Back in 1982, when I started writing seriously, I got a computer called a Commodore. The screen was green with yellow flashing letters and the manual was indecipherable. None of my friends had computers back then, but I knew one nerd who I thought might be
able to help. I called him, he sat down at my keyboard, took a look what I was trying to understand and said, “They made a mistake in the manual.”
I felt redeemed. I laughed. The whole thing felt comical to me as I carried on battling the Commodore – until I got an Apple 512K that felt like heaven. At the time, I could never have imagined iPads, iPhones and iWatches you hold up to your face like a secret service agent talking into his sleeve. The thing is that if you didn’t get a side
of iPhone with your baby food, you better learn to be patient and have a good laugh at yourself instead of beating yourself down.
I’m a member of the in-between generation, the baby boomers born who weren’t born with an iPhone in our hands. When we were young and we were expecting a call, we waited beside a dialup, corded telephone. When couples broke up, we didn’t do it in a text. We got up to change the TV channel or to turn it on and off. We didn’t get calls when were walking, driving, eating out or flying somewhere. It was less hectic but things have changed and we have to keep up in order to do business, get paid, or order something online. And we have to view our awkward attempts like we’re learning a new language. You don’t speak French because you’re in Paris. You
have to study it, make silly mistakes, laugh at yourself and eventually you become fluent.
When I think back, I was filled with wonder as I watched the technology magically transform at lightning speed, but I felt stupid when I had to ask an eight-year-old how to download an App. “Just
plug it in,” they tell me. “Even a child can do it.” They should have said, “Only a child can do it.” I swallowed my embarrassment and tried. I Googled it, and when I was directed to double click on “schedule,” I would have been glad to do it – if I could find a link called “Schedule.” It felt like I was in a dark room, my hand was on the light switch but the button wouldn’t budge.
Whenever I get a new device and I have to pair it, configure it or learn how to program it, I get anxious. Asking for help is reasonable in some instances, but there are times I could do it myself if I tried. I just don’t want to. When computers started taking over the world, I had a friend my age and technology was in his blood. He was born that way. I texted him constantly to ask him what to do and how to do it, until one day, he sent me a terse message. RTFM. I asked him what it meant.
“Read The Fucking Manual. You can do it yourself if you don’t get all worked up.”
It stung but he was right. When I had a tech problem, my breathing got shallow and it felt like I was in a maze. But if I slowed down and took a deep breath, I was perfectly capable of following the manual (if it was written correctly.) Granted, there are things we absolutely need help with but even when we’re working with a tech genius, we have to listen and follow directions without our hearts beating out of our chests. Then we can see the icon he’s directing us to find or the file that lives in the drop down menu.
Yesterday I had an SSD chip installed in my desktop iMac (don’t even ask), and when I tried to open my files, a box came up that said I didn’t have access. Heat flew through my body, my heart sped up, and I began to fantasize never being able to find any of my writings. No Apps. No blogs. No photos. I took a moment to get the desperation out of my voice and I called the tech who had installed the chip. We went back and forth, he had me try a few things and my job was to breathe, listen to what he said and do it without panicking. I didn’t ask a hundred questions. I didn’t jump ahead. I just followed his instructions and after about fifteen minutes, it was sorted out and I was up and running.
I don’t know why tech problems feel like the end of the world but I expect it has to do with being out of control and judging myself for being stupid. I’m not. I’m just uninformed and intimidated. As I explained in the beginning of this blog, I wasn’t born in a sea of technology and I wasn’t clutching an iPad when my mother pushed me around in my stroller.
Now that I’m current (somewhat) with the twenty-first century, I tap my credit card in grocery stores. I use a bar code to read a restaurant menu. I’ve stopped writing checks because I use
auto pay, Venmo and Papal. What the hell is “Zelle?” I wanted to know. I’ve joined the masses who feel like we’re missing a limb if we leave our iPhones at home. How will we count our steps, see who’s ringing the doorbell, get our texts or turn on the heat or the A/C before we get home?
We’re in the digital age, we can’t avoid it and it isn’t going away so we might as well laugh at our awkward attempts and exercise our brains so we don’t get “old” and stuck in a web of confusion. Let’s get with it and save trees by reading on a Kindle, checking “Waze” when we get lost and listening to podcasts with strange white gadgets sticking out of our ears. If that isn’t worth a laugh, I don’t know what is.