Go Hard into that GoodNight

GoHard into that GoodNight

So much is made these days of the signs of aging, of dementia. (What an ugly word!) And of course, the first sign everyone latches on to is that of forgetfulness. Beyond a certain age threshold, people begin to look for its signs, joking, while secretly terrified, if they suspect that they themselves are beginning to show such indications.

“Can’t remember where I put my keys…”

“I know I came down here for something…”

“How does this work, anyway?”

I notice I tend to forget a set of instructions even after I’ve laboured to figure out the sequence to do something, like set my stove to ‘autoclean.’ Seems to me that I used to figure something out, or follow the manual, and it was imprinted, like Braille letters, somewhere in my neurons and synapses, ready for instant retrieval. Not so anymore. Each time I clean the stove, I have to get out the instruction manual. Granted, I only do this a few times a year, so repetition doesn’t have a chance to do its work, but it is frustrating nevertheless.

Yet, I think the problem might not be so much diminishing gray matter as it is modern technology and design. Stoves and ovens, for example, used to have maybe 7 or 8 controls: four for the burners, one for the oven, one for the bake/broil cycles, another for the temperature, and – if you had the self-cleaning feature – one for that too. And the controls were obvious: want to turn on a burner? The knob is right there. Grab it and twist. Want to open the oven door – so go ahead an open it.

In contrast, the glass, flat top stove I bought several years ago has no controls. At least no physical controls. You have to swipe your hand on the control panel glass and then they suddenly glow like the consol of the good Starship Enterprise. Touch the Upper panel area, and a row of 10 symbols suddenly light up, one like a snowflake, another like a bulb, a third with a rectangle and a line at the bottom, and so on, symbols that don’t relate strongly to any real-world object. Brush the Bottom control panel and a similar row lights up for another ten controls. In the console center is the clock and timer, and finally, to the right, the controls for the five burners, with settings and variable rings to control the heat and the diameter of the cooking surface. In all, probably about 45 touch controls as compared to the 7 or 8 physical knobs and buttons on a stove from the previous decades. Hit the control surface and suddenly the oven is on lock. You can’t open it, unless you hold the same button down for five seconds. Where does it say that? On page 43 of the manual. Certainly not on the stove. And that’s why I spend time referring to the manual. So maybe it’s not just me and fading grey matter after all.

Ever call for tech help lately? There are a lot of people younger than I am, paid to be expert in their narrow fields, working the call centres who at times seem to know even less than I do. They either don’t know, or they give wrong advice. I asked five different people working for my phone provider if using a hotspot adaptor on my laptop would incur roaming charges if I was out of the country. It was a 2to2 tie until the last person said that of course it would: just like using the phone on the 3G network uses data, so would the hotspot. Put that way, it made perfect sense and so I didn’t activate it. But why didn’t the other two know this? And why are they giving incorrect advice?

I just bought a new monitor and called to ask three questions. The tech representative could not answer any of them. One was quite simple: a video on the company website shows that when the monitor is changed from horizontal to vertical, the screen will automatically change with it. Mine, however, does not. He didn’t have a clue. He guided me to a website to download the manual and read it. Some help! I already had the manual, and it not only didn’t have the answer, it didn’t even explain that you could actually change the monitor and picture to vertical. It took me an hour to conclude that a) the video on the web is not correct, which begs me to ask the question as to just how legal that is – and b) because I was left to my own devices, to figure how to do it manually.

So if I’m “losin’ it,” there are a whole lot of younger people “out there,” who are going into an early retirement in Shady Acres with me. And just maybe, the lightning pace and depth of technological changes is reaching a saturation point, making it hard for people to cope. It is relentless: every product and each update all require new skills and time to master. The navigation system on my car has a 200 page manual for it alone, in addition to the one for the rest of the car.

Maybe we need a little humane engineering built in, and maybe a little more training for the so-called tech experts.

Now, if I can just remember how to upload this to my blog….