Everybody talks about paranoia as if it’s a bad thing.
There are mucho, mucho reasons to be paranoid, my friend. For instance, at the very moment I write this, I’m sitting in a meeting. There are very familiar-ish looking people in various states of rumpled suits and ties. We are hunkered down in the public library. The agenda has NINETEEN items.
I got here late and I’m not sure what the meeting is about. All I have is a napkin that says “library 8pm”.
Sadly, it’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Usually, I fake calm and play a human version of Sudoku to figure out where exactly I’ve landed in the unending list of unclear obligations. But today nothing is working. I’ve listened really hard for five minutes. And I’m still not sure. Thus far we’ve covered the greeting, introduced the new members, and summarized the agenda. I’ve ruled out school board meeting (these people brought snacks) and I’m pretty sure this is not a religious event (we didn’t open in prayer). I’ve taxed my inner Nancy Drew. And still. Not really sure if I’m supposed to be here. Haven’t even ruled out that I’m speaking at this little soiree. Thus, my paranoia.
Before you call the white coats, allow me offer this brilliantly original defense: It’s not my fault.
For my current state of confusion, I blame Steve. And Bill. But mostly Steve.
I’m the victim. To be more precise. I’m an i-victim. Defenseless against the slow insidious creep of “helpful” technology that has taken over my brain.
Like a spider weaving a web, Steve Jobs convinced me that all of my problems could be solved with my i-products. I was a hold out. I loved my paper calendar and pen that had color changing tabs at the top. But I just couldn’t argue with the “i-solution”. If I went techno-girl, my calendar would always be available via “the cloud”.
Ooooh. The cloud. Sort of like heaven. A place where nobody shows up at the Boy Scout meeting exactly on time one week late. For penance has to call 75 angry popcorn customers three days before Christmas. No one pays penance on “the cloud.”
The promise of being a fully functional adult was just too wonderful to pass up. At the urging of my friends, I ran away to Verizon on a madcap weekend adventure and woke up Monday morning with a brand new touch screen and a two year contract. Technology and me were finally hitched! What a honeymoon! Yowza! For a girl who NEVER knew where she was supposed to be, or when, or with what, I could turn on my email and get “oriented” right in the middle of Costco. Finally, my kids were not the LAST ones to be picked up, and for the first year ever, my son had the right uniform on in the team photo! Bliss.
But even the best honeymoons end. And now, I’m stuck with a spouse that teases and promises, but eventually leaves me sitting in a public library in an insanely boring meeting, I may or may not be speaking at.
It’s a sad story. But since we’ve only moved on to the second bullet point on the agenda, and no one has called my name, I’ll share. You lucky person.
Two months ago, my phone stopped sending emails. It pretended to send emails, but it was just going through the motions. Like me at spinning class. “Hey, my feet are on the pedals. What else do you want? Sweat?”
People kept giving me the “I can’t believe you didn’t answer my email” dirty look. What? Beg pardon? I DID return your email. I remember distinctly pushing send while holding up the Burger King drive through.
True confession: For years I’ve been lying about returning people’s email and just sort of letting the “mysterious technology glitch” cover my bad. So like that boy who cried wolf, I’m now left alone in my minivan not really sure to whom I promised bag of “boy clothes” and who gets the tray of brownies. Hmmm.
Note to self: Bring brownies and boy clothes to next five events. Problem Avoided.
I’m a PSA expert. Problem Solving Avoidance. My Olympic sport. I’ve avoided my way through advanced algebra, Spanish 3, Tax returns for years 2003-07, and 73 employee improvement seminars. PSA is what you do when you are too busy, too guilt ridden, or too confused (or some toxic combination thereof) to actually solve the problem. Sort of like when QVC labels size 14 as “medium-medium” or when your husband answers a question with a question.
So my phone quit sending email. It’s not the end of the world. I own a computer. I can check up on email during my free time at home. Which according to my Google Calendar is from 1:34 to 1:45 a.m, Pacific Standard Time.
I was limping along. Trying to make this techno-marriage work. I went to counseling at the T-mobile booth. My counselor’s name was “Ian”. He appeared to be about 12.
“I’m sorry ma’am. You need to make an appointment at the Apple store. It’s a software problem.”
Counseling session over. Clearly, Ian was not a people person.
Note to twelve year-olds everywhere : 1) Don’t try to pass yourself off as techno-marriage counselors. 2) Never, ever call me “ma’am”. Can’t you see I’m hip and happening? Isn’t the I-PHONE and SPARKLE EYE LINER a clue that I’m not even close to “ma’am-ness”?
In his attempts to help, Ian only messed me up. Now my phone would not even receive emails.
“Ma’am, You just need to go in and reset your account passwords.”
Yeah, right. Hey Ian, if I knew how to do that, do you think I’d be standing here letting you call me names?
I started asking my friends’ husbands for help. No luck. They talked too fast while pushing random buttons and suggesting I visit the T-mobile booth. As my desperation increased, I sought out teenagers in the mall. I looked for kids that didn’t appear to be on crack or showing crack, which pretty much left the home-schooled crowd. Nada. They must have been busy sewing their own clothes.
I most likely would have straggled along in a PSA induced haze indefinitely. But then the bottom dropped out.
My Google Calendar stopped working. (Insert discordant pounding of piano keys here.)
It was like somebody sucked all the oxygen out of the room. I staggered around hardly able to recall my own work schedule without breaking a sweat. With the homing beacon turned off, I couldn’t even figure out the day of the week.
Side note: When did Google Calendar sneak up Maslow’s Hierarchy? Just yesterday, the “pyramid of needs” went like this: 1. breathing 2. water 3. food …. And somewhere around 7,569 we found “Google Calendar.
And now, Google Calendar has wheedled its way into the top three or arguably, the TOP TWO? What? It’s not like we’re talking blood and plasma. It’s Google Calendar for crying out loud. A time saving convenience. Not a brain sucking symbiote. But, I digress.
With no email and no calendar, I was up the creek without a paddle in sight. The first day, we missed the orthodontist, marching band (which was meeting at the stadium of all places) and two private pay patients I had rescheduled and WISELY NOTED IN MY OMNIPRESENT CALENDAR. It’s not like I was sitting at home. I was busy driving like a mad woman to all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons. Mike had to walk home from work and the youth group went without snacks, thus confirming my status as “completely loser parent”.
Ignoring the constant whiny drone for nourishment coming somewhere from the backseat, I frantically looked up the Apple Store in the PHONE BOOK. (Oh, the irony.)
“Ma’am, we have an opening. The day after Thanksgiving.”
“Are you kidding me? You mean October is over?”
I hung up. I have all kinds of important things to do in November. And apparently, someone changed the month without asking. I raced home and fired up the old monolithic computer vintage 2009. It wheezed and sputtered. I can’t believe it took a whole 90 seconds to turn on. What a dinosaur.
Just then my phone rang. Apparently, all my phone agreed to do was be a phone. Completely LAME. When’s the last time anyone let me do JUST ONE THING?
“Hollylu, are you coming?”
“Of course. What time again?” (Please note subtle problem solving avoidance strategy.)
“Are you kidding? Eight. At the library. I thought you were going to help set up.”
“Right. I’m on my way.” I frantically wrote notes on a napkin. Not even a clean one.
And here I sit. Scribbling these words on the back of the agenda. Desperately trying to look like a grown up. Every time there is a pause in the speaking, I almost wet myself with anxiety. No one has called my name. Yet.
How did this happen? Technology with its slick digital screens and convenient plugs that pop into what we used to call “the lighter “ has slithered into my cognition and beat the holy crumb out of my grey matter. Once upon a time, I could read a map. I had an ongoing love affair with Thomas, my guide, as we navigated the backwaters of the Northwest. (Way too many trees to route like a Nebraskan). Now if my GPS told me to turn into a strange driveway and go inside and make dinner, I’d blindly obey. I’ve literally driven past my destination FOUR times trying to find the checkered flag!
Before my conversion to “handy time saving devices” I knew at least 20 phone numbers by memory. But like an addict mourning the loss of dentition, I have to look down to tell you my cell phone number. My own number.
What will be next? Will some form of technology return all my messages, emails and texts, thus forming a techno-version of me that my friends will most assuredly prefer to the flesh and blood me? Will my Pinterest self become so much more interesting than my actual self that I will die of loneliness while being “followed” by thousands?
These are the things you wonder when left alone in a meeting of strangers. No email. No texts. No Facebook. No YouTube. No Pandora. Nothing but an alarming amount of reality and no means of escaping it. How did I ever live like this? Surviving on nothing but the wits God gave me and human kindness?
Hmm. I want to continue this deep vein of thought. But I’m jonesing for a dog shaming video like you wouldn’t believe. Oh dear. They’ve stopped talking. I’ve lost track of where we are on the agenda.
And everyone’s staring at me. (Insert more discordant piano music, only louder!)
I hate you Steve and Bill. That’s it. We’re through. As soon as I PSA my way out of here, I’m going cold turkey. I’m going to get a pen and a notebook and a map and a compass…AND USE MY BRAIN.
Post Script: Turns out they just wanted me to turn off the light for the PowerPoint. Seems my meeting was ACROSS THE HALL. Forget all that tripe about going full commando using my brain and actually thinking. I LOOOVE you technology. Especially you, iPhone 5. Maybe we can get together for drinks sometime. I’ve told Santa all about you. I’ve been really good this year. Except for the last month, things kinda got away from me, I was getting out of a bad relationship….
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