|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
There are many among us who frequently find themselves struggling with computers and one of them, who is a coworker of mine, came to me the other day for advice. I'm not certain why he chose me to be his computer guru; I am OK with computers, but I hardly consider myself an expert or anything. I'm just not afraid of them.
The poor guy looked like his stress level was astronomical, his eyes were wild and his hair was kind of standing up on his head as if he had been running his hands through it for awhile. He started out by telling me that he had recently signed up for a broadband connection to the internet through his local cable company.
"Do you know how broadband is really fast and you can do stuff almost without thinking?" he asked me. I confirmed that I knew how broadband operated.
"Well," he said pitifully, "I think that I accidentally downloaded the entire internet."
I explained to him that it was impossible to download the entire internet, because the internet was this enormously huge virtual thing that would never fit on his PC. When he gave me a look of skepticism I added that if he had tried to download the entire internet, his computer would have had a massive brain aneurism and blown up in his living room. He seemed to understand that analogy because he looked relieved.
"I'm so glad," he sighed, "because I kept expecting Google to call me and ask for the internet back."
"Not to worry." I assured him cheerfully, "Whatever you downloaded was just a tiny little microscopic part of the internet and Google will never miss it."
"But I still have problems," he continued sadly. "I decided to use the computer to pay my bills and I seemed to have made double payments on every one of them."
"Ouch." I commiserated. "That must have hurt. You didn't happen to have clicked twice on the 'PAY' button, did you?"
"Of course I did." he said in disgust, as if he were pointing out something obvious to a child, "You're supposed to double click on everything."
"Noooooo," I said carefully, "You are only supposed to double click on files that you want to open. If you double clicked on the 'PAY' button you made two payments."
He looked at me with horror and started to run his hands through his already vertical hairdo.
"Oh no," he moaned. "How can that be? I thought I was supposed to double click on stuff that I wanted to do. Why do they do this to me? Why do they make it so confusing?"
I wasn't sure who 'they' were, so I was unable to come up with anything helpful.
"Look," I said, "A computer isn't a magic crystal ball, or a some alien device; it is just a tool, plain and simple. It's a machine, like a chain saw or a drill or a telephone."
"I can use the telephone without wanting to throw it through a window," he said plaintively.
"But do you really know how it works? A land-line phone or a cell phone?" I asked.
"Not really." he admitted.
"You just need to know how to operate it." I told him. "It's the same with the computer."
"I can't even program my VCR." he sighed.
I didn't think that this was the moment to tell him that VCR's were totally last decade. I don't even own one anymore.
"Maybe you just need to get a simple instruction book." I suggested.
"I have one of those computers for Dummies books," he told me. I told him that was perfect and that he should read it.
"I kind of did." he said. "I was too dumb to understand it."
I wasn't certain how to respond to this so I just suggested that perhaps he only needed more practice.
"I don't think so," he said sadly, "I think that it may be like golf; I've been practicing that for 20 years and I still stink at it."
I had nothing more to offer in the way of encouragement at this point, so I just suggested that he might want to go back to paying his bills by check.
"You're right." he agreed. "In all the years I have been paying bills, I have never written two identical checks by accident."
The poor guy was a totally stressed-out mess. His blood pressure was probably astronomical. I guess that there are some people who are better off not using a computer for anything more complicated than playing card games. I'm pretty sure that a rousing round of solitaire on his PC will never give him a heart attack or a stroke.