My Irish Up: Getting it together

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

I, a man whose VCR once blinked “12:00” for five consecutive years, am currently sitting in an office chair that promised to be ergonometric before I broke its spirit. Took the box home. Pulled everything out of the carton. Followed directions to the letter. Sure, I had two pieces left over, but I followed the directions. Then, the first time I sat in the thing, the little collapsible plastic rings designed to bear my weight for the next five years cracked in two places. (Turns out somebody had put the telescoping piece on upside-down, even though he still insists he followed the directions.)

I re-read the little brochure, to see what I had missed. I always miss something. I just hadn’t seen that the chair should have been tipped over before fitting the rings. So, it wasn’t my fault, basically. Had I been told to read the instructions while standing on my head, everything would have come out fine. But they always leave out important steps like that. I do so wish my chair went up and down, like the one on the box. But at least it doesn’t blink “12:00.”

I felt such despair over connecting my printer to my iMac that for the first six months I didn’t even try. (I was waiting for my blood pressure to go down, from assembling the chair.) When my brother-in-law came over to help install the printer, we missed a step and so the stupid machine wouldn’t even let me insert the cartridges. I nearly lost a hand. It was another two weeks before the printer was online.

Call me old-fashioned, but I wish the directions to these things were printed in English. “Look,” young people who I bribe to assist me often say, as they survey the smoking ruins of my latest attempt to put a coffee table together, “these directions are in English. They’re even repeated in Spanish and in Japanese. But then — maybe English is a second language for you?”

I have my sassy young friends on that one, however. If you call this obvious back-translation of instructions, English —

“…4. Place the now into the compartment (G), taking the caring to line up the up slots (S) with the down slots (T) while pressing firmingly on the diaphragm (D) while with a secular motion…” —

— if you call that English, well then I’m Mr. Fix-It.

The truly galling thing about technology is that six-year-olds just understand how the most sophisticated electronic devices go together, merely by looking at the box. Awhile back, I was having trouble getting a program to load into my computer. I followed a complicated on-screen HELP procedure, typing in special codes and hitting selected buttons and then waiting for new screens to appear so they could be blessed by the Pope or whatever the protocol was — and of course, somewhere along the line the program got in a snit about something I thought I hadn’t mumbled aloud and so the Promised Land of the next screen refused to appear, even though it appeared right there in the manual. I kept getting hung up at Step Eight — and it was none too easy getting through Steps One through Seven, even with all the practice I was getting.

Thankfully, just as I was about to hip-check the computer onto the floor, Lyzzi stopped by (a miracle in itself) and when she saw my expression she laughed cheerily and said she would gladly fix whatever technological problem was messing with my manhood, this time.

“Are you sure you don’t have to be someplace by the weekend?” I asked.

She laughed again and shouldered past me to the control room.

“Well,” I said, “good luck to you, sweetheart. I’ve tried it six times and it always stops on the same screen. You see…” But by that time, she had opened the program, highlighted something or other on the toolbar, hit two buttons on the keyboard, clicked “Enter” — and we were in business.

“How did you do that? What about all those screens?” I said.

“Oh, you don’t need those,” she said.

“Why not?” I said.

Really, it’s true: the younger generation is just waiting for us to die off, so they can take over the world and get everything up and operating smoothly. Then the full potential of modern technology will be realized. In that new Golden Age there certainly should be a lot less swearing

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