iPad Madness Strikes

I’m not sure if it was nostalgia for Steve Jobs, my aching back, or the encouragement of readers, but this week, in one of those passionate gotta-have moments, I rushed out and bought an iPad.

After my last column – in which I confessed to owning a Kindle and cast a wishful eye toward the latest (as of that moment) techy device, readers were relentless. “You’ve GOT to have one,” they said. “You will LOVE it.” Although one admitted using hers mostly for Scrabble and TV fact-checking, others raved about the 10-hour battery life and portability (only 1.3 pounds). Most important, they said it’s “intuitive,” a happy word for “You don’t have to read the manual.”

I cannot blame readers alone for this electronic indulgence, though. The iPad bug had been building over two months of schlepping a laptop to graduate school classes in positive psychology – a field that ironically (1) teaches that buying more gadgets does not bring lasting happiness but simply sentences us to a “hedonic treadmill” and (2) warns against being a “maximizer” – that person who goes nuts trying to make the right choice out of way too many choices.

“Are you someone who has trouble choosing just the right dish on the menu?” the professor had asked. “Do you get stuck looking for the very best solution?” He urged us to become “satisficers” instead – people who do not agonize but go for the “good enough” choice.

At the time, I was dragging the laptop in an old roller bag that flipped and banged into my ankles every time it hit a bump. By far the oldest student in the class, I felt like a klutzy version of Grandma Moses. Fellow students, who had heard the same lecture, rushed in with their very best solutions – an obscure brand of roller bag from an online store I’d never heard of, a backpack custom-made in San Francisco that came in hundreds of styles, or an iPad.

To my credit, I “satisficed” and borrowed my daughter’s backpack. “You should really get an iPad,” she said when I picked it up, about a half second before adding, “Then I could borrow it.”

After a weekend with a laptop and several notebooks strapped to my back, I became nostalgic for the genius of Steve Jobs and decided – tentatively – to honor him in a very personal way. “If I really hate it, how long do I have to return it?” I asked the clerk as she handed me the razor thin notebook with a dual-core A5 chip, 10-hour battery, over 200 new features and 140,000 possible apps.

“Fourteen days,” she said.

I am now in Day 3. So far, I have spent a couple hours finding exactly the right purse to carry it in and learning to touch type with one finger. I marvel – thank you, Steve – at the magnetic cover that puts it to sleep when I snap it on, but worry that I’ve never turned it off and don’t know how. I love turning the pages of my calendar by swiping my finger across the screen and taking class notes on something that looks exactly like an old paper notepad.

Which, come to think of it, might have been the very best solution of all.

Copyright 2011 Pat Snyder

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