Sunday, July 17, 2022

Trying the first Macintosh computer? Ecstasy. Getting a new iPhone? Agony

Something amazing happened when I went to get a new phone last year: I didn’t buy one, because instead of pressuring me to spend a bunch of money, the salesperson helped me keep my old phone running a bit longer.

That was cool. 

Because I didn’t want a new phone. I still loved my old one, an iPhone 5 that works just fine, thank you very much. Fine, that is, until the “Home” key gave out, making the phone so frustrating to use that even I had to admit it was time to replace it.

Why so reluctant? Because I am no longer that girl who fell in love with the first Macintosh computer my father brought home in the 1980s. Back then I was a teenager, so I hopped on the newfangled Mouse like it was a magic carpet.

But four decades later, learning new technology no longer feels like soaring to new heights — it’s more like making a wrong turn out of your quiet neighborhood and onto a busy freeway, suddenly becoming a panicked tourist, lost and in the way.

Like in Chicago when I tried to buy a train pass at the station near my hotel. After many agonizing minutes of hogging a ticket machine to no avail, an employee finally appeared to explain I couldn’t buy what I needed there and pointed me to a drugstore across the huge, busy intersection.

Frantically memorizing all the street signs and praying I could get back to the train station once I got my ticket, I stepped off the curb. And when I bought the pass, found the station again and boarded the right train, I swelled with the pride of accomplishment as I looked out the window at the tall buildings of Chicago’s famous Loop, finally seeing in person what I had admired in movies and on television.

Moments like those are why we travel: We dive into the agony of the unknown because we know the ecstasy of resurfacing, now stronger and smarter than we were before.

But I’ve reached an age where I’m starting to fear I may never be any stronger or smarter than I am right now. And instead of swelling with pride when I regain control, I’m usually sweating from the knowledge that I barely escaped with most of my dignity intact, and that next time I will have even less to spare.

Like the morning in Montana I had a meltdown just trying to get breakfast. Hungry and frazzled, I spilled some of the greens I was collecting at a grocery store hot food bar and became so overwhelmed by the annoyed regulars surrounding me that I began to cry. Picking up as much of my mess as I could, I escaped to the yogurt aisle and pretended to study the labels for several minutes until I was ready to try again.

I finally did gather my food, but back in the car I was humiliated instead of happy, feeling weaker instead of stronger. This is learning new technology now: The agony of travel you didn’t choose, with no ecstasy reward afterward.

Because instead of teenage me riding the Macintosh magic carpet, I am now my mother, stuck in traffic and needing her teenager’s help at every turn. And even worse? I am that middle-aged woman without even an impatient daughter to help her navigate. 

That’s why it was so cool when I first tried to get a new phone, I was helped by a young woman who was far more patient than my mother’s daughter ever was. 

“Most people choose that plan,” she said, steering me away from the most expensive plan I was pointing at. Once the paperwork was done, she brought out my new phone and picked up my old phone to complete the transfer.

“Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore,” I said when she tried the Home key. “That’s why I’m here.”

But she had a magic wand. With a few swipes she put a “virtual home key” on the screen and quickly accessed anything she wanted. I was astounded. Is that really all I needed? 

She handed me her tablet with my new contract, but I couldn’t sign. I just kept staring at my old phone, which now really did work just fine. 

I took a deep breath. “Is it too late to back out? I... I didn’t want to give up my old phone.”

“Of course not,” she said, barely hesitating before accepting my wishes and deleting my contract.

“How much longer do you think this phone will last?” I said. 

“Probably a long time,” she said. “It’s the Home key that usually gives out on those.”

“I guess I just needed a young person in my life,” I said, my cheeks flushed from both embarrassment and relief as I left without a new phone I didn’t want to buy, and without being chained to a three-year contract I didn’t want to sign.

Soon I learned just how kind that young lady was when I finally did get a new phone a few months later. To avoid signing a service contract, I did not return to the store where she worked and instead went to a large retailer I trusted where I could buy my phone outright.

Everything about the second salesperson there was the opposite of the first: She had pointed me to a cheaper plan, he pushed me again and again to the most expensive one. And whenever I asked questions, he bristled before giving me incomplete or false information.

When I asked if the phone would connect with my old laptop, he said it would, but it didn’t. He told me I needed to buy another power brick because the new phone didn’t come with one and I couldn’t charge it with my old cords. Not true: After buying a new power brick, I found that all my old cords worked just fine on my new phone.

Perhaps the worst lie he told was that he had spelled my name correctly. Knowing that so many people struggle to spell my Danish surname, I insisted he make sure he got it right on my email before my contract was completed. He reluctantly checked, then assured me he spelled it correctly.

But before even leaving the store, I got an alert on my new phone telling me that the email on my account had been changed. Thinking my account had already been hacked, I called customer service as soon as I got home and sat on hold for 30 minutes only to learn that the change was because the salesman had indeed spelled my name incorrectly. And instead of admitting it, he lied and changed it, prompting my frantic call to customer service.

Correction: I didn’t need just any young person in my life, I needed a kind young person in my life!

Happy update: Now that I’ve regained most of my dignity, I am pleased to report that this old gal can still learn new tricks: Like how when taking a photo, if you keep your finger on the screen it will begin taking video automatically. 

This feature is great if you’re taking a photo of a bird which suddenly starts flying, but I especially love it because I not only discovered it myself, but was able to teach it to a younger friend, a professional photographer who is usually showing me how to use my phone.

And he captured my proud moment on video:

Saturday, July 2, 2022

My gratitude journal in college: “I’m grateful there was no video camera last night”

Me hiking Black Hill near Morro Bay.
Right after I graduated college I started keeping a “gratitude journal,” writing down at the end of each day at least five things I was grateful for during this very exciting, but also very fraught, transition period in my life.

That was cool.

Not only because the journal helped me stay grounded at the time, but because I could find it now and enjoy reading the entries on a day when I really needed to be reminded of all the good things there are to be grateful for. And maybe even more, needed a good laugh!

January 17, 1997

1. I’m grateful for the beautiful and amazing view we saw atop Black Hill today, much better than Madonna Mountain.

2. I’m grateful for doughnuts.

3. I’m grateful for Andrews*, and how he and Berger make me laugh, and how he’s always happy to see me.

4. I’m grateful that I’m still young and feel vibrant and beautiful.

5. I’m grateful/glad for the feeling of water. That such a simple thing can feel so good.

6. I’m grateful for Texas-size margaritas for $3.50 at Hudson’s in flavors like watermelon, raspberry and kiwi, with big paper umbrellas that actually fold down.

January 19, 1997

1. I’m so f--king grateful that I didn’t have sex with Andrews; I’m grateful no clothes came off. I didn’t even touch him. Just kissing. I wish it hadn’t happened, but I’m grateful, that is all.

2. I’m grateful that no man has tried to have anal sex with me.

3. I’m grateful for showers, and the feeling of renewal afterward.

4. I’m grateful that I have my own room.

5. I’m grateful there was no video camera last night.

January 21, 1997

1. I’m grateful it was raining, so I didn’t walk by the journalism building today.

2. I’m grateful for the deliciousness of the potatoes and eggs I can make in the morning, they never cease to satisfy me.

3. I’m grateful for all the rain, because the green mountains are so beautiful. Breathtaking.

4. I’m grateful for my car.

5. For strawberry preserves, and cheesecake to pour them over.

6. I’m grateful that tomorrow is another day, and I can try something new.

January 22, 1997

Oh, this is going to be a hard one...

1. I’m grateful that I can cook, and I still have things like chicken and rice to make.

2. I’m grateful that I have a credit card, so I could buy toner for my printer.

3. I’m grateful that I’m healthy, and young.

4. I’m grateful that I’ve been to Paris, and London.

5. I’m grateful for reading, for being able to read delicious novels like The English Patient is the best, sincerest form of escape I know. It is the only thing that truly makes me feel human. Like I was a little girl again, where all that mattered was the bed was comfy, and the only thing that I wished for was that my mother would let me have milk instead of water. That was my burning question: “Why not?”
That was it, not this infernal noise in my head of late bills and not getting my degree and not finding a job and running out of money and watching too much TV and wanting a man who betrayed his girlfriend again and again and who would only end up betraying me yet I still can’t stop wanting him.
I just wanted to read “Starring Sally J. Freedman as herself” again and again and drink milk by my bedside. And get rid of those curtains. And make out with my teddy bear. I should have stuck with teddy bears.

*Not his real name.

Friday, July 1, 2022

My Grandmother’s Journals: July, 1997

My grandmother, right, camping in Mexico in the 1950s.
In July of 1997, my 82-year-old grandmother was watching tennis, researching the Mars Pathfinder and keeping up on the health of everyone in her life, especially her neighbors and the people she talked to at the donut shop near her house. 
But something happened at the shop this month that upset her, and she abruptly stopped her daily visits. 
I remember being sad at the time when I learned she was no longer going there, because it seemed like such a big part of her life. I never learned exactly what happened, because she wouldn't talk about it. 

Tuesday, July 1, 1997
To laundromat. Warm.
Tennis: Hingis, Becker won.
To Live Oak, Alice on vacation.
Walked on cliff.
Stopped at Vibol’s for apple juice, donut.
TV: News, Frost, Law & Order.
Wednesday, July 2, 1997
Awake 7:30, up 9. Warm.
To Trader Joe’s. 
To Vibol’s. He reminisced, Buddhism.
To show, “Face-off.” 2 hrs, 20 mins. Thriller. Director James Woo. Much special effects.
Ate KFC.
TV: Nickelodeon, Lucy, Bewitched.
Slept good.
Robert Mitchum died, lung cancer, emphysema. Heavy smoker, 79.
Thursday, July 3, 1997
Longs, BP.
Vibol’s. Tea, no coffee. 
Tennis: Good matches. Becker announced no more Wimbledon.
Ironed, cleaned windows of car, front door.
TV: Diagnosis Murder, St. Elsewhere.
Jimmy Stewart died. 89. “Heart attack.”
Friday, July 4, 1997
Sleep not great. 
Tennis: Sampras vs. Woodbridge, Woodbridge rallied very good in third set. 
Folded plastic bags to give to thrift shop. 
Washed car, some nicks.
Man next door a Mason.
Dina Ruiz on Ch. 8

Saturday, July 5, 1997
Tennis: Tuned in about 7, after first set.
Longs, BP.
Vibol’s. Clayton in. Gets MRI Monday.
Mailed card to Prudy.
Cats in back last night.
Tired, rest 4 to 5.
TV: Bio of Jimmy Stewart, Robert Mitchum.

Monday, July 7, 1997
Slept good. 
Ronn gone, back tomorrow.
To Vibol’s. In paper today, “Confusion in Cambodia.”
To Gottschalk’s, looked for “dicky” denim blue. None.
Wrote Mina, long, re: Vibol, Cambodia, Earl Woods, Wimbledon.
Mail:  Card from Justine with copy of graduation announcement.
To Kmart, ate chicken sandwich.
Called Justine, left message on machine.
TV: Cybill, news.

Tuesday, July 8, 1997
Stayed in bed til 9:15.
To Vibol’s. Monie there, I read Chronicle to her.
To library, got book on Malta.
Wrote Justine.
Checked Goodwill, walked to St. Vincent’s. Got gold holder for $3. Tax, .24.
TV: Law & Order, Inspector Morse, ST Next Generation.
Wednesday, July 9, 1997
To Vibol’s after vacuuming chair.
To show, “Men in Black.” Good, funny.
To Wendy’s.
To Longs, got TV Guide.
Home, Sandra called again!  Returned call.
Called library re Pathfinder: left Earth 12/4/96, Mars 7/4/97. Seven months.

Thursday, July 10, 1997
Prudy and Hugh anniversary.
To Longs, checked BP.
To Vibol’s, told him about Pathfinder.
Wrote Prudy.
Mail: Notice from DMV, no proof of insurance. Showed them, with copy I sent. Got sticker, also booklet to study.
Some Dodgers vs. Giants, 11-0.

Friday, July 11, 1997
To Longs, BP.
To Vibol’s, he had pain in head.
To Venetian Hotel for brochure. 
To Ross, got necklace (2), earrings.
To marina, got ice cream.
Dodgers over Giants 6-1. Nomo MVP.

Saturday, July 12, 1997
To Vibol’s, he seems OK.
Looked in thrift stores for stool.
Home, ate.
Got migraine medicine for Vibol.
Dodgers lost to Giants, 6-3.
Monday, July 14, 1997
To Longs. Man at BP worried about pressure. Alcohol on breath.
To Vibol’s, he looks good.
To dentist 1 p.m. “Debbie,” new, good. No exam.
To Kmart, Got stool, cut legs? Ate turkey sandwich.
TV: New, Poirot, “Indochine.” French, Catherine Denevue, good. 

Tuesday, July 15, 1997
To Longs for paper, BP.
To St. Vincent de Paul’s. Got two chairs, blue and brown plush.
To library. Read about films, migraine.
Home: News, baseball, bed.
Wednesday, July 16, 1997
To Longs, got more cans of Mandarins, TV Guide.
To Vibol’s, he not there.
Housework, vacuumed.
Weather funny, tropical fog.
Dusted, put label on African statue, cat.
Nothing much on TV.
Thursday, July 17, 1997
Breakfast Kmart. 
Went to San Lorenzo lumber to see if legs on stool can be cut. 
There were small stools, got one, $11.
To show, “Contact.”
To Kmart, returned stool. Ate chicken sandwich, ice cream!
TV: “Fresh Prince,” Diagnosis Murder, ST Next Generation.

Friday, July 18, 1997
Laundromat, two batches of blue things: Sweatshirt, bathrobe, purple suit.
Longs for BP.
Five & Dime: Got deodorant, face liquid, hand creme.
New glasses ready, late to get.
Watched “Eyewitness,” William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, James Wood. 

Saturday, July 19, 1997
British Open.
To Vibol’s, said head hurt. Monie angry, snatched package with migraine medicine.
To library, looked up pneumonia.
To show, “Pillow Book.” Japanese, calligraphy. Great color, photo, split screen?
Five & Dime: Took back polish remover, got eye shadow.
TV: News, The Pale Horse.

Sunday, July 20, 1997
British Open
To OSH, got lawn sprinkler for Miracle Gro.
To Longs for BP.
Home, watered lawn., fertilized.
Oscar & Lois came by, talked a bit.
Showered, washed hair. 
TV: 60 Minutes, Star Trek Voyager.

Tuesday, July 22, 1997
Longs for BP, TV Guide, strawberries.
To show, “Men in Black.” 2nd time.
Ate Burger King.
Mail: Card from Justine.
TV: Frasier, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: TNG.

Wednesday, July 23, 1997
Ate here.
To Longs, machine off.
Walked on East Cliff.
To Nob Hill, no BP machine at Nob Hill?
TV: Dodgers vs. Mets. Part of Law & Order.
Cunanan’s body found in houseboat.
Thursday, July 24, 1997
Ate here.
Watched Miami news. Chief of police, no info. Too many newspapers, media.
To Longs, BP machine OK.
To Ross, got Barrette. Should be silver.
Got new rug.
Washed black top.
Dodgers vs. Mets, 3-1.

Friday, July 25, 1997
To Longs, BP.
To Gottschalk’s, bought 3 items. Two sport tops, 1 blue for skirt, 1 beige for pants.
Home, ate corn.
To Live Oak, got chicken, had ice cream!
TV: Giants lost, Dodgers won. Inside the Actor's Studio, Billy Crystal. Funny.

Saturday, July 26, 1997
Bomb at SFO? Traffic delay.
Finished crossword.
To Longs for BP, paper.
To library: Time magazine, Barrows.
Woolworth’s. Got new blinds, mousse, hairspray.
TV: “Love Potion No. 9,” Sandra Bullock.
Not good sleep. Took hot milk, melatonin.

Sunday, July 27, 1997
Wharf to Wharf. What traffic!
To post office for check to IRS. Man hemmed me in.
Gottschalk’s, 10% off.
Worked on files.
To show, “Airforce One.” Good. Escape pod?
TV: News, Siskel & Ebert, 60 Minutes, “The Presidio.”
Monday, July 28, 1997
Changed bed.
Got clothes ready for laundromat.
Took Larry to Live Oak to see new carts for waste!
Some yard work.
Shower, hair.
Justine called, got her raise. Move to apartment?
Ate Carl’s. Bacon! Cheese.
Papers, crossword.

Tuesday, July 29, 1997
Breakfast here. 
Laundromat, BP.
Ironed tops, fertilized lawn.
Woolworth’s, got file folders, stapler, Dristan, pens.
To show, “English Patient.” Still don’t know all they say.
TV: Frasier, NOVA.
Wednesday, July 30, 1997
Tea, Cereal.
Called Schwab 9 a.m., sell GTE, 46 5/8.
To longs, Post Office.
To Live Oak, sat with Jim and 4 ladies. Man from Florida there.
Thursday, July 31, 1997
Good sleep.
Bombing in Israel. 
Breakfast Kmart. No razors.
Drug Emporium, got razors, hair items.
Read papers, ate, etc. Some more work on files.
Wrote Mina? Maybe Wed.
TV: Mystery, Poirot, ST: TNG.
More on my grandmother: In 1997, she was living alone in a mobile home park in Santa Cruz, Calif., but I wouldn't describe her as lonely. She was an extremely independent and persnickety woman whom I never knew to live with another person or even a pet. (I wrote more about her life in an earlier post.)