Something good will come of this, I keep telling myself. But as in much of life, that ‘something good’ is often obscure…elusive…or, let us be frank, dubious.
Technology made me employable. It’s that simple. Yes, I am not remuneratively employed these days. Doesn’t matter. Technology is more important than ever. Fortunately, in a general way, it gets better, technology does. Each version of my voice recognition system truly improves upon its predecessor. Which, like heroin, breeds users. Addicted users. Get off the stuff, and you’re in big trouble.
With computer technology addiction, what feels very much like a bust…is actually something much more dull. In fact, I don’t know what to call it. Dragon NaturallySpeaking called it quits. That’s all I know. That and a few other computing essentials. Such as Explorer, the web browser that is supposedly built into Microsoft’s operating systems. Plus the Quicken finances manager.
A consultant came in. I was certain he would come up with a quick fix. Instead, he came up with a quick diagnosis. My computer was fucked, he agreed, before scurrying off to the next appointment. Very well. The next day I called Microsoft.
Days have limits, don’t they? Only so many hours, and only so much any human can absorb within them. We were reaching two hours, the Microsoft Helpline guy and me. I had followed his instructions in the Windows Control Panel. I even clicked on Recovery. Recovery, I wanted to tell him, really clicks with me too. I am all for recovery, even willing to do the 12-step thing.
But we never got there. I kept clicking on a tab, and nothing kept happening. He kept asking me to click on the tab again. I kept clicking on it again. Nothing kept happening again. And again. I suppose that if you’re dealing with the public, there are certain numbers of individuals who don’t know a tab from a cab. I could tell that he thought I didn’t understand the basic instruction…but I could see that the basic instruction wasn’t working.
Problem is, when you’ve got two things that aren’t working…and neither is really explainable or interconnected…you are in serious trouble. My bladder is never working, not well…so why should this time be any exception? I had to pee, the simple truth, so what to do? Put the guy ‘on hold?’ I don’t really have that capability, at least not in my mind. But what I do have is modest telephonic technology, vis-à-vis, a cordless phone. So it seemed a simple matter to, instead of transferring the call, transfer from one phone to another…while I transferred myself to the bathroom.
Of course, the Microsoft guy I was talking to in Bangalore was booming out via my speakerphone. I saw no other option, not with the need to have my one working hand on the keyboard. So I yelled out ‘just a minute,’ grabbed the cordless phone from the living room around the corner, returned to my office and turned it on…only to hear one of those screaming, high-pitched microphone feedback sounds…like chalk squeaking on a blackboard, only louder and more insistent. What to do? Well, switch from the speakerphone setting to the handset, of course, then hang up the office phone and…it did not matter. Somehow, I had cut off the Microsoft guy. He was gone.
I was soon gone to the Apple Store in Palo Alto, having made an appointment at the Genius Desk. It’s somewhere between charming and galling, Apple’s promotional immodesty. The genius turned out to be a guy named Chris who took a few moments to show me how to adjust my MacBook’s trackpad for disabled use…and as he talked, I tried to adjust my attitude to something more patient. Thing is, with fingers that don’t feel, in terms of both surface discernment and position, controlling anything with touch technology can drive you mad. However, this was what I needed, another human talking me through it, talking me down, in fact. I gave it the finger. Now two fingers, now three. Four fingers on the touchpad does something quite amazing, wiping away everything on screen. And why not?
As for the Apple version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, well, he did have one suggestion. Use Apple’s own microphone. That’s what I do already, I told him. No, he explained, not the one built in just behind the keyboard…the microphone I barely knew existed…the one that is part of the cable for the earbuds.
Sure enough, the next day, I plugged in the earbuds, began talking into my MacBook…and damned if I wasn’t getting better results than ever. This was so simple, I told myself. For these little earbud things are light, don’t have to fit over your scalp like a headset. Another option, I told myself even as I was calling Microsoft to fix the problem with my desktop PC. Which they did, taking over my computer in one of those remote sessions. Promising. Explorer was working again. Quicken. And Dragon?
No. So why not call the Philippines, I always say.
For $19.95, I got to speak to a rather pleasant Filipino man. He could be related to any one of my household team, so the associations were pleasant ones…as I asked about the recent hurricane, how it might have affected him, and so on. A good opener, and yet we did have to navigate the language barrier. God knows his knowledge of English is most impressive, whereas Tagalog is uncharted territory for me. Still, there we were, trying to sort out what was wrong with Dragon.
To my credit, it must be noted that I was now into hour three of the day’s computer maintenance. Most of it spent on hold, of course. And, it must be noted, Microsoft and Nuance/Dragon have suspiciously similar background music playing while one waits…annoyingly upbeat, and of extraordinarily poor fidelity. Nothing worse than someone scratchily playing a keyboard. I gave him an hour of my life, this guy in the Philippines. I asked him to repeat himself several times. He did the same with me. He kept putting me on hold while he talked to his supervisor. I made a backup of this, renamed a folder that. Restarted the computer several times. Sorry, he said, I’ll have to escalate this problem. Or was it ‘elevate?’
It didn’t matter. He gave me a number. I was supposed to call him back. But I sorted the thing myself, in the end. And that – trust me – is a miracle. As for the trick that Apple showed me with the earbud microphone. It never worked again, for some reason. But reason? Ours is not to reason why. As for dying and doing…well, as I say, surely some good will come of this.