Janet Sheridan: Troublesome technology
April 17, 2014
When my husband and I entered our assigned room in a downtown Denver hotel, we saw an open suitcase on an easy chair, clothes strewn about and a football game on TV. Joel about-faced, dragged a baffled me back into the corridor and rushed off to the lobby.
He returned with the desk clerk's apologies and a different room assignment. We opened the door cautiously and then trampled each other in our panic to depart when we heard off-tune singing and a splashing shower in the bathroom.
This time, the desk clerk blamed our misadventures on a computer glitch. The pesky machine had reversed the occupied and available room numbers and caused our consternation. I didn't believe him and still don't, because I think we tend to blame technology for our human errors: It can't defend itself.
Have you ever blamed a computer malfunction when you failed to answer an email or keep an appointment? When you call a relative's cellphone and are disconnected, do you wonder whether it was a dropped call or your cousin hung up because he was tired of talking to you? Do you suspect that the person on the other end of the line, taking your order or booking your appointment, is slow, inefficient or napping when she blames extended delays on her computer?
And do you think the advent of technology has increased or decreased our stress levels? I don't know how you feel, but technology wallops my stress out of the park.
Last fall, the letter I on my laptop keyboard quit functioning, even when subjected to vigorous thumping. We were traveling, and I was in the final stages of self-publishing my book. For three days, I had to copy the letters i and I from a document created before the I-key rebellion and then paste them into my current work. Every paragraph I wrote included a gazillion I’s.
Joel remembers this as our time of frenzy.
When we arrived home, we had the computer's keyboard replaced, but within a few days, it quit connecting to Wi-Fi, except in the office, thus negating the crucial attribute of a laptop. I turned snappish, and purchasing a new computer became inevitable.
Deciding what to buy, where and when — while using an ailing device to keep up with my writing commitments — added heart palpitations and a nervous tic to my irritability.
Finally, with decisions made and purchases completed, an Apple store employee — surely too young to date — handed me my new laptop and told me to make sure my data and programs had transferred and I knew how to work everything. Then he and Joel stood over my shoulder, watching my every move. My stress skyrocketed with a whoosh that knocked the glasses off an innocent passer-by.
Eventually, playing with the faster and more intuitive computer, I began having fun. Joel and the employee, caught up in a conversation, quit watching, and I decided to explore my updated word-processing program.
That was when I encountered a dastardly defect in my sleek machine: It wouldn't scroll. I couldn't find a scroll bar anywhere on the screen, never mind clicking and dragging it to move through a document. We'd purchased a worthless computer. My writing career was finished. I should have used the money to buy a new stove.
In despair, I interrupted the conversation going on next to me, "It won't scroll. I can't move up and down in my writing. Help, please help!"
The young man, engrossed in his conversation, casually reached over, slid two fingers on the laptop's touch pad and scrolled through my document.
Technology makes me feel stupid, and feeling stupid makes me feel stressed. It's a problem I have.
So if anyone knows how to delete the 1,025 email messages lurking on my iPhone since the day we bought it, help, please help!
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.