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Electron conundrums (11/14/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Everybody’s been there. As upbeat as a person might be normally, there are those disquieting moments. Yes, we’ve all gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, and longed to crawl, or dive, back under the covers, and bid the day to go on without our presence. Those of us who are retired from the workforce might get away with going back to bed and waking up later to start the day over, but experience has taught us that it’s best to get our motors revved early, jumpstarting the promise of a new day, filled with comfortable routines, nature’s surprises and simple pleasures.

Norman Rockwell would have captured it delightfully! A so-named “morning person” bounces into the startling bright office, a giant mug of cappuccino in hand, juggling her purse and a paper bag from Office Max, and with the usual cheery greeting, causing a wave of nausea with another sugar-coated thought for the day. “Every day is a good day – some are just better than others!” Ugh!

The bedraggled mother (or father) of four mutters, “Yah, speak for yourself.” With all the electronic wonders at our disposal, the domestic engineer is equipped to perform a day’s worth of household duties before the one-hour commute to the job. Goody! Goody! After a breakfast of something that pops out of an 8-slice toaster and a buzzing microwave, blank-faced kids with bed heads and bulging backpacks shove their way into a littered, sticky finger-printed, and Eau de sweat sock-scented Toyota Hylander. (The kids demanded the canary yellow. Kids rule!)

The adult in charge drops off one screaming child at daycare, two at grade school, and the one who is whining that she forgot her i pod goes to middle school. The tedious routine begins all over again for working moms and dads. Merging onto the dizzying freeway, or weaving through city traffic, the rules of the road are ignored, cell phones pasted to ears and makeup on the ready, hit or miss. (His or hers?)

At every place of business today computers are crucial. When they shut down it’s utter chaos! Everyone becomes befuddled; checkout operators take long breaks; sales people hide in storerooms; managers pull their hair out - all waiting anxiously for the computer expert to figure it out. I rallied against computers in my two business offices, defending the competent bookwork secretaries have done by hand and by head for many years. I was defeated.

One of those hotshot computer heads set-up the Peach Tree business program in both businesses where I worked, invading my cramped space of organized clutter, rattling off computer lingo way above my comprehension, impressing no one but himself. You gotta love those guys!

Left alone, I stared at the quietly purring black box and blank screen that had been forced upon me. Tall filing cabinets towering over my bewilderment began to close in on me. It was Edgar Allan Poe’s pit and pendulum all over again. The final blow to my meltdown came when I realized that I didn’t even know how to turn the darn thing on.

As it turned out, an extremely patient accountant, Chip Montgomery, walked me through the Peach Tree procedure of efficient, hands-on, computer bookkeeping. It wasn’t long before I wondered how I had ever managed without it, giving my old, reliable desk calculator an affectionate nod. Lined pages in thick ledgers, with their rows of handwritten figures, customer files, and payroll, tax forms, debits and credits – all given over to a faceless, plugged-in genius.

I realized how naive I’ve been about the electronic world surrounding my simplistic, granny-in-her-blue jeans, homebody environment, when my handheld Samsung 35 mm camera succumbed to a nasty fall, not its first. You would think that you could easily go to any electronics store and replace an old standby. Wrong! They don’t even sell them anymore! “Digital” and “download” is where it’s at. There will never be an era when the genius of invention will leave well enough alone. Today’s hotshot computer expert may be among tomorrow’s dumbfounded. Go figure.

Janet Burns is on-line at her Lewiston home, and can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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