[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published July 5, 2021] ©2021
I personally think that it’s not too much to ask that computers do what you want, not what you say.
Not long ago, I was just typing along, minding my own business, when my computer suddenly began spell checking in German, cheerfully morphing my prose into variations of Ich bin ein Berliner. I officially dispute my engineer husband’s allegations that I had anything to do with it.
My husband will try to insist that I obviously “did” something as computers are, in fact, simply machines cycling ones and zeros, and not malevolent spawns of the devil as some might maintain. But he will concede that when, for example, a tool bar suddenly disappears, I might not have done it intentionally.
“So what exactly went away?” he’ll query patiently, knowing that this conversation is as doomed as many that have gone before it.
“Well, there used to be a tool bar thingy and now it’s gone.”
“What was on it?”
“I don’t know. But I know I need it.”
My techno guy presses on. “Would you recognize the thingy bar if you saw it again?” he says patiently. He recognizes the value of not getting overly technical with me.
Now there are those who think the Undo command fixes things like this. But they would be wrong. Undo fixes the text mistake you just made nanoseconds ago but the second you even breathe on the machine, it’s already moved on. The Undo command has a very short attention span.
Ditto, on-line help. Totally, completely useless unless you know the technical term that some eighteen-year old acned techno geek gave it. For example, I lost an entire day of work unable to edit a document until my husband came home from work and observed, “Oh, you switched to Overstrike Mode.” A keystroke and it was back to letting me insert text.
“I did not switch anything!” I whined. “Why would I switch to something that keeps me from editing and whose name I don’t even know?” I can assure you that you can’t get out of Overstrike unless you know you’re in Overstrike.
If a software company had asked me, and inexplicably they never do, I would help them design a computer that real people, especially aging non-technical but really nice people, could actually use. The Clairvoyance Model. Your computer would get to know you, realize that those nasty keystroke commands that are the boon of techno types, but the bane of the techno challenged, should be ignored at all costs. The Clairvoyance Model would quickly learn that you have the frustration tolerance of a gnat. It would sense when you are so aggravated with your computer that you are ready to drag it out to the driveway and run it over with your car. It would know that you only activated Tracking inadvertently by some accidental keystroke and that you want all those stupid red lines in the margins to go away right now.
I confess I lie awake nights wondering what am I going to do if my live-in techno guy goes to the great recycling bin in the sky before I do. Would I ever be able to find someone willing to have the conversation I described above?
I have a standard joke with him that at his burial, I am going to throw myself on top of his coffin and let them dump dirt on me. It would be an act of kindness to all future persons who might be forced to deal with my technical difficulties.
It might not surprise you that my husband actually agrees with this. His version of heaven is someone having to deal with my computer problems who isn’t him. He says he hopes his successor drinks Scotch.
I know that there are theoretically services that will come to your house and sort out computer problems for you. But I have computer issues pretty much daily. When I accidentally hit Control Whatever and send my screen to Mars, how fast will they respond? I require service. Immediately.
I understand from friends that some of the more upscale retirement facilities actually have IT guys on staff. But do they have the Patience of Job, er, Olof? I fear not.
Will they let me get out my lined legal pad and wait patiently as I take down their instructions in the minutest detail so as to make the resolution of this problem potentially (operative word) replicatable in the future? I really do aspire to the “teach a person to fish” strategy even if the techno fish I’m angling for seem to go immediately extinct.
But you can be sure that if I end up in a retirement facility by myself that the top criterion I’ll have is interviewing the IT guy. Food, schmood. It’s all too bland and sugar-free anyhow. I just want my computer to work. Right now.