Tuesday, August 25, 2009

tech stuff

There's a line in Terminator (and yeah, it's my second favorite movie, what of it?) where Kyle Reese tries to describe the future to Sarah Connor. When she questions him about the details, he says, "I don't know tech stuff."

I know exactly how he feels.

I absolutely cannot stand people who can't remember their own phone number, can't give directions to their house, are unable to do simple math in order to make a quantitative decision, or who don't bother to follow clear instructions. And yet...

I have these blind spots. Like pretty much anything to do with television. I know that if I put any effort at all into learning this stuff, I'd start to pass for normal and my life would get that much easier. But I can't urge myself to care, and that's the problem.

Last week, Wendy came over to Melanie's house, where I was dogsitting in the lap of luxury, in order to watch the Project Runway premiere with me. So of course we turn on the TV at the last minute, although Wendy immediately began berating herself because, as she put it, "I told myself, it's Janet so let's give ourselves a half hour to figure out the TV." So anyway, we turn it on. And I don't know what the channel number is for Bravo. Wendy tells me (I think it was "44") but then there is no "44" on Melanie's TV.

So I tell Wendy, "I'm sorry. They don't get Bravo." Problem solved, right? Wendy took one look at the huge flat screen TV with all kinds of menus and gadgets and said, "Yes, they do. Go do a search for Project Runway. It just has a different channel number." I do this, and it works! It works like crazy!

Then Wendy makes me suffer through a whole conversation where she figures out, aloud, that AT&T has different channel numbers from ComCast, even though both Wendy's house and Melanie's are in Oakland, and then she laughs at me for telling her "DVR", in response to her question, "Do they have satellite?"

At the commercial, she makes me go back and tape the show and memorize the channel number (14? I think?). "But we're already watching the show." We can skip the commercials, oh, I hadn't thought of that. "But when will we ever need to know the channel number again?" At this point, Wendy sighs. "You always say that. And do you see how it always comes up again?"

Actually, no. That had seriously never occurred to me before. And yet...hey. Yeah. It always comes up again. Just like me not knowing the name of a single actor or director. Just like I still can't work a VCR even though the technology is now almost obsolete. In fact, similar to the confusing world of radio stations. This stuff always, always, always comes up again.

In fact, I was reminded of a conversation Wendy and I had a few weeks after we met.

Wendy: "My Dinner With Andre is on channel 9 tonight; you should watch it."
Me: (Pretending to go along like I always do, hoping the conversation will end quicker.) "Okay."
Next morning...
Wendy: "Hey, what did you think of My Dinner with Andre?"
Me: "Oh. Um, I didn't watch it. We don't get cable."

That's when she explained that channel 9 is not, in fact, cable. Just plain old public TV. Then, because she's Wendy, she questioned me exhaustively about why I had said I'd watch something I had no intention of watching. The TV was my roommate's, I didn't really know how to work it, and, well, conversations about TV channels make my brain implode.

Fast forward 20 years, and Wendy is still trying to fathom why I can't learn simple technological tasks. She made mincemeat out of the several plausible excuses I offered (among them that I didn't own a TV until, well, okay, my boyfriend owned a TV when were 27, but my very own TV...whatever, she crushed my argument). So although I can kinda figure out how I developed these particular incompetencies, I really can't justify continuing them.

Except. I just don't care. For example: when I was 37 I bought a car. I can't even remember why I bothered to tell anyone, but I think it came up in conversation at work because I had to go pick it up or something. And everyone started asking me what kind of car it was. The thing is, I didn't know. I didn't care. Someone helped me pick it out, it was used and cheap and practical, and I couldn't possibly begin to understand how anyone could make a conversation out of this.

It's the same with which cable company, which channel, which actor...I just want someone else to deal. Certain things I can analyze until the people I'm having a conversation with stab themselves in the eardrums with whatever nearby object they can fashion into a crude implement. But other topics just make my brain cringe -- it just shuts tight behind my eyes, waiting until these people can be distracted by some other less painful topic. I'm like the illiterate successful business owner, deflecting all situations that require literacy.

Except I'm not a successful business owner. And I badly need to watch Project Runway.

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