Shannon and I came to Sacramento last night for a wedding reception, and on the plane, my iPod went from happily letting me navigate its menus to sadly showing me a graphic of a frowning iPod and a URL for iPod support. So when we hit our hotel last night, I immediately went online and made an appointment with the Genius Bar at the Apple Store across the street, hoping to at least get the repair process started. Today, I walked in, the guy immediately determined that the hard disk was dead, and offered to replace the iPod on the spot — a decision that was only made difficult by the fact that Shannon had the iPod engraved when she gave it to me as a Christmas/engagement present. (The alternative I was offered was to mail it back into Apple, where they’d fix it and return it to me with the engraving intact.) My desire to have the little guy back in shape ASAP motivated me to choose the on-the-spot replacement, and I’m sitting here at the Genius Bar (using the free Apple Store WiFi) while the new machine syncs up with my Powerbook.

There is one thing that’s more amazing to me than the quick, efficient service I got here, though — it’s the number of other people who’ve sat down beside me, broken iPod in hand, and had their players replaced on-the-spot too. In the last half-hour, the Genius has replaced six different iPods, ordered warrantly replacements for another two, and he tells me that he has a half-dozen other iPod-related appointments on the calendar for the remainder of the day. It makes me pretty happy to see that Apple’s willing to do fast warranty service on a walk-in basis, something that keeps its customers coming back.