Saturday, August 26, 2023

Torture By Telephone

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published August 28, 2023] 2023

I would rather get a root canal and a colonoscopy simultaneously than get a new cell phone. And no, I am not kidding.

I had genuinely hoped I would die before my phone did. But the phone decided to force the issue.

IOS just wasn't reliably supporting my iPhone 7 anymore. Even upgrading to the latest version something I only do when the phone pretty much ceases to work wasn't helping. In fact, it seemed to be making it worse.

I am a person with genuine talents. But even people who love me would agree I am not just techno-challenged but deeply, profoundly, techno-disabled. Whatever synapses were involved in techno skills failed to survive my gestation. It does not help that I have a frustration tolerance of a gnat.

Was it time for a Jitterbug the phone heavily advertised in AARP Magazine for techno-inept oldies? Or did I still have one more iPhone in me?

I went with the iPhone partly because I really enjoy FaceTiming with the grandkids, but because I was also under the (extremely false) illusion that I already knew how to use one.

Unfortunately, the operation of the iPhone 14 is totally different from the iPhone 7. They're as alike as cousins twice removed who were adopted at birth. My old phone had a little Home button at the bottom that was heavily involved in the operation of the phone. It's gone! (The SE still has a Home button for iPhone Luddites but it's too small for me.)

Now you have to swipe, but just so. It s definitely all in the wrist.

At the phone store, I was fobbed off on a nice young commission-oriented kid who was probably as unenthusiastic about dealing with me as I was with dealing with him.

We were speaking completely different languages.

How many gigs did I usually use, he inquired. (No idea.)

How much do I use Apple Pay? (Don't even know what that is.)

Do I need a hot spot? (Not unless he means a jacuzzi.)

I really need to switch to AutoPay if I want a better deal. (Not happening.)

Was I sure my husband wouldn't be willing to get a new phone too? (Nope and stop asking.)

The kid was pushing the iPhone 14 Plus Pro which has three cameras. I could take cinema-quality movies! (Um, do I look like Steven Spielberg?)

Things were going downhill fast. Rather than slash my wrists with a plastic screen cover, I gathered up my stuff, thanked him for his time, and walked out the door.

Fortunately, the young woman who I had hoped to work with came running after me. She said if I would return, she would swap her current customers with the young kid since she was almost finished.

This young woman was basically an iPhone therapist, skilled at dealing with the aged techno-terrified.

So, she says, soothingly, what is the most important feature to you on a phone?

That I can use it, I said.

How about the second most important feature?

Maximum screen size.

So it's easier to read? She queries 

Yup, and so I can post the most directions on the back of it. I showed her the back of my phone. A brief frown flashed across her brow.

We determined fairly quickly that the right phone for me was going to be the iPhone 14Plus with two cameras (not the cinema-quality Pro variation that the kid was pushing). And she was confident that with practice, I could learn to swipe. (Sounds faintly larcenous.)

While not a natural swiper, I am slowly getting the hang of it, although several times I have found myself unable to get out of a screen. Even turning the phone off doesn't help; when you turn it back on, the same annoying screen is still there. Banging the phone on a granite counter top doesn't help either. (Just kidding).

Alas, the new phone had some immediate glitches when I got it home wouldn't send or receive calls (major flaws in a phone), and was sending text messages to people's email. My husband (see frustration tolerance, above) had odds that this phone was going to end up in the pool.

In lieu of this, trips back to the store were required.

Guess what fixed the calling problems? Turning the phone to airplane mode then turning it off again. How are ordinary humans supposed to figure that out??? When those Apple people (or my engineer husband) refer to cell phones as intuitive, I want to smite them.

I will concede that it has one sort of cool feature (I am only willing to concede one.) It has facial recognition in lieu of typing in your passcode. But then I fantasized my care givers in the dementia facility being able to hold the phone up to my face and stealing all my data.

But I definitely don t have enough emotional bandwidth to ever do this again. And I truly mean ever.


Maximum screen size important
to be able to cram in the most instructions possible



Friday, August 18, 2023

Worst Summer Jobs Ever (Olof wins)

[Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published August 21, 2023] 2023

Both Olof s and my parents were such proponents of child labor that it is probably a good thing there were no coal mines within commuting distance to our homes. There was pretty much no employment they considered beneath us.

 Olof and I used to like to play "Who had the worst summer jobs?"  Physically, I'd have to concede that Olof won. A native of Walnut Creek (CA), he spent the summer after his freshman year of college as a roofer in the East Bay's brutal 100-degree summer heat in a perpetual knee-crippling crouch position pounding nails hour after hour.  The only shade, he recalls dramatically, was a flying bird.

So the next summer, desperate to get out of the blazing sun, and hoping for a pay raise, he managed to snag a job in the Pittsburgh (California, and yes, there is one) US Steel Mill. It was a union job as summer relief help for which he was required to purchase both a hard hat and steel-toed boots even though his actual job was cleaning the toilets and changing rooms. But hey union wages! Huge step up.

It would not be too surprising that neither of our sons got too much sympathy from Olof about their summer employment. A summer job cleaning toilets in an un-airconditioned steel mill in the East Bay pretty much trumps everything.

I definitely can t compete in the physical labor department, but when my sister and I were seven and eight, our mother got us our first jobs: stuffing (seven inserts) and licking 1,000 envelopes for a local agency. At a penny apiece, it was far faster to lick the envelopes than use a wet sponge. It s amazing we didn t end up with brain damage from all that glue. I distinctly remember our little tongues desperately trying to produce saliva after the first hour. 

Over the years, I did the standard summer jobs: babysitting, retailing, and waitressing ($.53 an hour before taxes, $.45 after, gold nylon uniform $20).

I spent one summer as a clerk-typist for Scholastic Magazines in their book division in the pre-word processor days typing endless clean copies (with eight carbons) of a book called No Hitter about all the no-hitter baseball games up to that point.  (It's on Amazon for $.01, and no, don't send me a copy.  I've read it.  Eleven times.)  Every typo had to be corrected on all eight carbons with White-Out, a toxic substance probably responsible for more brain damage in persons of my generation than glue sniffing.

I hate to start comments with the words "kids today" but truly, kids today have no idea what a boon to humanity the word processor is.  Space travel and penicillin have nothing on it. I can say with some conviction that a world without carbon paper is truly a better place. 

But my worst summer job by far was proofreading telephone books.  And yes, this was a job. People really depended on phone books and got very touchy if their name or address or particularly, phone number was listed incorrectly because it would be a full year before the next phone book was going to come out. So some human - that would be moi - sat there cross-checking the typewritten list with the microscopically-printed galleys line by line. I could only surmise that the people I was replacing had been committed to a home for the numerically insane and were being taught Braille.

I've observed over the years that school guidance counselors don't list 90% of jobs that people actually end up doing.  I'm trying to imagine, for example, some perky high school student's yearbook listing:  "Future goal: career in the phone book proofreading industry."

Of course, there is no requirement that summer jobs have to be ill-paid and boring even if many of them are. 

For both sets of our parents, summer employment provided cash for the expenses we were expected to pay, but I think they regarded it as character building as well.  Not that I was ever inclined to be rude to waiters or sales clerks, but working in those fields gives you a new respect for the job. Forget mandatory military service.  Everyone should be required to work retail.

I mention all this because I often her parents say at this time of the year that they don't think it's worth having their kids take a $10 an hour menial job when they could be doing something educational. Both Olof's and my parents would have said that it's all how you define educational.

So, are we better or even different people for our summer job experience? Different, certainly. Both Olof and I would agree that most of our summer jobs were excellent incentives to pursue higher education in the hope of never ever doing any of these jobs again. Just as important as know what you want to do in life is knowing what you really, really don't.

Waitressing at the Jersey Shore, summer 1966
($.53/hr - $.45 after taxes.  Gold nylon uniform: $20)

Sunday, August 6, 2023

The Family Finder/Observer

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 7, 2023] ©2023

I recently wrote about my role as the family worrier, and from the response, I learned that I have plenty of company.  And that the worrier in families is, by my unofficial data, the wife in 99.9999 percent of cases.  I’m sure there must be one guy out there with this role, but I didn’t hear from him.   Or maybe there truly isn’t a single guy out there who assumes this burden.  It could be one of those Y chromosome mutations that has evolved through the eons. 

As a fourth-generation feminist, I am loathe to make admittedly sexist statements like this, except for the fact that after two husbands, two sons and three grandsons (does former dog Winston count?), I have noticed predictable tendencies among individuals of the male persuasion. 

It is well documented that the sexes are doomed not to understand each other. But as one who has lived in a male-centric household her entire adult life, weird behaviors of the male of the species have always been a topic of keen interest, if total bafflement, to me.  In some cases, one can only conclude that a wife is cheaper than a conservator. 

It has been my perception that women, besides being the family worrier, also tend to be the family observer. By observer, I am referring to the woman’s ability to notice things around the property that require urgent attention that her spouse, despite two largely-functioning eyes, fails to see. Like, for example, that the Chinese Elm tree in the back yard has died and is about to fall on the house. 

“Olof,” I’ll say, pointing to the tree, “I’m thinking we need to get a tree service out here asap,”

“How come?” Olof will respond, looking directly at the tree. 

“So, you’re not noticing anything unusual about it, like it has lost all its leaves and is listing 40 degrees?” I point out helpfully.

“Oh, yeah,” says Olof.  “I see it now.  You should really do something about that.” 

Both of my husbands, current and former, have been indelibly afflicted with guy-gene-pool-embedded Passive-Dependent Blindness: you know, where a person of the male persuasion is standing in front of an open refrigerator with the mayonnaise dead center at eye level and says, "Do we have any mayonnaise?" 

And the wife, who has finally sat down to do the crossword with a glass of wine, responds: "Yes, it's on the top shelf in the front, right in the middle."

And the husband replies, "I don't see it."

And the wife reiterates, slightly testily: "TOP SHELF. FRONT. IN. THE. MIDDLE."

And the guy still can't find it.  Until she gets up and starts walking into the kitchen, upon which the guys says, "Oh, yeah. Found it!"

It's probably not too surprising that analogous to women tending to be the family observer, they are also the family finder, a.k.a. the patron saint of misplaced objects.  If you can't see the mayonnaise, what hope is there of finding your car keys?

There is a universal male phenomenon describing this that I have dubbed Ineffective Circular Search Behavior.  When men lose things, they will look in three places. If they don't find it, they will continue to look in those same three places in an endless, pathetic, futile loop.  I can only assume this is something that developed in the cave dwelling era and became hopelessly locked into male genes.  The cave wife would watch her guy circling the cave in increasing frustration looking for his club before she would step in and ask the question that became indelibly embedded in ours: "So where did you last see it?"  He grumbles, "How would I know?  If I knew that, I'd be able to find it!"

As she suspected, he left it outside the cave after he slew the mastodon. (Can he EVER put anything away after he finishes using it?)  She retrieves it. But does she get thanks?  Not a chance.

We recently watched our friend Jeff to the twenty-first century version of this when he was searching for a DVD he wanted to lend us. After his third loop, his wife, Lindsay, went to have what she called "a Lindsay look" and came back with it immediately.  Lindsay did a review of the first three places Jeff had looked and found it. A corollary of Ineffective Circular Search Behavior is that just because the husband didn't find it there doesn't mean it wasn't there all along. (See "mayonnaise," above.)

In fairness, I'm sure my husband could write his own version of this column about baffling behaviors of wives.  In fact, I think I'm going to give him the chance.  He's had two wives, two sisters, two nieces.  Plenty of data. Stay tuned.