Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 1, 2013

Just a little block

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — So I’m sitting in front of my television, watching my usual full range of satellite TV, when my live-in granddaughter, a distraught look on her face, comes up from her basement bedroom. The situation is tragic: She can’t get any TV channels at all. And when she starts to watch a movie via the Internet, it kicks off after like five minutes.

Since I was on the Internet at the time she told me, I was quite perplexed. But being the optimist I am, I decided to go on-line and figure out what the problem was. A half-hour later, in total frustration, I finally found a toll-free number and called.

Probably a problem with the modem, I was told. So I set up an appointment for Friday afternoon and broke the news to the grandgirl.

Then I decided to tackle the satellite dish problem. Again, I went straight to the company’s website. I clicked here, moved through to there and discovered I was totally and utterly lost. So I hunted down my last bill, found the number and called.

The wait was surprisingly short. I figured that meant only bad news would await me. But it only took a few minutes and nimbler legs than mine to run up and down the stairs and everything was fine again. Somehow the set downstairs had been set to air instead of satellite, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t care how it happened; I was only glad it was fixed.

I can’t nail a hammer straight and no one would ever ask me to take a look under their car’s hood unless they needed a jump. But I’m actually not too bad with electronics. My newish car has all those bells and whistles, like in-car phone and a fancy radio system. That didn’t slow me down for a moment.

In the office, I’m the go-to when the computers act up. Occasionally I have to call the real computer guru at our company for help but most times I can fix things myself. I’ve networked my home computer and laptop, can format and download books in a heartbeat and can switch from program to program as fast as a cat changes window.

Unless those electronics are connected to a TV. For some reason I’ve always been baffled by the wires and connectors that make everything work. Once we moved beyond fastening rabbit ears to the old black and white, I knew I was beat. No matter how simple the instructions are, I have a failure to comprehend.

The basic flaw, I think, is that I don’t have a 12-year-old on call. Kids that age don’t realize there was a time before video game systems and cell phones. Their brains are wired for great small motor skills and electronic circuitry. Mine is wired for wall phones and typewriters.

I still remember when we revolutionized kitchens with blenders, food processors and bread machines. I am among the tiny minority of people who remember when coffee was made in a percolator on the stove and when the only bottled water available was in those bit jugs for office coolers.

One of my children expressed a fear of getting old when we began talking about our old Atari video system and the first VCR we had, a Beta with a wired remote.

My grandmother was totally amazed when I got a cordless phone for the house because I’d carry it across the driveway to my parents’ house and let her speak to my dad. I can’t imagine what she’d say when I push a button on my car’s rear view mirror, say “call” followed by a name and am instantly in touch with the person I want.

I figure when I hit the age she was when I bought a cordless phone – somewhere close to 90 — there will be marvels I can’t conceive of yet. I hope that I’ll be able to use them and enjoy them the same way I do my computer, cell phone, e-reader and tablet now.

But most of all I hope they don’t have to be connected to a television to work or I’ll be in some serious trouble at the old folks home.