Low-tech devices kick my buttocks

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel

Technology can be a great thing. It can also cause one to go (more) prematurely gray (than I know I already am) when it, for reasons unknown, decides to go on the blink.

There are times I believe I hear some technological piece of gear actually laughing at me as I struggle to figure out why it worked just two minutes ago and won’t work now.

This crazy machine that sits in front of me on the desk for hours and hours at a time is one of the leading cohorts of fun at my expense.

And twice in the past four weeks, the culprit, which I thought was a spawn of Satan seeking some form of demonic possession, was a piece of low-tech gear that has been around for decades, and is something we too often take for granted.

We have a process here whereby we turn our completed newspaper pages into something called a portable document format or PDF file. Then we can ship them over the internet through an Internet web site to our printing plant in Miami Gardens and the files are small enough not to jam up the whole system and bring email as we know it to a crashing halt.

A few weeks ago, this machine, after functioning perfectly for two years and a little bit, decided it no longer wanted to do what I asked it to do. It just stopped acting the way I knew it should.

It was like Stephen King or Dean Koontz had found a way to infiltrate my computer and were writing codes designed specifically to foil my every attempt to get this blasted thing to do what I know it should do. Every thing I tried to do to make it go back to its normal behavior was shunted aside like flies from a horse’s tail.

Eventually we got the pages to Miami by using a four-step process that caused us to wait 25 minutes for every page to upload where we had waited five minutes before.

And we wasted four hours of precious time at deadline using this method. If there was a language I know (two semi-fluently, one fluently, two smatteringly) in which I didn’t use every swear word I knew in that four hour time span, I am unaware of it. And still nothing helped. I called my computer geek son in Ohio and paid for an hour of long-distance phone call seeking some aid. He had no brainstorms.

Again recently, while I was again fighting my weekly deadline, this stupid thing they call a mouse (why we call an inanimate object a furry rodent I’ll never know) decided to quit working. Again, I tried everything I knew, including shutting everything down and hooking it backup again, which I’ve done many times. And again, all was to no avail.

Then, miraculously in each case (you’d think I would’ve learned to make this the first thing to check after the first incident don’t you. Can you say creeping senility?) I decided to check on this small, insignificant, round capsule located inside the machines.

For decades you and I have known this capsule-shaped device as a common battery. In the first instance, the battery inside the computer had died and reset the year to 1904. The poor thing (me) didn’t know what to do. In the latter instance, the batteries inside my high-tech cordless mouse had gone dead and could no longer receive the proper signal.

For the hours and hours I spent fighting with this equipment, tossing soft objects against the wall, cursing like a drunken sailor, kicking hard objects (and re-injuring my 15-year broken toe in the process) I could have just simply remembered my many lessons with another common low-tech device called a flashlight.

You see, I buy flashlights in bulk. We have kids in the house. And even though I keep the flashlights at the top of a cabinet only I can reach, somehow the kids get into my stash.

I’m sure they get there by having my lovely wife climb on a chair for them, but I can’t prove this dastardly allegation so I will not mention it again.

When they get the flashlight, they are very adept at finding the on button. But they really stink at finding the off button. That’s why I also keep a stash of spare batteries on top of the refrigerator, again a place only I can reach, so I can refill the flashlights with batteries whenever I find them scattered will-nilly around the house where they shouldn’t be.

But all this care of flashlights came about after some slow-witted learning on my part.

I had a magnetic flashlight that I just stuck to the refrigerator door. Easy access for any of our many power outages. Also easy access for even short people…you know, the young ones with great senses of wonder and admiration for “instant” light.

Because I growled enough to make them notice about my flashlight being missing, they learned to take the flashlight while I was on one of my late-night work sprees, flip it on and play with it, run the batteries dead, then put the dead flashlight back where they had found it.

My lovely wife has this bad habit of allowing this to happen. I had a bad habit of not checking the battery juice religiously in my easy-access flashlight.

Every time I needed the flashlight, the batteries were dead.

After a dozen or so times this scenario played out I learned and put all the flashlights on the top shelf.

They know where they are. They get someone (wife?) to get the flashlight, take the batteries out and use them in their toys that need battery power. I go for the flashlights, always in the dark else why would I need a flashlight, and they are all empty, completely devoid of batteries. There is nothing but a multi-colored collection of plastic on the shelf.

I must gingerly tip toe my way to the refrigerator and reach waaaaayyyyy back to the emergency stash of batteries, load them in the dark and flip on the light.

Now after al that experience in flashlight death you would think that a battery would be the first place I’d look if I know the darned machine has one.

But I didn’t. I guess I learn slowly.

Can you say dippy?

I did. Often.

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