Tuesday, August 7, 2012

iNga Gets an iPhone: Crossing to the Techno Dark Side

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published August 9,2012] © 2012

Several weeks ago, I wrote a column called “Where’s the Prozac for Techno Depression?” about feeling like I’d been left in the digital dust.  That was largely because I HAVE been left in the digital dust.  My younger son had insisted that the only way to overcome techno depression was techno skill acquisition.

I got quite a few responses to that column from the similarly techno afflicted but one particularly delightful one asserted:  Your younger son is dead wrong.  The cure for techno-depression is techno-scorn.”   He went on to conclude:  “I won't surrender my land line until they pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

Definitely a kindred soul.  So you can imagine how hard it was for me to write back and confess that a mere day before, I’d gone to the Dark Side.  I bought an iPhone.

The AT&T sales child tried to dispatch me post-purchase by telling me the phone was totally intuitive and I should just take it home and play with it. Hah!  The fact that I was back at the AT&T store for the next nine days every morning when they opened with yellow notepad in hand tells you how intuitive these phones are.

But I do have to say:  my old phone should be shot.  And the guy at Nokia who designed it should be shot too.  I feel far less bad about not being able to work the thing.  The iPhone is infinitely exponentially stratospherically friendlier.

I’m getting the hang of my new phone but it hasn’t been without its truly terrifying moments. One feature I really have to be careful with: When trying to send texts (yes, me, texts!) my fat little fingers keep hitting the little icon next to the space bar and messing up my whole message. The third time it happened I started yelling bad words at the phone. (I have the frustration tolerance of a gnat.)  Next thing I know the bad words show up on my screen.  “Oh [a different bad word]!” I said, simultaneously realizing that that little icon is voice recognition. And sure enough, that word appears on the screen next to previous ones. Sweat breaks out on my forehead. How to get out of this message?   (The choices were “Send” and “Done”, as opposed to the “Delete this message in perpetuity” option I was looking for.) I’m really going to have to behave myself. This phone knows a lot of bad words and it’s not afraid to use them.

I felt better when I learned that a much younger friend couldn’t figure out how to get voice mail off her iPhone for the first six months.  This might not seem unusual except that her husband was key in developing CDMA technology for cell phones.  So, you might ask, why didn’t she ask HIM for help?  Well, first of all, because CDMA technology has nothing to do with actually accessing voice mail.  And second, because her techo-geek  husband has become about as patient attending to her tech support needs as my techno-geek husband.  Which is to say, downright surly. It also assumes that he himself can figure out how to get voice mail, a fact not in evidence.  She reports that whenever she asked for help and he couldn’t figure it out, he merely handed it back and said, “Poor design.” 

And there are definitely some design flaws to this phone.  Whole websites have been dedicated to the perils of Auto Correct.  But more importantly, there needs to be a version of Siri for women’s phones.  Unlike the TV commercial, when Siri is happy to cancel the guy’s tennis date, tell him when to put the gazpacho on to cool (where was it before? out in the sun?) and even tell him jokes, Siri has had only one answer to any question I’ve asked her:  “I’m sorry.  I can’t help you with that.”  Can’t or won’t?  Siri’s cloying voice was obviously designed to appeal to guys who are into fawning subservience. 

Women’s phones need Sirus.  He would intone in a smoldering voice (and preferably a slight Italian accent), “Inga, how may my four and a half inches be of service to you today?”  And unlike Siri, the obsequious toady, he would actually perform. 

“Sirus, carissimo,” I would command.  “Please locate all photos of me and make me look thirty pounds thinner.”  And he’d say, “Subito, Inga bella.”

But I have to confess I’m liking this little phone.  And even more amazing, I’m feeling all those moribund techno brain cells that have been wheel chair bound for decades rising up, throwing off their tiny crutches, and climbing aboard the nearest synapse.  So maybe my son was right. 

And no, Siri, you didn’t help with any of it.


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