A wastefully wide glass staircase leads to the 'Genius Bar' staffed by 'Geniuses' in 'Genius' teeshirts (for those customers with special needs who can't cope with both irony and understatement) and a mini-auditorium. The latter was empty of all but a couple of people watching a pony-tailed Canadian with a guitar demonstrating music software. He seemed very ill at ease; his guitar hung limply round his neck like the Ancient Mariner's albatross. There were some scowling men sitting at the back tapping away on their laptops. Perhaps they were literary 'Geniuses' who can only work in an airport-style ambience.
The ground floor is edged with cheap-looking Ikea tables covered in expensive Apple products that can be stroked and played with. Customers vye, with polite frustration, for access to the newest and shiniest of these toys. The cheapest and most portable items are stacked away at the back of the store like packets of lard in a soviet-era supermarket. The bank of tills at the rear, where the altar would be if it were a cathedral, is manned by trendily slow staff working their way through an enormous patient queue, trooping forward with modestly suppressed delight like Catholic spinsters waiting for the handsome young father to slip the communion wafer on their tongues.
If the products were tat instead of techie, the cutomers accessorised with pushchairs instead of piercings, the purchasing experience would exactly the same as shopping in Argos. But Apple is marketing bliss not bargains, and it customer-groupies walk out of the store with their emphatically matte, discreetly Apply kitbags with the same elevated air of self-satisfaction as wholesome families spilling out of church.