Off the clock

·4 min read

A friend of mine went to the Apple store recently with a couple of questions about his phone, but like everyone else, he went on a Saturday, which meant long lines and a two-hour wait.

It was, he told me, not really a complicated issue — something about the iPhone and the way it syncs — but he had driven all the way over to the mall to get it dealt with, and even faced with a two-hour wait, he did what a lot of us do when we're looking at a similar choice: He told the guy in the Apple T-shirt and the dangling ID badge, “Well, I'm here. So, I guess I'll wait.”

The guy in the Apple T-shirt with the interesting facial hair tapped his name into an iPad, and my friend walked around the mall trying to remember if there was anything else he needed there, like socks or a candle that smells like a Cinnabon.

Eventually, like everyone at the mall, he found himself at the food court, and somewhere between the Panda Express and the yogurt place, he spotted the same guy from the Apple Store sitting at a table with six or seven young people.

They weren't wearing their color-coded Apple T-shirts, and they weren't wearing their badges, but they nevertheless gave off the “I work at the Apple Store” vibe. They were clearly genius bar personnel. But in civilian dress.

Perfect, my friend thought. I'll just sit next to them and ask them quickly to help me with my simple problem, and that will be that.

But it turns out that when you work at the Apple Store and you go on a break, there's a reason why you slip out of the T-shirt and take off the badge. Because if you wear the uniform and dangle the badge, no matter where you are, even the Panda Express, you're on the clock. People will come up to you. They have questions about their iPhone or their iPad or their iCloud, whatever iThing they have that doesn't sync or doesn’t beep or maybe syncs and beeps too much, and they want answers, even if it means you’re having some Me Time and enjoying a Wetzel’s Pretzel.

My friend walked up to their table and didn’t even get his question out.

“Sorry, dude,” they told my friend. “We're not equipped to help you out here.”

“Oh, come on,” my friend said. “It's a simple question.”

“It's like, a legal thing?” The guy said with that infuriating upward inflection young people use to convey both total boredom with the conversation and the sense that they think they're talking to a very slow individual.

“The company doesn't let us, like, freelance? So, we can only answer questions in the store?”

Which is a lie, of course. It’s utterly certain that these guys are on-call at all times for friends and family, but they were all so glumly insistent that my friend let them get back to their Yoshinoya beef bowls and pretended not to be totally annoyed an hour later when the same guy, now in the on-the-clock T-shirt and the badge, called out his name in the store, approached him unrecognizing, and said, “What can I help you with today?” followed by, “Did you try turning it off and turning it on again?”

I don't blame them, though. Going off the clock is a civil right. Hanging up the badge and heading out, which is what I'm doing right now, is how we know when we're allowed to let things slide a bit. And if we have to lie a little to make that happen — "I'm out of town," "I'm in a no-cell area," "I'm legally prohibited from helping you with your Dropbox" — well, that's the price we all pay.

My friend wasn’t buying it. It seemed to him that as long as the dudes from the Apple Store were within, say, a quarter-mile from the actual store, they could be considered “at work.”

“I’m always available to my clients,” he said. “And I don’t know why they shouldn’t be, too.”

“But you’re miserable,” I reminded him.

“Yes,” he said. “And I don’t know why they shouldn’t be, too.”

Rob Long is a television writer and producer and a co-founder of

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Tags: Life, humor, Work, Apple

Original Author: Rob Long

Original Location: Off the clock

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