I 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.