March 11, 2014

Mark Millican: Technology takes its toll

Mark Millican

— It happened so fast it made my head spin.

Elijah had picked up my cellphone and with just a few flicks of his index finger, summoned up a cartoon video or a game or something like that. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I did discern I’d just been technologically outpaced by a 3-year-old.

“Hey, knock it off!” I feigned with my best Marine Corps NCO voice. “I just learned to do that a coupla weeks ago!”

And it was true. Since I finally broke down and got a phone last year with an Internet connection — not a smartphone but a step above a dumb phone that you just call and text people on — I’m still on the uphill side of the learning curve.

Still, how had that little rascal of a grandson shown me up like that? To be honest, it goes way back. Keep in mind yours truly was one of those who back in the day bought a VCR (remember, they played “videocassettes”?) and ignored the “12:00” flashing on and off until a teenager next door set the digital clock for me.

Now if you’re over 50, are you going to tell me you didn’t ignore that flashing “12:00” too? And no lame jokes, please, about a stopped clock telling the right time twice a day. Just chalk it all up, in my case at least, to a pronounced lack of proclivity toward math and the sciences.

To this day, technology frustrates me. And it’s not just that I don’t know how to set my email to kick out spam messages. It’s all that time I have to spend to “unsubscribe” from unwanted email offers to buy this or that, become a middle man in a sure-fire investment scheme in a foreign country, or publish a fried frog leg festival in Hootin’ Holler, Texas, that I’ve received at work. Oh, and why do I want to unsubscribe, they ask? “Unsolicited” is the short answer that most often saves me from going on a rant about privacy laws being violated, not to mention my sanity.

And, of course, the annoyances extend to cellphones. All the time, it seems, my handheld descendant of Ma Bell tries to steer me to some music program or “app” to listen to — or probably buy — songs I might like. The only thing is, I spend enough time in front of a computer or on the phone or answering email, and when out walking at the park or hiking in the woods I’d much rather hear the birds and bees and spring “peeper” frogs in chorus.

After all, there’s a whole statistical category now for people being seriously injured or killed while having their eyes and ears glued to their phone while blithely — and with finality — walking into traffic.

My vexation with technology extends to my computers at home and work. Oh, I haven’t had to contact an exorcist to cast out those gremlins who attack my desktop machine’s inner workings when I really, really need to get something done.


I’m also concerned that if my computer figures out I’m writing about it that it may make a decision to go on strike. But I don’t have time to keystroke about computer problems right now — Elijah can’t spell yet, but he just sent me a text.

Probably some video link.

Mark Millican is a former Daily Citizen staff writer and is editor of the Times-Courier in Ellijay.