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Heroine for an Hour

I’m sure I’ll be in the doghouse soon enough, for towels left on the floor or checking email when I was supposed to be listening, but right now I’m a heroine. All I did was install iTunes on Sandy’s laptop.

A year ago she migrated from an aging laptop and a really senile desktop to one laptop with a docking station, monitor, and external hard drive. Since then she’s been complaining that her “iPod software doesn’t work.”

Buried in work and a thesis, I just nodded whenever she brought this up. Whatever, I thought. I don’t have an iPod–I’m kind of an ambient sound lady, and on long flights I have noise-canceling headphones that create a pleasant buzz–so I didn’t think about it. “Reinstall iTunes,” I kept telling her.

Sandy is a fantastic minister, a great administrator, someone who is comfortable with the sick and the dying and the bereaved and confused; but she is scary around most hardware, particularly computers. I don’t even like to see her get on ladders. It turns out that telling Sandy to reinstall iTunes was a little like asking her to inspect the foam on the space shuttle. She had no idea how to start or even why she needed to do that.

“But I have that external hard drive,” she told me late this afternoon. “You put everything on it when I moved from the old computer.”

I paused. Suddenly I needed to explain the difference between an inert storage device and an active CPU. I opened a beer. I sat down in front of her computer.

Several downloads later (her iPod needed firmware upgrades, iTunes needed to be installed, and so forth–endless fiddling and rebooting), I sat Sandy in front of her computer and told her to enter her credit card information.

“Can’t you do this for me?” she asked.

“What if I’m captured and tortured and they want the security code on the back of your credit card?” I responded. She entered the information.

First she tried to browse the iTunes store, which makes sense, because the search box is eensy teensy cutesy Apple-y on the upper right-hand side of the menu, hardly looking like a search box at all. “They don’t have Michael Feinstein?” she asked.

“Try a search,” I said, and pointed her to the search box. She entered two words. She came back with a pile of good results.

“Buy a song,” I suggested.

“I want to buy five,” she replied.

“Buy one song,” I emphasized. “I don’t want to be here all night.”

She bought one song, Teddy Bear’s Picnic. (Yes, she has owned an iPod for several years and never actually bought music for it. She had imported CDs to iTunes, and that was it. For the last year she’s been listening to the same music.) We practiced playing the song, viewing it on her playlist… success.

“Why would anyone buy a CD any more?” she asked a few minutes later. She recited the music she found: rare Cole Porter tunes, interesting hymns, you know the drill–the fabulous long tail of online music.

“I don’t know,” I replied. But she was busy buying music.

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