Mx. Fix-It

Gender-ObsolescenceI miss transistor radios. In the summer, I’d lie in bed, trying to stay awake, listening to the radio station of the New York Mets. Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner gave the play by play. They held out hope that somehow, someway, the Mets could turn it around and win the game. I held out hope that somehow, someway, I’d wake up and be a boy.

Transistor radios were magical. Portable. Cheap. SImple. They had an on switch, a volume control dial, a tuning dial, and an earphone jack. I still own a variety of boy toys that play music. My iPod and iPhone are the current pocket size devices that keep me connected me to my past.

For the first time in my life I am having trouble keeping up with technology. Not just computers and smart phones, but appliances that have too many bells and whistles. Unless it is made by Apple, I am no longer able to look at the box, unpack it, and go right to the quick-set-up-guide. I am doomed when the first step is to download the App and go into product settings.

I’ve always been good at setting stuff up. Cribs, IKEA furniture, stereo systems, or computer networks. I’m careful, I’m logical, I’m diligent, and I read the instructions. Lately, I’m afraid of turning into the angry old man who rails at the sales clerk that digital files are the devil’s handiwork and that nothing will ever sound as sweet as an analog LP (i.e. a vinyl record album) and a vacuum tube amplifier.

This summer, I installed a GE dehumidifier, a Haier 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner, an AT&T cordless telephone and answering machine, and I tweaked Donna’s PC when, according to Donna, it unilaterally decided to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Each task required me to download a user manual or watch a video. Each one stumped me at some point during the set up. I now know way more than necessary about the appropriate default humidity setting for a damp basement (45%).

I also made the mistake of suggesting to Donna that she might want to give up her ancient Polar chest-strap heart rate monitor for a new Fitbit fitness tracker with a wrist heart rate monitor. Donna, who had a heart valve replacement 18 months ago, likes to wear her heart rate monitor at the gym, and also at home if she doesn’t feel right. I foolishly told her I’d do some research, buy one for her to try at home, set it up for her, and show her how to use it. She told me to keep it simple.

I returned the Fitbit because it can not permanently default to display the heart rate screen. The Garmin, after modifying the default settings in the App, will continuously display the heart rate screen, but it will only update my heart rate when it thinks I am working out or walking. When I rest, it rests, and it only updates when I double tap the display screen. I finally called the Garmin customer support line, and they verified that there is no way to get a continuous heart rate reading while resting because it would drain the battery. This is not noted on the website, in the user’s manual, or on the App. I figured it out by trial and error, and in doing so I missed the 15 day deadline to return it.

I dread going to the sporting goods store to exchange the Garmin. I’m only going because there is a chance that someone who works there will be able to tell me if the Polar wrist monitor updates continuously. I don’t want to come home with another monitor that doesn’t do what I promised. The easiest thing would be to bring Donna back a “new and improved” chest-strap heart rate monitor, but I’m not yet ready to admit defeat. I still need to prove that I am Mx. Fix-It.

Notes: Ikea Masculinities and Handyman Competencies takes a personal look at one man’s issues in following instructions that are intended to be gender neutral. Although it is about furniture, it is relevant to my struggle with “smart” appliances.

 

12 thoughts on “Mx. Fix-It

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I still have about 1000 LPs down from about 2000. Despite my rant, I rarely listen to them; I mostly listen to CDs, or to the radio, and sometimes to Spotify. I miss going to record stores and flipping through the bins for something interesting (I still can’t wrap my brain around paying to download music). On the other hand, I don’t miss getting up to flip the record every 22 minutes. And I don’t have to worry about dust or scratches anymore.

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  1. Kris

    The thing is, Jamie – these devices all have identity crises. They aspire to be and think they are human, but when they realize they can never match our intellectual superiority, they go on strike. So just ignore their antics and keep on being Mx. Fix-It. Take care.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Donna’s specialty is re-wiring old (antique) lamps and refinishing furniture. She is not tech savvy, and throws up her hands whenever she needs to get or learn a new technology (e.g. email and internet browsers on Windows XP to Windows 7 to Windows 10).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You can shower with the Garmin and swim with the Polar. I like having the pedometer to keep track of steps, and the HR monitor for when I’m doing the stair master. I’m not into downloading and tracking everything else (like sleep!).

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  2. mostcurious

    As a technology person, I can tell you that I do not believe there are any continuous heart rate monitors on the consumer market right now, for the reasons you noted with the Garmin and battery drainage. You (or rather, Donna..) are probably better off with an old-school one still. Give things about 2 years before trying again, I would say.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You are probably right. I think she is going to keep the Garmin and just to the double-tap when she wants to see her current rate. The Polar is only an improvement over the Garmin if you want to wear it while you are swimming….

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  3. Lesboi

    As the official Mx. Fix-It in my household, I can tell you that there is no shame in saying that something is unfixable or not worth repairing or simply there is no better solution than to buy a new one. Maybe the Fitbit would be more comfortable for her to use at the gym and her old one for home use (or a new one like her old one if there’s something wrong with it)?

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think she is going to keep the Garmin for the gym – and either double tap it or her Oxometer at home (a little gizmo you put on your finger that tells you your oxygen level and heart rate – we got it before we went to New Mexico because she was concerned about how well she would breath given the high altitude and it helped to convince her that she was fine…).
      I’m terrible at admitting I’m wrong, and once I say I’m going to do something it really annoys me to fall short or not follow through. But I think the device I want to get her doesn’t really exist.

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