It wasn’t until I had a recent problem with my phone that I realized how uneasy my relationship with technology has been.
It started back in the day when I had difficulty mastering the “if-then” statements on my Texas Instruments 99 computer. I bought the thing, I told myself, for my sons, but actually I wanted to be on the top of my game with the latest in technology and would learn to program it so I could invent a computer baseball game and retire to a beach in the Caribbean.
Living in Buffalo tells you how well that worked out.
Nevertheless, undaunted by the challenges, I continued to buy the latest in technology, learning how to plug in computers and not much more.
When it came to television I was unstoppable. I quickly learned how to connect the antenna, “rabbit ears” to those in the know, by screwing on the clips to the TV. I figured out that you could improve the picture by rotating the antenna. I even updated the antenna by taking aluminum foil and draping it over the antenna because I thought it would make the picture better. I don’t remember if it ever worked, but I felt better knowing I wasn’t going to be intimidated by my television. And then came cable.
Cable at first was easy. You just plugged it in. But the television and cable people thought that was too easy so they invented new things and boxes that meant you couldn’t just connect the cable. You had to hook up different colored wires to be plugged into different places on the back of the TV, and the instructions were printed in black and white so the whole thing became mind-boggling, forcing me to give up and find someone else to have their mind boggled.
Then came phones. Which made hooking up a TV look as easy as pie. (I know, I know, it’s as easy as cake, but I prefer apple pie so those in a position to make one, know where my loyalty lies.)
I was happy with dial phones. They didn’t do much more than make calls, of course, but that was OK. If you needed a number you could call information, write it down and keep a phone directory on actual paper near the phone. Calls wouldn’t suddenly vanish. Your midday reveries wouldn’t be interrupted by people screaming
“Hello, hello, can you hear me?”
Progress can’t be stopped, however, and even though I wasn’t sure it was progress, I got a cellphone. It weighed as much as a brick and evolved into something that required flipping.
Then came this latest catastrophe. Phones today require charging. So when the charging plug would no longer go into the charging receptacle on my phone, I thought it was time to get another one. Besides my phone clearly needed to be updated anyway. But, in an unprecedented moment, I decided to see if it could be fixed, as buying a new one would put a serious dent in my retirement account.
So I took it to the phone repair guy. At first he looked at it and said some piece in it was bent and that was the reason the charger wire wouldn’t plug into it. But, on further review, he said: “Have you had rice lately?” I thought for a minute and replied, I had indeed had rice over the past few weeks.
He took one of his tools and started picking around the cable port and said, “It’s rice. You have rice stuck in your phone.”
He got all the rice out and then said, “Here you go. The phone is good.”
“Does that mean,” I said, “I don’t have to buy a new phone?”
“Why buy a phone?” he said. “This works just fine.”
And then he plugged it in and it began charging.
Which is why, the next time I have Chinese, I’m ordering lo mein.
Al Greene is a Buffalo attorney.