak. We’ve called the man. He’ll come when he can. In the meantime, I scrambled to find my gumbo pot to position it in the best spot to catch the deluge. Classy.

Next, I jumped into my husband’s car because it was parked behind mine (We live in an old house. No garage. The driveway was built for one small motorcar at the turn of the century—not a 14-year-old Suburban and three other old cars) and backed down our steep driveway to take my daughter to school for an early-morning practice. That’s when a bucket of water rained down on her from the leaky sunroof. She got soaked. This ruined her carefully straightened hair. She would have preferred to face the day with a broken leg. She was not a happy camper, and she was vocal about it.

“Why is everything we own so old and broken?” she demanded.

“Easy answer, sweetie: Three kids, college, sports, cheerleading, show choir, summer camp, braces, 4 cars, groceries, insurance, medical bills . . . but what it comes down to is—choices. We’ve made choices about our family budget. We’re trying to be good stewards of limited recourses,” I said.

I have to admit it: I feel her pain. I’m sick of the old cars, too. The turn signal in my old Suburban has been making that annoying blinking sound off-and-on for seven years. The locks don’t work. Before I climb in after shopping, I check to make sure no one is hiding in the car. No kidding. Everything we own is a little bit special. It’s tiresome.

“Well, I think we need new cars,” she retorted.

“Me, too,” I responded.

After dropping her off, I came home and opened my freezer to dig out a roast for dinner. That’s when I discovered it wasn’t working. Thus began a massive freezer clean out in order to salvage as much as possible. I began frantically cooking what I could and packing the rest into coolers. By 6:30 am, I had baked a ham, a roast, and made homemade Chex mix. I marinated chicken breasts; I defrosted an assortment of sweet rolls and breads on the counter, and I briefly considered throwing a pizza party for the neighborhood kids for dinner to get rid of a stack of soggy pizzas. I can’t bear waste.

I shoved the melting ice cream into blenders, made milk shakes, and thrust them into the hands of my teenager and his friends as they headed to school. Honestly, my son looked fairly pleased with how the freezer demise worked out for him.

My kitchen looked like we were packing for a hurricane evacuation. It wasn’t even 7 am, and I was already tired and teary.

Since I was already filthy from mopping up the car and cleaning out the freezer, I decided to hit the treadmill. After the first mile, I heard, over the “Hallelujah Chorus” blaring in my ear buds as a little pick-me-up, the unmistakable crunching sounds of the treadmill shredding important metal parts. Then I smelled the burning motor. Pulling the emergency stop cord, I abandoned that sucker like it was a sign from God not to exercise.

Going along with my I’m-already-dirty theme, I decided to mow the small patch of yard we have in back. I’m not a yard work kind of gal, as I talk about in my books, so this was a sign of how desperate I was for distraction.

You know what happened, right? Yep. Broken lawnmower. I left it parked next to the grill that broke last month.

I wondered, briefly, if I would be considered an alcoholic if I poured a mimosa just for myself before 10 am. Fearing that I would drink the entire bottle of champagne if I opened it to make one drink—to avoid waste—it was a tough call. Then I pulled up a bar stool and dialed my husband’s cell phone. I felt the need to spread the joy around.

“Do want the good news or the bad news?” I asked him.

“Good. Definitely the good,” he answered quickly, recognizing my tone and proceeding with caution, “Have you been drinking?”

“Yes, I have. Don’t worry about it. Good news is: You won’t have to mow the lawn for a while,” I said, taking a big swig of mimosa and laughing hysterically.

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Mother’s Day Ambivalence

If you go to any big high school basketball game in the country and see a heavily recruited shooter miss a three-pointer with an air ball, you’ll likely hear this spontaneous cheer break out in the stands: “O-ver-rate-d, clap, clap, clap clap clap.” It’s a smart-mouth slam from the student section, and it continues until the next good play or until another player makes an even more egregious mistake.

That’s my first reaction when I think of Mother’s Day: it’s overrated. This response may surprise some people in my life, primarily my three teenagers who believe that my world revolves around them. They’re fairly typical examples of their demographic, I’ve found.

The second thought that flashes across my brain’s ticker tape when I see that Mother’s Day is about to roll around again is that it’s a made-up holiday. I don’t know why I find this offensive, really, since every legally recognized holiday has to start somewhere. This one was dedicated in 1914, thanks to the efforts of activist Julia Ward Howe. Ms. Howe championed quite a few worthwhile causes; jotting down “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is an impressive legacy even if she never lifted another philanthropic finger for the rest of her life, in my view.

I love that Julia Howe was particular about the holiday’s apostrophe. She wanted to honor each mother within her own home. That accounts for the singular possessive spelling. I like that. She never intended the holiday to be a big “We Are The World” mother solidarity statement. She was aiming for a much more humble homage to ordinary women like me who clean up vomit when our kids are sick, nag them to do their homework, and wait up until curfew time to make sure they arrive home in one piece—in body, soul, and mind.

It didn’t take long for the seeds of commerce to sprout. Mother’s Day became a red-letter day for greeting card sales and potted plant deliveries, a day followed a month or so later by Father’s Day which, somehow, isn’t nearly as big of a deal. For many mothers, Mother’s Day means breakfast in bed inexpertly prepared by her children or Sunday lunch with extended family members. There are gifts involved, too. They often feature children’s handprints and badly written poems containing odd, mother-inspired hyperboles like, “Mama, I love you more than chicken fingers.”

Mother’s Day prompts phone calls home from grown-up children, emails, texts, and a heartsick longing for mothers who no longer walk the earth. In Alabama where I live, there was a television commercial for South Central Bell years ago that starred Crimson Tide football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. In it, he asks customers, “Have you called your mama today? I wish I could call mine.” She was long gone, of course. No one who saw it ever forgot it.

Raising children is the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. I liken it to work in the local rock quarry. There isn’t much glory in it either. There are no paychecks, health benefits, or retirement accounts. In fact, from the moment the hospital shoves that swaddled bundle of joy into your arms and nudges you out the front door, you are virtually guaranteed a life of sleepless nights, college-fund worries, and at least eighteen years of working as a short order cook, chauffeur, fashion consultant, tutor, spiritual advisor, coach, nurse, financier, and, occasionally, a prison warden.

It happens.

It’s hard to grow people from the lima beans you can barely see on the sonograms in your obstetrician’s office into responsible, kind, tax-paying adults who can take care of themselves and those less fortunate than they are. Sometimes, I feel like the whole world is working against me. Motherhood requires vast reserves of patience and unselfishness. The potential rewards are great, but children are such a long-term investment that it’s hard to keep the finish line in sight when you’re lost in a round of parent conferences, cheerleader tryouts, broken hearts, and losing sports seasons.

Every once in a while, though, something happens that makes my job seem worth the heartache and the penny pinching. One afternoon, one of my kid’s friends said these words to me: “I wish I lived at your house.” He meant it. I could tell. Another time, one of my teenagers made a good choice in a downright dangerous situation, not because it was the right thing to do, but because he was afraid of me, his mean mama. Clearly identifiable moments like those don’t happen often, but when they do, I fall into bed that night knowing I made a difference in the world, a small difference, to be sure, but a difference, just the same.

Moms matter. They really do. Mother’s Day—not so much.


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Parenting Teenagers, Titling a Book, and Saving the World

During the months of editing and revision before I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers hit the shelves, when friends, family, or even strangers asked my teens, “Is your mom writing a new book?” my kids responded—with long-suffering sighs and dramatic eye rolls, “Yeah. She’s writing a book about us. It’s a revenge book.”

It became such a well-established joke around my house that I almost called it Mom’s Revenge Book. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to commit to that title, however. It seemed too harsh, even for a mean mama like me. Later on, I tried out Have You Lost Your Mind?  as a working title. I still like that one because I ask my children that at least once a week. It conveys the spirit of the book well. Unfortunately, that title brings up too many dementia hits in a Google search. Strike two.

I next became partial to Mind Your Mother as a title, but it didn’t wear well. It’s too sanctimonious and preachy, even though I do, indeed, believe that “mind your mother” may be the three words an angel whispers to a newborn on its way toward the delivery room. It’s good advice. Golden. Also, the Mind Your Mother title makes my children sound like they’re still in single digits. They’re not. Two of the three are a foot taller than I am. The height discrepancy isn’t a problem for me. I have no hesitation about reaching up, grabbing a handful of shirt, and dragging one of my boys back down to my eye level. I prefer eye contact when I’m yelling at someone.

A lot more thought goes in to titling a book than you might think if you’ve never tried to come up with a perfect one yourself. It’s tricky. I’d rather write a whole new chapter than think up a title that will satisfy all the different search engines, copyright laws, and a myriad of editorial and sales requirements. As a writer, I can tell you that by the time you sell your friends and your publishing house on a title, all the humor has usually been massaged right out of it.

Confession time: I’m going out on the proverbial limb with my latest book. It could get mighty shaky out there. In fact, someone might take a shot at me on that limb. I have to use my own life as writing fodder–I write humorous non-fiction: what else could I do? Those of you who’ve read my first three books know that my kids appear in earlier books, but usually only on the periphery. They make cameo appearances. This book is different. The teens in these pages aren’t the charming toddlers who appear in my earlier books. This time, I’m parading the little parasites and all their teenage angst right in front of God and everybody. Sometimes, nobody looks good—neither teens nor parents.

We’re not the perfect family—not by a long shot. We’re just regular folks doing the best we can with what we’ve got to work with. I make lots of mistakes. I’ll be the first to admit that, but I never stop trying to do a good job as a parent. Never. Some days go better than others, just like in any other job.

As you might expect, this book’s publication required some delicate negotiation on the home front. It would have been much simpler if my kids had just read the chapters as I wrote them and lobbied for cuts or changes as I went along. That’s what I asked them to do. It would have been a piece of cake to remove the bits that embarrassed them or write around the sticky wickets. I’ve been known to think up a whole different metaphor on the spot if I run up against a hard-to-spell word. It’s faster. Of course, my kids were too busy to read back then. Now it’s too late. Que sera sera and all that.

Raising teenagers is not for the meek, the tenderhearted, or the easily nauseated. It’s a bit like going on a religious Crusade, loaning money to a third-world country, or hiking your way out of the rainforest without a machete, a GPS, or an antivenin kit—only harder and riskier. The stakes couldn’t be any higher. We’re trying to grow people here. Not green beans. Not cotton. Not even the economy. PEOPLE. Think about that for a minute. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

If I do a good job raising my teenagers, and you do, too, we’ll have SAVED THE WORLD. Truly. The fate of the WORLD lies in our hands as parents. We’re raising the people who will have to save the environment, feed the ever-growing world population, and find a lasting peace for war-torn parts of the globe. Talk about pressure!

My theory is that we’re all in this together: teens, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors, and random strangers who cross our paths and influence my kids for good or ill. This is big, meaning-of-life stuff I’m writing about here. Nothing matters more. That doesn’t mean we can’t laugh about all our trials. Of course, we can; I think we should!

Teenagers are exhausting. Worrying about them is a full-time job before you factor in the laundry, college expenses, teeth straightening, and allowance. Take a few hours off this week and read about my experiences with teenagers. I want to hear your stories, too. Post them on my Facebook fan page; send me a sympathetic Tweet; post a comment on my blog, or send smoke signals down South where I live. I promise to read every single message. Get that foot off the ledge right now! I promise you: it’s not YOU. It’s THEM.  If you haven’t had any teenagers in your home, but you’re planning on that some day, all I can say is . . . buckle up.


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Ask Melinda: Embarrassing Parents

Question: Why am I so embarrassing to my teenagers?

It is slightly possible that there really is something embarrassing about you. Do a quick check. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Do you know what your hair looks like in the back? I have observed that some individuals who have perfectly ordinary hair in the front have apparently never noticed the crazy person bird’s nest in back. Do you wear your bathrobe to drop off your kids at school? Do you borrow clothes from your teenage daughter that were clearly designed for adolescent girls—not grown-up women with love handles and muffin tops? Do you have a snorting, obnoxious laugh? How’s your breath? Any of these issues are potentially embarrassing for anyone to be around, not to mention teenagers, the most delicate orchids on the planet. Most likely, however, your perceived embarrassing existence is just that—a false perception on the part of your teenagers.

Here’s how I see it: Teenagers desperately want to fit in. Except in odd, rebellious moments of their own choosing—bright pink hairstreaks or radical clothing selection, for example–teens do not want to stand out from the pack. I don’t blame them one bit. Those packs of hostile teenagers look dangerous to me, too. I think teenagers fear that some of their moms’ far-sighted, budget-conscious, coffee breath boring shtick might just rub off on them if they’re not careful to keep at least an arm length between themselves and the women who carried them around in their very own uteri (that’s the plural; I looked it up) for nine months.

Bottom line: There’s not much you can do about embarrassing your kids, if all you are doing is breathing in and out. Speak politely to your teenagers’ friends, but stay in the background. You are not one of the guys or gals—don’t forget that. Try not to take their embarrassment personally. This is hard, I know. I’ve had my feelings hurt, too. Distribute the hugs and kisses in private. Remember that the entire relationship dynamic shifts if more than one teenager is in the room. Think pack mentality. Finally, be patient. Nobody stays a teenager forever. Odds are they’ll grow out of it eventually, or you’ll kill ‘em—one way or another, it’ll all work out.


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My First Bite of Apple

     Go ahead. Take a bite.  I did. I feel every bit as powerful as Eve in the garden. You’ve probably been tempted, too. Give in. I’m telling you: the Apple is good. If you’re thinking about buying a new computer, go ahead and cough up the extra cash. It’s worth it.

     I’m a writer, so when my HP notebook died recently, it was a five-alarm fire in my life and, consequently, the lives of everyone around me. Let’s just say that I’m not one to suffer silently or alone. It was almost a literal five-alarm fire, in addition to being a metaphorical one. I smelled burning plastic. It doesn’t take a computer geek to know that no good will come from that smell.

     I was unhappy, to put it mildly. You’ve heard the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” right? There’s a reason for that cliché. Ask any mom: one month before Christmas is not a good time to try and massage a new computer out of the family budget. Do you know how many words I have to write to pay for a new Apple computer? Thousands. I’m not sure I can count that high. However, I’m entirely confident that there’s an Apple app that can figure out the total for me in a jiffy. I now believe that Apple computers can do the dishes and maybe cure cancer. I know they’re psychic for sure. They know what I want or need before I think of it myself, and they usually suggest a solution before I resort to begging. An Apple computer is what I imagine having a wife would be like.

     For the last two years, I could not turn my computer off without dire consequences. I know, I know. Before you greenies (okay, now green is blue, I’ve recently learned, but you know what I mean) swoon in consternation, let me add in my defense that it wasn’t my fault I couldn’t turn off my laptop. Of course, I wanted to. I’m not a total idiot. I walk upright and have opposable thumbs just like the rest of you. I knew I was burning energy and money unnecessarily. Unfortunately, every time I managed to turn the dadgum thing off, there was no guarantee it would ever start up again. Sometimes it took days to resurrect. I became fearful of approaching my computer without prayer beads or garlic. I touched the keys ever so gingerly like they were packed with C-4 explosives.  Every night, I schlepped my laptop into my walk-in closet and plugged it in there so I wouldn’t have to stare at the blue screen all night long like the giant nightlight from hell. Every morning, I hauled that sucker out again.

     That got old mighty quick.

     Finally, the day arrived when no amount of cajoling, pleading, force starting, bargaining with God, or crass profanity could raise a cursor flicker of life from my computer. I tried every trick I knew short of firing a shot of epinephrine into the hard drive. Nada. No sign of Lazarus.

     I’d rather lose almost anything in my house than my computer. As a writer, I NEED my computer. I use it every single day. So I did what any woman in my position would do in such a crisis. I cried. I screamed. I drank. I pouted in a bubble bath. I threw a fit that would have embarrassed a two-year-old and whined about my computer problem to everyone who would listen.

    Finally, I sucked it up and headed to the Apple store. That was a first. I’ve never bought an apple product before. Sure, my husband and kids have iPhones, iPods, and my husband has an iPad, but I just use whatever gadget is leftover when someone else in my house upgrades to a newer, faster widget. I look at it like my thirteen-year-old Suburban. As long as it gets me there, I don’t care what it looks like. I have no ego invested in technology.

     I had two goals for my first Apple purchase: ease of use and reliability. Everyone I asked, every review I read, and random strangers I accosted on the street all said the same thing: buy an Apple. The kids in my carpool said, “You need an Apple, Mrs. T.” My 75-year-old father said, “You need to buy an Apple.” My teenagers said, “PLEASE, Mom, PLEASE buy an Apple!” I’d like to think that was an unselfish thought on their part, but I’m not so sure. If I’d asked a gypsy fortuneteller, I’m sure she would have said, “Go ahead, you cheapo woman. Get off your wallet. Buy an Apple.”

     So that’s what I did. I arrived at the Apple store on a weekday morning, about five minutes before the doors were scheduled to open. There was already a line outside and a guy with a clipboard organizing the customers.

     You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. The economy stinks, and people are standing in line to buy this store’s products! That says a lot; don’t you agree? (I was reminded of the time when Blue Bell ice cream debuted in grocery stores. If you’d told me that someone new could come in and dominate the ice cream market with “homemade vanilla,” I’d have said, who do you think you’re kidding? This is not my first sashay down the frozen-food aisle. It just goes to show you. You can reinvent the wheel—or make another vanilla ice cream—and make a killing IF YOUR VANILLA IS BETTER THAN ANYBODY ELSE’S VANILLA.)

     Blue Bell did that. So did Apple.

     I was already defensive before I hit the door. I was determined not to be talked into buying a computer that could launch nuclear missiles. I don’t need that kind of temptation at my fingertips. I wanted to buy what I needed and only that. Price mattered to me. We have three teenagers at our house. They’re expensive. Every dollar counts. 

    First of all, every Apple employee I encountered was friendly. It was unnerving. Even the guy at the door with the clipboard was nice when I laid out my demands in a tone I would use to begin negotiations with terrorists.

     “I don’t speak computer. I need someone who can be patient with me and translate what I think I want into what I should buy, and I need it today.”

     “No problem,” clipboard guy replied.

     “Okay,” I said, trying not to look as doubtful on the outside as I felt on the inside.

     Then clipboard guy walked me inside to a row of computers and left me there to gawk while he summoned an apple genius. I’m not kidding about that. When Jeff arrived, that’s what his card said: Genius. You have to love that. I did. At first glance, I thought . . . this is not a good match. Jeff had a full beard, tattoos up both forearms, and although he was wearing the standard blue Apple T-shirt, he gave off a vibe of big-city, downtown hip. I, on the other hand, look exactly like what I am—a middle-aged, suburban mom. Then I met Jeff’s eyes. It was immediately apparent to me that Jeff was smart.  Fabulous. I can work with smart.

     Here’s one of the keys to Apple’s success: they hire smart people and train them well. Sounds simple; doesn’t it? Why doesn’t everyone do that? That would make my life so much easier.

     Here’s the next amazing thing that happened. Jeff listened to me—really listened. I don’t mean that he kept his trap shut while I vented my computer angst and then launched into his sales spiel. Frankly, I don’t think he even had a sales spiel. Apple geniuses don’t work on commission. They just get paid well, so he had no personal incentive to sell me any particular product. Score another one for Apple.

     I began to trust Jeff.

     I spoke quickly, my eyes darting around the crowded store, certain that we would be interrupted at any moment and my chance at one-on-one help would vanish like a bag of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at a sleepover. Finally, I couldn’t stand the pressure any longer. My naturally bossy mother instincts hijacked my mouth.

     “Are you going to get in trouble for spending so much time with me?” I asked, genuinely worried that he might.

     “Don’t worry about that. I have as much time as you need,” he answered. “Really,” he said, when I looked skeptical.

     I told Jeff I was positive I wanted an iMac desktop. No mouse. Trackpad. I left with my computer already loaded with software, my email up and running, and I was able to go home and plug in my computer BY MYSELF and use it immediately.

     I’m not lying. That really did happen. Neither I nor anyone I know works for Apple. Honest.

     For the next two days, I spent hours working on my new iMac. The desktop screen is HUGE. I literally got a pain in my neck struggling to find the right distance to make my progressive reading glasses work. For the first time in ten years, I was working on a desktop again, but my fingers seemed locked in laptop muscle memory. I grew increasingly frustrated.

     When my husband came home from work the second day, I threw myself theatrically across the bed and declared dramatically, “I think I’ve ruined my life.”

     “How so?” he asked in an even voice, while thumbing through the mail, not nearly as moved by my crisis as I needed him to be.

     “I hate working on my new computer! I think I bought the wrong one. I am miserable!”

     “You’ll get used to it,” he advised, “give it some time.”

     “No, I won’t,” I said, “It doesn’t feel right to me. It’s my own fault, too. I thought it was what I wanted, but I was wrong.”

     “So take it back,” he said.

    “How can I? I’ve been using it for two days. It’s loaded up with all my stuff,” I said.

     “Yeah, but it’s Apple,” he said, “They’ll work it out.”

     You know what? They did. I called for One-to-One (Buy it. That’s all I can say. Even Consumer Reports recommends the Apple warranty and One-to-One service.) help. They made an appointment for me to go back to the Apple store and exchange my iMac for a MacBook Pro.

     I arrived at my appointment loaded for bear. I was prepared to argue. If anyone even looked at me funny, I was likely to burst into tears. I’d worried all night. Guess what? I didn’t have to argue, explain, or justify myself at all. There was no guilt, nothing but let’s-get-you-what-you-need customer service. It was all about me, me, me.  What a lovely thought. I’m going back soon for a specialized tutorial, and I’m obnoxiously excited about it.

     Yep. I drank the Kool-Aid. I’m now an Apple groupie. My son leaves for college soon, and as soon as I can scrape up enough money to buy him his very own Apple, I’m going to do it. Eventually, the other two kids are going to get one, too. I’m never going back to inferior products and service again. I mean it. One bite of the Apple, and I’m hooked forever.

     When I make a big purchase like this, I always tell the salesperson, “I’m a Southern woman. Women talk. I’m also a humor writer, so beware. I’m going to write about you—nationwide. It can be good or bad. Your call.” 

















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