High-Tech Terror

Any advice on how to improve our blog? I asked the reader’s blog editor at the Austin American Statesman.

“Add photos,” he said.

Oh, fine.  Great.  Easy for him to say.  He has no idea about my tortured relationship with technology.

“Every time I call you on your cell phone,” my husband says, smiling fondly, not to mention a bit condescendingly, “I love to think about how you’re thrashing around, hunting for the phone, pressing the wrong button, screaming, dropping it.”

Good grief.  With this kind of family support, it’s a miracle I have the self-esteem to walk out of the house in the mornings.

The truth is, I’ve become semi-adept with my cell phone and often manage to answer it while, say, walking in the neighborhood — without crashing into parked cars or getting beheaded by overhanging tree limbs.  This is my version of multitasking.  As long as I’m bragging, I should mention I can also write quite capably on the computer while drinking coffee.

But digital cameras!  Laptops!  Audio recorders!  Plugs, batteries, uploads, downloads, gizmos.  If I’m going to write in the 21st century, if I’m going to have a blog, I need to learn to use all of them without having an obvious nervous breakdown.

But no.  It’s never that easy.  I go to a coffee house to interview a friend for the article I’m writing on Shakespeare’s enduring appeal.  I’ll take my new laptop, I think.  Kathy will be so impressed when I flip it open, ask her a question and smoothly take notes on my new high-tech toy.  (After all, I’d already had a practice run at a nearby coffee shop.  It had only taken me 15 minutes to locate the cord and plug it in and recall which, exactly, was the button that turned on the power.  But after that, I’d sat and written for about an hour, trying to look calm and collected and with-it like all those college kids around me.  I just hoped nobody called me on my cell phone, because my idea of multitasking only includes one electrical device at a time.)

But, anyway.  There I was, ready to hurtle out of the house with my new laptop.  I decided to give it another tiny test run before I left.  I turned on the power button, which I located rather quickly, and nothing happened.  The battery had run down.  So I hurtled out of the house with my usual notetaking tools: a pen and paper.  At least Kathy was impressed that I know how to take shorthand.

All this existing trauma, and here somebody’s making a new technological demand on me.  Get a camera!  Take photos!  I want to lie down and go into a coma.  My husband’s too busy to explore my new camera with me, the user’s manual is as thick as a two-by-four, and our high-tech kids have fled to other states.  Even our nephew has taken off to Switzerland, so I can’t ask him.

So I’m going to lunch with my friend, Michael.  He’s a little older than our kids — calm and knowledgeable about all things high-tech.  He designed my website and did a great job.  He’ll explain my camera to me.  (Thank God for younger friends.  It’s kind of like a Rent-a-Kid operation.  I’ll also get to ask nosy, gratuitous questions about his social life, which would cause my own children to tell me to buzz off.)

“I’ll be there, lugging my camera and wearing a confused expression,” I emailed him, feeling better — more confident! — already.

A confused expression?  I doubt he’d recognize me without it.

(Copyright 2007 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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