Seeking Shiny Perfection

I just got an iPad yesterday. It came well-packed in a box mailed from China, and I carefully opened it, and took it to my main computer to register it and load itunes and photos etc. I did all this without removing the cellophane from the screen.And then I noticed them. Five big white scratches going across the screen. I checked--the cellophane was flawless. These flaws were there before it was shipped.And I was disappointed and upset. I immediately got on the phone to Apple, and got moved from technical service to sales--fifteen minutes on hold, during which time I got more and more annoyed. When finally connected to a real human being, I began my tale of woe. I had waited two weeks for the device. I wanted, I said, a PERFECT iPad--a brand new one, no scratches, no reconditioning, no nothing.And the very nice sales support lady asked, "Do you think maybe what you think are scratches are shooting stars in the picture that comes with the device?" "It's confusing," she said. Amazingly, she said it in a non-threatening, non-geeky, and non-condescending way. Good service people, Apple!I looked. She was right. What I thought were scratches were shooting stars. And I sheepishly apologized. And I knew I had overreacted. But why?These devices, it seems, are like brand-new cars. If you buy one, it has to be perfect. At the same time, its perfection is nerve-wracking, because it is impossible to live up to, and to protect. Who doesn't feel better (after, say three months) when you get first ding in the car in the supermarket parking lot and you can relax. We're happy when the perfect thing is slightly less perfect--it fits into day-to-day life better.But its not every new thing we're like this about--or at least, that I"m like this about. It's only shiny things, which implicitly promise perfection--like the iPad.Or maybe it's just the end of the year. At any rate, if you're about to buy an iPad, you can learn from my mistake.They're not scratches. They're shooting stars.

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

Also by this author
On a (Buffalo) Wing and a Prayer

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Religion
Culture
Books
Collections