I’d like to take a survey: How many of you have trouble negotiating your technology of choice, specifically personal computers and smartphones, or should I say not-so-smart phones?
I have had nothing but aggravation coping with these “helpful” devices for months now. Sure, it may be that I’m an old codger with shaky hands, not much help on a keyboard, and also a growing impatience and wariness when it takes days to try to access a website because my user ID, password or God knows what doesn’t work.
The worst was Gmail, at this point my least favorite tech giant. Did you know that it’s impossible to access a live human being at Google if you need any help? There might be a number you can call, but you’re dealing with a robot of some kind that doesn’t speak your language.
So when I couldn’t access my email — receive or send — after hours and hours, days and days of messing with it, I took it to the computer repair guys — and watched them throw their hands up in despair; they couldn’t get my email to work any better than I could. So, I paid them and took the computer home not knowing what else to do. I tinkered and tinkered for some more days and nothing, zilch, zero. Someone suggested I use Yahoo, AOL, etc., but I couldn’t get them to work either.
Maybe there is a mass conspiracy by, let’s say, the Russians, that’s gumming up the works for average citizens like me? I got the same result when I tried to access my bank accounts. Accounts I’d monitored for years, that I’d never had trouble with, all of a sudden weren’t available. They wouldn’t take passwords I’d been using for years, and even if I created a new one they wouldn’t take it. User IDs and passwords — new or old — wouldn’t be accepted even when I’d gone to the banks, two of them. I’d rather not identify them, afraid they’ll take all the money out of my accounts and say they don’t know what happened to it and I’ll have to talk to the FBI or something.
I’m talking about months of aggravation. The situation has improved some, no thanks to the banks or other websites. Even Amazon, which loves to take our money, gave me a hard time with purchase after purchase because it too wouldn’t take my password, and it took me hours to find a human being that would help me; even now it occasionally sputters before it will work.
As I said, I’m old, not up to snuff; I can’t even handle a keyboard that well, especially the flat ones. Older computers have raised keyboards that I can press more easily. I make a lot more mistakes with the newer ones. And while I’m talking “newer,” I’ve updated my computers. You know it’s good for the manufacturers. We’ve got to take care of them although they’re not as concerned with us. So even with the new equipment I’m still having trouble.
Now don’t get me started on smartphones, the bane of the technological universe and old folks. Even if they work, they don’t work. You can press on icons until kingdom comes and they won’t respond until they feel like it. Remember my shaky hands — I’ll be lucky to press the exact right spot after five tries, and those mini keyboards are a nightmare.
And their technical help is no better. I’ve spent hours in those stores as young hotshots handled them like top guns while I looked in amazement and when I took the device home I wanted to smash it with a hammer and spent God knows how many trips going back to the stores to get some help that rarely turned out to be helpful.
So, what’s going on? I don’t know, but here is what I suspect. I’ve aged out. My use of modern devices that I’ve used for years has been overtaken by old age, not the devices. They’re updated and updated till it drives you crazy.
The trouble is, I can’t be updated. My keyboard agility and my patience run out after trying to painstakingly type in new password after new password until I find one that works. And the longer it takes me and the longer I try the more nervous I get, the more my hands shake, and no amount of prayer seems to make any difference.
Bob Katrin is a Southern Pines resident, author and former faculty member at SCC.