Reflections on Technology Schizophrenia

A long time ago and in a land far away, I read that every household would own a computer, and some would even have multiple computers.  Not owning a computer at the time , I thought it absurd…what kind of crazy talk was that?  Computers were for NASA scientists and those few aliens I went to college with who would disappear to the mysterious computer lab, located somewhere on campus unknown to me. Apparently, some kids took a computer programming course in the early 80’s..I had a few friends who attempted, but most gleefully dropped the course early in the semester, realizing the ratio of computer homework to keg parties was a disproportion that you didn’t need a computer to figure out.  We happily stocked up on onion skin paper and White-Out, and typed away on our portable electric typewriters, treasured High School graduation gifts.  Oh, the joy when typewriter ribbons evolved to include the correction tape!  Amazing..damn we were simple.  I pulled out a folder of my onion skin masterpieces recently,  Jesus, they look like a drunken Thomas Jefferson penned them..so much has changed.  Cable T.V., cell phones, E-Readers, computers..I hate it all, I love it all.

My Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde relationship with technology is multifaceted. First and foremost is my lack of knowledge and my lack of desire to truly understand what the hell I am doing.  My meltdowns are becoming legendary in these parts, wailing at the computer screen…”WHY IS MY SCREEN SIDEWAYS!! AAAAAHHHH!”..to which my 12 year old calmly slides me out of the way, presses twenty or so buttons, without looking at the keys, mind you, and pats me on the back, “there you go Mom, it’s o.k. now”.  Thank you Matthew, there’s a career in crisis intervention waiting for you, if you aren’t already busy developing a computer program to take over the world.  Oh, and the passwords.  My husband and the passwords.  If we ever divorce, there will be one compound word in my explanation of grounds for divorce- PASSWORDS.  A typical conversation every time I try to pay a bill on -line..”Joe, what’s the password you set up?”  “I don’t know, try this or that”..aaaah, I’m going to murder him.  Just, for the love of all that is holy, write them down.  A 30 second bill payment turns into a 30 minute password change, full of my computer angst. Bad words are exchanged, irrational threats  to end our 30 years of bliss if he doesn’t get his shit together…you get it, a complete over reaction..technology makes me nuts.  When the black clouds clear, I can easily see it’s all my fault, the information is right there on my plate, I’m just not hungry enough, I guess.

Upgrading my cell phone has always been fun.  The cute little helpers at Verizon must take a special class for the customers who haven’t embraced technology fully.  I have grown to welcome, actually encourage the  piteous stares when I hand my old phone over..I make it work for me. “Please, sonny, just make everything from my old phone show up on my new phone”, I say in my best 50 going on 90- voice.  They have stopped the lengthy techie-filled conversations with me, the ease of which I can transfer my photos and videos to my computer, re install my contacts, blah, blah.  Manipulative? Probably..but who are you to judge? I leave with my phone good to go, still only understanding 1/10 of it’s ability, works for me.  I love my cell phone, but you should see the looks I get when I pull my giant calender out of my giant purse to write down an appointment..I always get a response…usually “oh, my Mom still uses one of those”..or “You know, you have a calender on your phone”. I know that, but I need to see it in black and white..and I don’t want to live in a world where the purse calender is extinct…please God, not in my lifetime.

Then, there’s my kids and technology. They were google doc-ing their papers to their teachers in 4th grade before I even knew what a google doc was. They did this not for convenience, but per teacher’s orders. They email their teachers, research on-line..library..what’s that?  Computers have been shoved down their throats since Kindergarten..hence their pathetic penmanship and my son’s early childhood surprise after he googled “pussy”…oh, a story for another day..still too horrifying to put in print.  This necessity for technology in their education has resulted in sci-fi come to life in my home..yep, a computer in every room.  An extended warranty from Best Buy has become more valuable to us than our life insurance policies. *CRASH!*  “Mom..is my computer still under warranty?”..is often heard around here.  Kindles come flying down the steps ahead of the kid who was carrying it and ten other things in his lazy man’s load. No problem, we have discovered that Amazon is more than delighted to replace damaged Kindles, how incredibly generous of them…ahem.  

Vacation time away from school and work stress is always precious…but I will shamefully admit the time between unlocking the door to a mountain or seashore rental  and my kids finding the WIFi password is approximately twenty seconds. I’m licking my chops too as the electronics that I rail against appear from our bags and we punch in the number like a bunch of junkies. All the while I am proclaiming the limited usage vacation rules.  Laptops are wonderful after a day in nature, with family and friends, after everyone is asleep, with a glass of wine and a fire, a warm Lab at your feet..who wouldn’t love that?  Viva technology! Image