Have you noticed how hard it is to get things done lately? Whether you’re calling a plumber, waiting for a doctor to return a call, trying to contact a lawyer or asking for tax documents, it’s unusual to get a response. A lawyer might answer when you’re paying for phone time, but getting someone on the phone for free is so difficult, it’s like
being a teenager back in my generation when we sat next to the phone and waited for a boyfriend to call. I once told a millennial that when I was growing up, we didn’t have answering machines. He looked at me for a moment in disbelief and went back to texting the friend who was sitting beside him.

I’ve tried to keep up with the times. I text, email, use Instagram and send Facebook messages but the problem remains. Granted, there are some helpful people out there, but all too often, they can’t be bothered to answer a call or send a message. Sometimes I can’t
describe what I want in a text or an email and if I finally reach a human being, it’s like finding a Unicorn and I shower them with compliments and gratitude for doing something that should be the norm, not the exception.

When I’m stumped with technology and I’m trying get help, my strategy is to become a good-natured pest, not an angry one. That lessens my chances of getting what I need. Instead, I kill them
with kindness and naiveté. I might send an email twice “by mistake” and tell them that if they already received the message before, my computer is having a bad day. I complain about autocorrect and tell them how sorry I am to have to resend the text. Or I might leave a message and a text, telling them I don’t the best way to reach them and thank them in advance for helping me.

A few days ago, I was searching for a customer service phone number to get help with an app, only to find out they didn’t have customer service. No humans and no email. The chat bot sent me five articles but none of them addressed my problem so I decided to come at it from several directions. I became a good-natured pest as I emailed a tech savvy friend, asking her to please give me a quick call. No answer. I texted her assistant who was too busy deal with me. I emailed the app manager. No reply. I called my Mac guy who was in the middle of trouble shooting for a large corporation. I turned to Google and asked my question in several different ways but I kept getting the message, “Sign onto the app and click “the “so and so” button. But that button didn’t appear on my screen. When I actually got a customer service phone number and called it, a bright and happy voice said, “Please stay on the line. There are seventy six calls ahead of you.” Don’t even ask me about the so-called music,
torture to my ears, that they subjected me to while they made me wait, hoping I’d just hang up. I did.

When I’d exhausted my options and reached out so far, my arms had stretched to double their size, I put my head in my hands and tried to manage my frustration. I was so upset, my nervous system was vibrating and it all seemed so unfair. I’m one of 73 million baby boomers, many of whom who are having the same problem and no one wants to take the time to help. 

I had a friend who graciously offered to help me when I got my first Apple computer. I got so panicked when I couldn’t figure out how to use it, I emailed him so many times, he eventually sent me a message that read: RTFM. When I sent him back a question mark, he spelled out, “Read The Fucking Manuel.” I felt embarrassed but when I quieted my mind and began to read the instructions, they started to make sense to me.

A lot of us feel angst about figuring out the smallest things: a new TV remote control. A space heater. A computer upgrade. A map app so you can understand where you’re going. Reading a menu on your phone. But if you want to stay current and teach your brain to
figure things out, the more you try, the more you can do. There are certain issues that require help from a professional, but it’s surprising how much you can figure out yourself if you don’t get into a panic and lose your ability to think. When you hit a roadblock, instead of winging and moaning, if you stop abusing yourself and look at the situation with a sense of humor and keep on trying, you’ll graduate from the 73 million and get to the next level.  

After thousands of attempts to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found thousands of ways that won’t work.” So instead of feeling defeated and stupid, we can remind ourselves to stay calm, keep an open mind, believe that we can
figure out our dilemma and try “a thousand different ways”. We can’t know what we don’t know but we can learn if we pester ourselves to keep on going.