Hey, it’s really good to be back, and we apologize for the inconvenience. Due to a series of computer crashes and geographic logistics, I was off line for, let’s see, about four months. I don’t consider myself computer literate. I thought a server was someone who brought you the menus: “Hi, I’m Marty, and I’ll be your server tonight.” Maybe that’s why these gizmos always seem to be infested with demons, or at least gremlins. The same kinds of critters got into most of the cars I’ve had, too
It isn’t just computers that befuddle me, but technology in general. I think there was some celestial clerical error, and I was born hundreds of years too late. In cosmic time that’s only a rounding error, but it was enough that I’m an anachronism, a person or thing out of sync with the times. Whether it’s cars or can openers, I have trouble with them. I just don’t possess the mechanical gene, and that even goes for Zip-loc, including the color coded ones. I’ve got Velcro down pretty well, though.
I’ll show you what I mean. I have two printers, one from my first computer and another one someone gave me. They’re useless, except as flat surfaces to pile things on. I can’t find the proper “designated” driver. As I understand it, the driver acts as kind of intermediary between the printer and computer. Servers, drivers, browsers, providers, huh? I have two DVRs given to me by friends a few years back, and have never hooked them up. I just don’t need all that frustration. I gave up television over a year ago, so I didn’t have that to fall back on. Okay, I still had an old VCR with an impressive collection, but then the VCR died! The gremlins had made their way through the wiring. At that point I felt I was only half a step from full Amish; all I needed was the hat and beard.
But wait — I still had radio, and thank heavens for NPR, except “For the full interview, visit our website.” And a local AM station carries Thom Hartmann, my favorite talk show host. So the other day I’m listening, and some static storm moves in. I called the station, the guy appreciated my bringing it to his attention, then added, “You know, you can listen to us at our website.” I thanked him, but wanted to yell “Stop rubbing it in!” I thought it would be a good time to catch up on my reading, but with my luck, the minute I opened a book I’d suddenly be stricken blind.
With all this as prologue, I was surprised by how much I missed the internet. I’m no fan of computer technology, but I realize that it’s a necessary evil, and mighty handy, too. I heard someone call it the world’s biggest public library, even if the data can be difficult to verify. I felt alienated from contacting friends and family, being able to do research. I was on the outside, looking in, unplugged, like Neo in “The Matrix.” I don’t do social media, the crack cocaine of the internet. My idea of social networking is being in the same location as those I interact with. There’s a synergy that combines language, verbal and social cues, that I’ve always found energizing. More people should try it. My friends won’t give up on me, though. I’ve finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 20th Century, only to find I’m still a hundred years behind.
A friend stopped by one day with a copy of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Interesting, that book was on my long list of reading, but way down. But when the universe puts a book into your hand, I figure it’s time to read it. It’s very good, but as it was written in 1959, many of his ideas will seem familiar. In the first part, Frankl tells of his capture and survival at Auschwitz during World War II. He notes how the prisoners were isolated from the world everyone else lived in. They could see glimpses of farmland, cars driving by, or just ordinary people getting on with their lives. It was an existence they had no access to; they felt like ghosts looking in on a reality that was denied to them. They were unplugged, too. While I would never compare my plight to theirs, I could certainly identify with their feelings of estrangement.
This was all a valuable experience for me. I thought of Joni Mitchell singing “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” For the first time, I realized what a vast gravitational force the internet exerts upon us all. It took my being unplugged to see how powerful that force can be. I can’t imagine someone who’s always doing Facebook or tweeting, to be cut off from this force field — it would have to be like heroin withdrawal to them. When I got back into the pudding again, I would try to hate computers less and appreciate a little more what they have to offer.
Now I’m back in the pudding, and right away I’m dealing with the gremlins again. My web sensei, Obi John Kenobi, said “You can watch DVDs, too! Here, I’ll show you.” He put a DVD into the tray, but the gremlins rejected it. I don’t remember what lame-ass excuse they gave. After Obi-John left, I thought at least I could finally watch the Superbowl, having been on of the 12th man since the beginning. Oh hell no, I can’t. I’ll have to wait till the DVD comes out (the gremlins probably won’t like that one, either).
That’s frustrating, but there’s the Sochi Winter Olympics. I love the Winters. So I go to NBC’s site, and all you can watch are background stories and crap like that. I want to see events! Sorry, pal, no live coverage. Can you believe that? Yes, Sochi is twelve hours ahead, so I would expect taped replays. There they are. You don’t get to choose which athlete, you have to watch the whole event. What the hell kind of rinky-dink operation is this? Okay, fine! Click on it, an hour or two event, and after ten minutes I notice this clock at the bottom of the screen, counting down. I scroll down and see I have used ten of the fifteen minutes of my “Free Pass.” Why, you cheap bastards. I guess I should have expected this from a fascist corporate behemoth like Comcast/NBC. I should be grateful for whatever crumbs they let fall to the floor. The next day I tried another wormhole into NBC replays, but got the message: “NBC Olympics does not have access to your username, password, or any other information related to your TV provider subscription.” Oh, Really? Is it asking me to log in? Screw that. Any website that asks me to log in I escape from. Call it a religious thing. Like I need another thousand usernames and passwords to keep track of, somewhere. Maybe it’s the modern version of “Your papers, please.” I found NBC’s website impossible to navigate, but you have to remember that I’m an idiot. You might as well have Ock — Stone Age Man try his luck. Glowing screen say hit any key continue. Ock no have “any” key. Then Ock hit “Escape” but still here.
The more things change, the more they’re the same. I feel I’ve become an updated app for a recurring joke on “The Simpsons” — old analog man shakes fist at digital cloud. I hate these damned things, but it sure is good to be back.