May 18, 2008

Technology frightens me.

Recently I've noticed that when someone forgets to get back to me they blame it on technology. "Sorry, I got your email on my Blackberry." What this means is they checked their mail while in transit, planned on responding when they were back at their desk but forgot.

But what they really mean is: "I've got a new excuse for ignoring you."

A Blackberry used to be special - only people with big lives and big jobs had one. But now everybody has one - everyone except me. My life doesn't require a Blackberry. Not that many people need to reach me.

I've noticed that once someone has a Blackberry they immediately assume everyone else has one too. The other day I was expecting to meet someone at a specific location and once I had left the house, this person changed the rendezvous - notifying me about it on e-mail. I waited. Time passed. When 30 minutes had gone by I did the old-fashioned thing and called.

"I emailed you!" This person said, sounding annoyed.

I pointed out that once I leave the house, I don't have access to email. She sounded even more annoyed. How did I become the rude one?

Technology frightens me. I'm ready to return to a quill and parchment. When I see someone now who has just a mobile phone I feel a bond. We're kindred spirits.

There's this unspoken understanding that soon, one of us will cross over to the latest gadget but until then, it's as if we're using tin cans with a string.

Technology is supposed to make life easier but in my experience, it doesn't. For instance, a couple of years ago my (now ex) boyfriend gave me an iPod. What was particularly appealing was, he'd programmed it for me.

He knew I wouldn't do it on my own so all I had to do was turn it on. At first, I was delighted. Then I realised he chose all the music. I could tell the ones he put on there with me in mind. Such as REM's Everybody Hurts. But most of them were songs he liked. Such as It's A Wonderful World. Also there were bands I'd never heard of - all of whom were cheerful and upbeat. Essentially it was an iPod for the girlfriend he wished he had.

I decided I would download my own music. I set out to navigate this as though I was Magellan. There are times in the past where I've had to do research on MySpace or FaceBook and, unable to cope, I'll go to the library. So when people say I don't challenge myself I could finally say: really? I went to iTunes and loaded my own iPod. It would feel good.

I went to iTunes with high hopes. If President Bush could load his own iPod, anything was possible. But very quickly I learned that the computer that loads the iPod is linked for eternity to the machine itself. So actually, nothing was possible. And yet, I still felt good.

The only thing better than being able to accomplish something technological is not being able to proceed because of a technological problem.

Since the boyfriend and I were no longer together it was awkward.

"Hi, even though we're not talking and I'm not in your life anymore, can I come over and have unlimited access to your computer?"

"Sure," he said. "And I'll leave you the PIN code for my bank card and the password for my email."

I took that as a no.

The iPod is now in the technology graveyard. Next to the digital camera that's still in the box, the DVD player he bought me and the instructions for the printer /scanner/fax which has never been hooked up.

Maybe my technology anxiety is genetic. My father looks at a telephone keypad like it's a control panel on a nuclear submarine. And putting a quarter in a pay phone is an act of valour. One of the great moments in our relationship was when I showed him how to use a washing machine. I could tell he was filled with pride.

So it's no wonder when someone asks me what I'm looking for in a man, the first thing that comes to mind is: someone who can help fix my computer. Or even better: a doctor who can fix my computer - and then diagnose and treat the carpal tunnel syndrome it will cause.