Being anxious about the electronics involved, I arrived thirty minutes early. I wanted to be sure of the connection, the buttons to push, and the codes to enter.
Some participants would call in from their homes or offices; others would group in a nearby community to call; and a few would join me in the conference room in Craig. All were busy people; I didn’t want to waste their time.
I started the meeting fifteen minutes late.
First, I couldn’t get an outside connection in the assigned room no matter how many times I pounded button nine. Then I aged five years running around looking for another room to use. Finally, when I entered the correct codes and established communication with all participants, the Craig attendees, who managed to track me to the new room, couldn’t hear the telephone conversation — though I had pushed the conference-call button and could see its little green light glowing.
Finally, a participant accustomed to working with the incompetent told me to hang up the receiver.
How was I supposed to know that?
I never know how things work — things other people use without apparent thought. One of my earliest memories is trying to open the front door at my grandmother’s house with a big key. I remember sweating out my ringlets as I twisted the key, struggled with the doorknob, rammed the door with my shoulder, then turned the key over and repeated the process. Behind me, older cousins questioned my intelligence, shoved me aside, and opened the door.
I panic when faced with unfamiliar gadgets: easy-open pill bottles, cell phones, remote controls, can openers. Truthfully, I’m still perplexed by the wider prong on an electrical plug.
The computer program, PowerPoint, a meeting must-have when I was consulting, nudged me toward retirement. Too often, in meetings I attended, the participants never saw the PowerPoint presentation because the technology didn’t work. Red-faced people rushed around trying to correct the problem while the audience fidgeted and glanced at the clock. Imagine me responsible for that mess: I had difficulty with overhead projectors.
I am trainable, though. In the past, with time and practice, I mastered a sewing machine, an 8-track tape player, and alarm clocks. I even achieved proficiency with computers, though I had my doubts in 1980 when I attended a word-processing workshop where the instructor mopped away sweat, rolled his eyes, and became irritated when most participants didn’t know how to turn on the mystery machines sitting in front of them.
Though I feel partially proficient with computers now, when we upgrade to a model with different bells and whistles, I become so tense I speak in squeaks. Usually Joel, responding to my frustrated howls, reaches over and casually accomplishes what I spent thirty minutes trying to do.
Then I feel resentful.
I tell myself his advanced skills result from extended experience, not intellectual superiority.
But when I’m flummoxed by the apps on my new cell phone, I wonder.