Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 2, 2013

Dealing with technology discomfort


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — I’m writing this column on a laptop. That may not seem unusual, surprising or even noteworthy to you — but for me it is potentially transformational.

For more than a dozen years I’ve written columns, managed email and conducted all research and business while sitting in front a keyboard and mouse plugged into a personal computer that is plugged into a wall. On rare occasions I’ve attempted to use a laptop but only under duress.

I’m currently under duress.

My PC imploded earlier this week and with it all my files. Not only am I old fashioned but I’m lazy about backing up my work onto an external hard drive or a thumb drive or whatever else they call those small boxes and little memory sticks that can save your work and be inserted into a functioning computer or laptop so you can reopen your files. I think of it as holding a paperless Xerox machine in your palm. You can have a copy of anything. But you have to remember to take just a few seconds to insert it and click Save or you might as well be holding a rock in your hand.

Anyway, all my current work is sitting in a computer repair shop 15 minutes away, locked within the whirring, churning and unresponsive file-eating monster that my computer turned in to late Sunday night. I’m hopeful the man with the magic brain can release my documents from their prison.

While my daughter has lugged a laptop to school for three years and my husband comfortably plants on the couch with his iPad, I sit in my office with the computer tower at my knees and wires crisscrossing like dropped spaghetti around my feet while my fingers happily fly over the keyboard and mouse.

I’m typically glacier-like in learning to use modern technology. I did finally upgrade to a smart phone this year where I receive not only the usual calls and texts but email, as well. I refuse to go a step further and download a Facebook app and I rarely Google on it but my smart phone frequently outsmarts me because it has a much better memory. I use it as a camera, calendar, alarm clock and a sort of beeping and buzzing yellow sticky note that reminds me of various important things.

And, fortunately, when I get a column idea, I often write it in the Notes app, which at this moment is the cell phone’s most useful and timely app. This app has replaced the little reporter’s notebook I used to carry in my purse. I may look rude at church or in conversation when I whip out my cell phone and start typing away. But be assured I’m not suddenly texting my friend a gossipy message or breaking boredom by Googling ... I’m taking notes on my Notes app because I think the discussion is Note-worthy.

I found it painfully ironic when I ran across this recent (but unfortunately unattributed) note after my computer had its conniption fit: “Resistance is a force that keeps us alive. Without resistance and friction, we can’t live our lives to the fullest. Discomfort is a part of life. There’s nothing wrong with it ... it’s how we deal with it that matters.”

I’ve been resistant to using a laptop. I am used to the keyboard, prompts, format and operations of my PC and didn’t want to learn something new. I had predicted to my husband that it would likely take some computer crisis to force me to use the laptop he had bequeathed to me. It would require friction in my day-to-day function to get me past the fear and loathing I had for this newer technology.

So here I sit. Dealing with discomfort. I’m struggling to compose sentences and thoughts without the luxury of my more comfortable composition tool, my beloved computer. I barely know how to erase and backspace on this thing! If I needed to cut and paste, I’m afraid I’d delete the whole document.

But I’m facing the force of my resistance head on. I feel very alive and I’m attempting to live my life to its technologically fullest. I’m accepting that discomfort is a part of life and I haven’t thrown this laptop across the room yet, so I think I’m dealing with it pretty well. And that, and meeting my deadline, is what matters most.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.