Tag Archives: technology

Stuck on Words

This evening, while gathering some paperwork to send out in the “regular” mail, I turned to my FHB and said “I’ll go make a photocopy of the documents”.  I heard myself and thought I should look at my feet and see if I am wearing sensible oxford shoes and ankle socks and perhaps a poodle skirt.  Sometimes I think I am stuck in a time warp because as much as I consider myself a woman of the 2017s, I revert back to terms that really date me, and not in an attractive way.  There are smells of the purple ink of the mimeograph machine that I can conjure up and imagine choking on chalk dust.  I still refer to Xerox machines and Mixmasters despite being able to send a copy wirelessly and  make some cakes in the Kitchen Aid mixer.  Sometimes I say to people, “I left a message on your answering machine” and I get strange looks.  They usually remark…”You mean a voicemail?” and I will smile, a sort of sheepish smile.

Many of us grew up in the world of telephone exchanges long before there were area codes.  We had two phone numbers in our apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens; one that started off Illinois 8 and the other was Havemeyer 6.  I was told that in the towns surrounding and including New Bedford, all you had to do was dial the last five numbers.  When is the last time you spoke to an operator?  Do they still exist?  Is anyone out there worrying about whether our phone calls go through?  Probably not.  It was comforting to speak to some random woman when you pushed the “O” and she genuinely wanted to help.  There’s no more long distance although there are certainly many long distances.  It’s just different.  Moments where I forget the terminology and lapse back into the venacular of 1962 or thereabouts, I wonder why those words are still so imbedded in my vocabulary, as thought it was my first language.  It felt like a connection to where I lived.  Our neighborhoods were identified by the exchanges.  Folks stayed in one place and your phone number was something that didn’t change and you remembered long after you moved away.


I have a gyro wheel in my office for students to play with while we are talking.  They are completely fascinated by the fact that I had that as a child and loved to move the wheel back and forth, no batteries, no wires and a rather simple lesson in movement and flow.  They are mesmerized by the motion and often ask if they still make them because it turns out “it is really cool, Miss”.  I could play with my Jack In the Box endlessly and time after time, I would jump like it was the first time.  Probably a bit weird, right?  My FHB and I will often talk about the words our parents said which sounded so wrong when they used them.  My father used to say that he felt “uptight” and I remember shuddering and thinking that I will never use that word again and he’d better not talk like that in front of my friends.  I was just horrified. I imagine that my children as they were growing up, had similar moments when I embarrassed them by saying something that they felt was their word or expression, and I had no right to use that in conversation.  I remember when one of my sons was travelling to South America while he was in college and he said that he would send me pictures of his travels but I had to establish something he called a Facebook account.  When I told him that I already had one (this was in 2008), he was adamant that I was doing it to spy on him.  What a concept…a parent monitoring their child’s activity or anyone else doing that to people you don’t even know based on information as part of an algorithm.  Whoever thought I would understand and use a word like algorithm with appropriate meaning.

I suppose that my current experience is akin to my grandmother’s wanting to see what the inside of an RV looked like or to fly in an airplane since she was born in 1887.  So, if a self driving car shows up, I’ll get in, put on my seat belt,  hang on,  and enjoy the ride.




Control Freaks


It rained today.  I washed my car yesterday. People around me were grousing (one of my favorite words) about the rain. I was sure that they knew about the car wash and would hold me responsible for the rain.  This morning the fire alarms went off in the loft building and I put on my dirty clothes that were sitting next to the hamper…okay sue me…and got my shoes on sans socks, grabbed my coat, phone, eye glasses and headed out the door. I did assure the cat that this was probably not a real fire so she didn’t need to worry.  Of course Paka gave me a glare that indicated “But  how are you  so SURE it’s not real and  yet you are so willing to abandon me?”.  I hurried down the staircase and heard lots of footsteps ahead and behind me as one of the neighbors was heading back up and told me that the sprinklers were being worked on and there was no fire.  I turned back to return up several flights. A couple of neighbors who  were appropriately anxious were just about to head down and I reassured them that there was no fire, just work being done, and they started yelling at me about not being notified.  I just smiled and squeezed by them.  I am not in charge as much as I like to think I am.

I would readily admit sometimes I act as though I am in charge of stuff or that I know how things are supposed to be.  A long time ago, before cell phones, my sister and I were meeting at a store that she had never been to, and I had been to once. It was not near either of us and there were no GPS directions, apps and no one looked at maps while driving alone.  I gave her directions, very explicit directions.  It was a matter of being absolutely adamant that I knew the way.  Did I mention that I will often say left when I mean right? I didn’t send her directions via snail mail since we didn’t have email or texts and skywriting was out of my budget.  I just told her in that tone, which she will icily recall, seems less reassuring and more defiantly demanding, as to how to get there.  Needless to say (another favorite expression which is clearly out of vogue), we both got lost but eventually found the store and there was still time to shop.  The store is long gone. I attribute it to being difficult to find.  In retrospect I probably should have used logic and contacted the store and written down the directions, rather than relying on instinct or memory.  I actually have a good memory for directions, but there may be something lost in translation since I often use landmarks that no longer exist but reference them in the “remember where the Gulf gas station used to be….” and so on.  Sometimes people are impatient about these things. I don’t get it.

Technology is still mysterious to me although I have a lot of devices that I use with some skill. The skill has been developed as a result of dumb luck and some intuition.  I can’t be bothered to be taught how to do things by my Gen X and  millennial age children. They are impatient with me since there was an obvious adaptation in DNA in the generations after I was created, that makes people in those age groups believe that I should just “listen and watch” and when I listen and watch, it still does not gel easily.  I’m no luddite and I am willing to be part of this great new world, but I will figure it out.  Yesterday, while in the middle of doing a project for work from home, the printer stopped actually printing but went through the lemon juice process wherein, it typed, but nothing actually appeared on the paper.  This was after I had “printed” eight documents only to find that I had eight blank sheets.  Screaming while living in a loft does not get you good results.  Trust me, the neighbors, whether they care about your safety or wellbeing will know, and they will give you knowing glances while waiting for the elevator.  I was hellbent on figuring out the problem with the printer. I did not have time to waste.  Ink supply, plenty on tap.  Paper, plenty in the tray.  Connection, no problem.  I went through the list and consulted with my FHB who after a cursory review from across the room, indicated things looked fine to him.  Gotta love the man.  I deigned to go to the computer’s website for an additional opinion and troubleshooting despite knowing that I already did everything anyone who knows everything would have done.  Kind of like the “is it plugged in moment” which it was.  The website encouraged me to consider, rather than tell me to, that I might want to clean the printer heads.  I hadn’t thought of that although I might have if I had more time.  I proceeded to follow their directions, begrudgingly.  Victory was mine.  Small dance of joy!  I am just brilliant under pressure.  People who know everything will understand what I mean.  This was an inherited trait that I learned from my father, who actually did know everything. All you had to do was ask him.  One of his favorite expressions was “I knew that!”.  He was the person in the family that others went to for advice.

I like to think I work well with others, as long as they know that I probably know what I am talking about. If not, they will come around.  I’m patient. It has taken me a lifetime to know that control is just another way to hold on to what makes you comfortable.  Learning to compromise in all my relationships has forced the issue, over and over again.  People are so stubborn.  We could save a lot of time and energy if I would just let other people lead.  Maybe that’s why I am not a good dancer, except with my very wonderful FHB.  At six feet tall, hovering over my four foot eleven inch stature,  he leads and I happily let it happy.  The choice is still mine, but if I want to dance, and I do, I let the music handle any differences.

Unplanned Obsolescence



A protractor, a jump rope, and a steno pad.  All things I mastered and figured having those skills made me a well rounded person.  I thought that in combination, I might be considered a bit strange (imagine that) but individually,  they might be skills that I could teach others, or get paid to know or have a future with.  The jump rope might be a stretch, I’ll concede.  Knowing how to use a protractor would gain me engineering skills.  For those near and dear to me, I imagine they are rolling their eyes as I am the least precise person that they know.  This is why I use the terminology “more or less” , ” approximately” and “my best guesstimate would be…”.  We can’t be good at everything or there would be a lot of redundancy.  In high school I took, on the advice of my mother and guidance counselor (two separate women), shorthand.  It was the 1960’s and the women’s movement was building momentum, but if I didn’t join, I could get  a good job as a secretary and take dictation.  I still have a few moves, which I use….NEVER!

Sometimes I imagine explaining to my granddaughters that I know things that were fun and helpful back in the dark ages.  Nothing required batteries and we used them to figure out things.  Actually, the jump rope could be used as a tool to measure distance, so there you go.  Something fun that is now an exercise tool.  In reality, my sense of balance and timing excluded me from double dutch and jumping in and in fact, just jumping in place risked my tripping over the rope as it came down or whacking myself in the head with it. I was dogged in my attempt to master it and I found, although it was a game with others, I took it as a solitary pursuit.

Looking back is realizing that progress is hard to measure when you are in the moment.  What we thought would be the future was beyond our imagination.  My grandmother, who was born in 1887 and died in 1978 was fascinated by mobile homes and we often took her to shows where she could climb into the ones that could be driven and she would examine the cabinetry and storage and would marvel at how compact and clever they were.  She wanted to fly in an airplane and in her late 80s, she and my father flew from New York to Massachusetts so she could have that experience and she loved it.  I guess it would be akin to my wanting to ride in one of the first space crafts when I was a ten year old.  I wanted to know what it would be like to be weightless and float around.  Anything greater than that was the stuff of movies and  H.G. Wells novels.

When I think about the things we have now I  realize that I didn’t imagine that I needed anything more to do life with.  Driving a car was a hope that was realized and having a phone in my room as a teenager, with my own phone number, was a very big deal.  The world was big enough and even with my imagination, my dreams and hopes were based in my future as an individual, being productive and independent.  Navigating by public transportation in New York City was through maps and memorization and asking people for directions.  There was my competency.  Interactions with others was valuable, and the skill in the art of conversation was the subject of books to improve your chances and choices in life.  I sense I am ranting.  The irony is that writing this discourse is possible now because of all I never expected or imagined.  Those of us who write blogs, or posts or texts or emails, are published, actually self published, with the help of many others, I will never know or know by name.  With every word and sentence sent, we attempt to connect with others and share our frame of minds in that moment.  We have learned to react through Twitter and other social media links, or respond through emails.  We fight virtual battles through clouds and  data and never look in the other person’s eyes or see their smiles or tears or frustration or pride.  We may have more ways to communicate what WE are thinking but are often disconnected by those we truly want to reach.  We can say hug, but we can’t really feel it and there is nothing like a good, old fashioned pat on the back, hug and feel of the energy between human beings.  I see the change, I participate in it, and yet, I feel that a jump rope was a short distance between two people and you can’t copy, send or paste that.

Have a good week.  Send a postcard.