Time isn't always worth saving
September 5, 2004
As anyone who knows me realizes, I am not the handiest fellow in the world. In the jungle of home repair and maintenance, my competence can be compared to that of a fairly intelligent orangutan with a broken wrist.
In mathematics I’m still trying to master the concept of checkbooks and ATM numbers. (Forget fractions and figuring 15 percent restaurant tips.) In matters of practical relevance I have brought the meaning of incompetence to dizzying heights never before known to humankind. In the midst of all this incredible talent at fouling things up, we can add the wonderful world of technology, particularly anything related to computers.
Yes, my friends, I confess: I am a technophobe. All these contraptions that surround us hogging electrical outlets and inhaling batteries come close to driving me to stark, raving sanity.
Sure, I love gadgets as much as anybody else — I just don’t know how to use them. It gets exciting to take home an electronic zipzinger from the friendly thingamabob salesperson until the time comes to actually use the thing.
By the time I get the new zipzinger home it’s obsolete. So I have to bring it up to date with an extra product that may cost more than the thing itself. Some arch computer fiend came up with the name “upgrade” for whatever brings something up to date (usually incomprehensible software). I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m on an upgrade downgrade — and that slope is slicker than an Enron lawyer.
Many of these demonic devices invading our otherwise serene lives are called “time-saving” conveniences. Why is it time-saving conveniences take so much extra time and are about as convenient as a motorcycle in a swimming pool?
A good example is computers. These machines are supposed to take the place of typewriters, postage stamps, telephones, and pinball machines — and do whatever faster than ever before. Why does everything have to be faster anyway? Besides, I spend so much time trying to figure out how to get the blasted thing to do what I need to get done that I don’t get done what I wanted to do in the first place. Phew, I said that in one breath!
What’s so terrible about a typewriter? It needs a ribbon, a sheet of paper, and something to type. It does NOT need software, upgrades, floppy disks (which are not floppy and not discs), and a 567-page manual written in Korean backwards.
I can play one of those old pinball machines still around in a tavern here and there without a degree in electronic engineering. I remember how to put a stamp on an envelope and mail it. I know how to dial a telephone, even though they don’t have dials anymore, just those buttons that remind me of those awful computers.
When I was in high school, not even pocket calculators were around yet. We had to use a pencil or a slide rule. Cash registers didn’t have scanners to foul up sales, and cashiers counted out my change. People personally sent letters in their own handwriting. People played cards, laughed, and talked to each other without e-mail.
You know, on second thought, maybe being a technophobe isn’t so bad after all. And I didn’t need a time-saving device for that conclusion.
So take a deep breath and relax. Really see the beauty around you. Spend some time just holding hands with your spouse. Pet the cat. Watch the sunset tonight.
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: