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AMPLIFICATIONS: Perils of technology

I’ve ruined computers and messed up my phone and destroyed the settings on numerous electronic gadgets by trying to follow directions to set up or change applications myself.

For weeks it has been taunting me, poking out from the side of the television. For my part, I have been eyeing it warily. I could really live without it, but now that the president is most likely going to be impeached, as least by Congress, I don’t want to miss a minute of the news. Hoping for the best, I tried to turn on the Fire Stick.

It took me a couple of weeks, and much heavy sighing, before I even opened the box, then a couple more weeks before I plugged it into the TV, which was much less daunting than I anticipated. Everything went south after that, but at least I was able to plug it in, which I found sadly comforting. I know the device is currently about as useful as a rock, but at least it is living in the correct portal.

Though I really should not admit it, I could not even find the app I needed for Hulu for a couple of weeks when I accidentally hit a button on the television remote. I thought all I had to do was set up Hulu from there and my account would appear. This just goes to prove my eternal optimism, because nothing I have ever touched technologically has ever worked — and I do mean “ever.” I’ve ruined computers and messed up my phone and destroyed the settings on numerous electronic gadgets by trying to follow directions to set up or change applications myself. You’d think I’d learn to stop trying. After all, I have Ray.

I met Ray about 15 years ago when he was a teenager. I had hired his friend to install a computer for me and then I drove him crazy with questions and mistakes, so he sent Ray my way. Ray was (and still is) a super smart computer geek whom my entire family just adores. I imagine he will remain a lifelong friend and he is very good to us, helping both my mother and me deal with all the technology that never fails to baffle us. He has never teased me about the chunk of brain that I am clearly missing, because I have never, ever been able to follow directions — not for board games, not for maps, and not for anything technological. In fact, when I left for college, my friend Lisa told me that her one hope was that “they would teach you to follow directions.”

My life improved significantly when GPS was invented, and I have long since learned that if someone just explains a process to me, I can usually grasp it. I have no problem with academic concepts. I can discuss the symbolism in Shakespeare or parse a sentence for you, but neither of those talents is very useful on a daily basis. Learning to use my drill without the bit falling out each time I attempt to turn it on would be a much more practical skill.

I really just should have called Ray when the Fire Stick arrived, but I figured it would be an easy installation even if it took me weeks to screw up the courage to try. The thought of watching impeachment hearings lit a fire under my fanny, but when I realized I was getting nowhere in a hurry, I called Hulu. I assumed the problem was on their end because I can get regular Hulu, just not the version with all my information and saved shows.

Ninety minutes later I gave up and realized I needed to call Amazon, a task I loathe. It is never a pleasant experience. There was a time when the people on the other end of the phone were agreeable and helpful. Now I find each call to be combative and difficult, made worse by the fact that the customer service desks all seem to be located in countries with horrific phone connections.

My call with Robert at Hulu was easy and not at all stressful. He really tried to help and chatted with me while he looked up information. He never lost his patience with my slowness and difficulty in finding the correct portals or serial numbers, even when panic began to rise in my voice. Amazon reps, on the other hand, were curt and two hung up on me mid-call. I kept telling them that I had done all the steps to troubleshoot the Fire Stick already, and when they realized I did not want to spend 30 minutes following their script, they simply shut down the call. The third rep apologized and helped me, but he couldn’t get the Fire Stick to work either, so a new one is coming my way.

Is it actually defective? Who knows? My guess is that it is because even when I changed the batteries, I could not get it to light up. To be honest, my guess is worthless because I can’t understand all the buttons in my car or even get my phone ringer to work. But Ray will know — or I can always call Robert back.


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