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My Father’s Daughter: Mac Rant

I could scream or cry I am so frustrated. How is it possible to be my father’s daughter and yet be so incapacitated when it comes to technology. I take my cup of tea, proceed towards my couch and am unable to manipulate the television. At first I laugh, but quickly realize how embarrassing this is-I must call my husband who tries to lead me through a variety of steps using two of the four remotes, but to no avail. He finally says, “ You must have done something”.

I did nothing.

He suggests I go upstairs because there is another television. I turn it on and great, it works. But when I fumble with the sound and touch the channel indicator, I again lose the picture. So here I sit again, feeling stupid.

Today has also been useless in trying to also drag photos to the desktop: I had planned to do a surprise photobook for my newest grandson: something I have successfully completed, believe it or not, several times previously. But again, I cannot manage it.

I decide that since a Mac- so they say- is for people like me, supposedly creative, there must be another door that will open to allow me to complete my task. So, I reread the instructions that remonstrate that I must select the photos from my desktop. I go to my photos highlight them, put them in an album but they will not move to the desktop. Grrrr. Rules of transfer, by the way, change should you use your Ipad. But doesn’t everyone know that? In the process, I somehow discover how to change my screensaver.

It is the technology that befuddles me and I do not possess a simple bone in my body or thought in my head that assists me in my travails. I overthink, I jump to step D from Step A, I attempt to outthink the computer or cogitate like a computer. I am anxious and angry at a piece of hardware that is unable to care for my assignations. Yet apparently it can anticipate my moves and correct my spelling even when its corrections do not align with my thinking. My emotions do not know whether to boil, to scream, to laugh, or to whine like a child in distress. Maybe thumb sucking would soothe.

How was it possible not to have inherited the mechanical savvy insight of my father who understood condensers, wires, pulses of electricity and connectors? Sadly my thinking was so much more like my aunt’s who also possessed no affinity for the mechanical or technical. She denigrated the trades because her intelligence did not take her there, but I am in clear awe of them, those thoughtful lay brothers and sisters of bonecrackers, and my electrician son-in-law who can figure out anything

I endeavoured to understand: to speak the logical language of my father so he might have found pleasure in my smarts. I wanted desperately to be able to communicate in a way that did not irritate. His attempts to teach me chemistry, physics or even driving always resulted in my crying and his frustration, yet with my sister there was an ease, a collegial respect and admiration that they maintained eternally. Mine was a scowl. Yet, sometimes I played along with a thin veneer of superficial nodding, pretending I had a glimmer of insight into symbols, signs or sign posts.

He musty have scratched his head in wonderment at how a girl who resembled him in demeanour and outlook might have intellectually been on Mt Kilimanjaro in problem solving, frankly clueless, lost and confused about the simplest of propositions, equations, logical solutions…

I did not know the questions to ask which might breach the limits of my unknowing, throwing open doors to meaning. Similar to teachers with whom I would later teach, he did not attempt diverse and alternated measures, strategies or pedagogies to enlighten. What was resoundingly clear and simple for him was a cave of cobwebs for me. After a while, sitting next to him on our maroon couch, I could fathom exasperation in his voice and I turned resilient. Side by side, a rock and a hard place, with me feeling disparaged by my stupidity in areas that were his passions.

When I worked at the College, they planned all day instruction sessions on computers and bravely I attended However five minutes into the presentation, I had all ready lost my way, unable to follow the instructions of the leader. Being ashamed at my ineptitude where my colleagues were happily clicking and moving things around on their screens, keeping time to the leader’s timely beat, I felt myself shrinking under the desk, hoping the instructor would not notice my incompetency, look askance beneath befuddled brows as if to suggest any child can perform this task.

With false laughter and finally revealing my exasperation to my peers, I ascertained that some people often took the same course many times over. At my work as a program officer at OCT, I had concocted powerpoints to dazzle importing photos or pictures from a variety of sources, animating words, even co-ordinating funny sounds to underline bullets. Likely, this sounds like the abc’s to most people now. And I possessed THIS knowledge before attending the seminars that nonetheless set me adrift with no lifeboat during those days of intense instruction.

What I discovered usually worked for me was learning one new task and repeating that task over and over again until I was able to move on to a second. Small successes that built basic building blocks absorbed and demonstrable.

But here I presently sit at my computer, pounding out a few sentences, gratefully knowing how to use spell check, but not much else. And yes,I did take classes reasonably priced for new Mac owners with those nerds who blankly ran on for several minutes on the workings of the computer -for which I could care less- or who provided unrequested information that only muddled my original queries. When I pondered why no capitals on first words in emails, I was told to get another program because no one had thought that all first letters in first words in sentences should appear with caps? Most strange, I reflected. And why can you not insert boxes or diagrams into emails directly, and why does Pages behave so differently to Word? And why can you not “command-tab” between Safari and Email? ( I understand they belong to different genres and are not even distant cousins? But can’t we all just get along ???? Not even in the world of computer silos!)

We purchased the Mac because it was supposed to work for so-called “ creative” types, but I have not found it any better than the clones. Although it does not pick up viruses! Many people express undying love for the machine and a friend even does something magical by linking her sewing machine to it. Even now, I’m having to separate my words as the machine ( inspite of the space bar) is slurring them together in one word unless I POUND.

Maybe it is a network thing.

Once I called Rogers repeatedly, entreating them to address a problem. I received no satisfaction, being sent to websites with loops that did not help one bit. Finally a friend arrived and he called Rogers. Maybe it had been my language or lack of lingo to express the issue because we found the problem originated with them , not me. Was the technician not listening, did not want to hear me, did not want to engage with an old bat, what? My friend is in fact a male and very conversant in computer, riding every new wave with aplomb, bravado and unending explanations as he comprehends the reasons. It is easier, of course, if you speak the language. I thought I communicated quite finely.

We are so dependent on others and when the damn internet goes down, we are medieval travellers back in the dark, banging our heads against the walls until a candle is lit and points us on our way. People like me, a boomer who possesses a penchant for the written word, the telephone, the mail are out of touch. Just yesterday, I was delighted to read an obituary in which the notice proclaimed that the deceased used only pen and paper, foregoing all technology. It made me recall a letter received from an acquaintance- on parchment- from which dried rose petals gently fell. The information was inconsequential, but the fact that someone had selected lovely paper and matching envelop and actually written a note: tactile and beautiful amulets of things past and to be cherished. Much like the handknitted sweaters from my mother, chosen materials that demonstrated a human’s touch to communicate more: each stitch a stitch of love, she would tenderly whisper.

For some, technology comes easily; for others, it is a pain, making one feel out of control, victimized by their own stupidity. Times change but not necessarily for the better. I wonder if by just TALKING to the new IPhones, we will return to the state of the Illiterati :in which we will not need to know how to write as we will speak our intent to Siri or some other robot who will record and track our requests through more “cookies”.

Schools no longer teach cursive writing, but why writing at all if we need only speak to initiate our communication via technology. Schools of the future may teach computereez, likely with no real humans in the classroom. E-learning is all ready the norm in many places. I envision control by those elite who will continue “writing” only for themselves and program what must be shown to the rest of us, the ordinary folk who will have no need for writing. Then we can be told what to do, what to think, where to go, or where to sign. Maybe we will be allowed an “x” or “o” to sign our names to computer agreements or perhaps we will return to reading pictures as people once did, now words made unnecessary.

Shakespeare in writing the seven ages of man ( All the World’s a Stage monologue) penned “ sans teeth, sans sight, sans…everything.”

How utterly true.

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