Ticky-tacky Techie

What is so rare as a day in…well, February, but one that occupies its own languid space? It seems that on alternative days I sleep well, then I don’t sleep well at all, with a strange checkerboard pattern of stress and relaxation. This particular day, this languid day in February, I am superbly rested. Jane and I have had a rare day at home together. Nothing particularly pressing from her congregation. No big deadlines for me either…not that I have a lot. So how can a lazy day suddenly turn so fraught?

The answer, my friend, is blowing…up in your face. It starts with the lower back. Who knows why the lower back is reaching such a low, vis-à-vis pain? But it is. So at an appropriate time in the late afternoon I do that wonderful thing, that option open to people who can support enough technology. I shift computers. It’s an awkward trade-off, and the last time I tried it was months ago. But it’s time. That’s what my body is telling me. And damned if I’m not going to rise to the neuromuscular challenge.

Which sends me out to the recliner chair where I, you guessed it, recline. Nice to have an electric footrest, isn’t it? I am one lucky guy. Not all partial quadriplegics can say this. But I’m still sane enough to say it several times a day. Where was I?

Oh yes, elevating my feet. Which is a good part of the problem, regarding today’s pain. The source of the pain, by the way, is completely mysterious. But bodies are like that. Aging ones in particular. And I accept this description. A mystery. It is a mystery. In the usual answer, rotating myself in my wheelchair so that I sort of face my desk sideways and pull the voice recognition microphone into another position…while elevating my feet on an adjacent chair. Well, I’m tired of that. It’s a contortionist’s exercise. Yes, it elevates the legs, but everything else sinks into discomfort.

But I’m not doing that, am I? No, I am in the front room, in the electrically tilting easy chair. And now all I have to do is swivel around the computer table with my laptop. This is the whole idea. Get set up with my feet elevated and use the little computer. Isn’t that cool?

Might as well make use of this quiet time while Jane is out getting her aerobic walk. I swivel the computer stand as best I can, then turn the thing on. It’s a MacBook. As soon as I turn it on Apple updates start rolling. To be expected, after all, for I haven’t run this laptop in a month or two. I haven’t needed to. But I need to now, and I need to get used to working on it, I see that. My body is rebelling. Which, I must remember, it’s okay. I’m 67. I’m 67 and more than half paralyzed. Relatively speaking, I’m doing okay. Where was I?

Which is the one thing about being 67. I keep asking this question. Although I’m not really asking it now, just making a little joke. Heh, heh. Thing about having a computer that can also run Windows, which my MacBook is set up to do, is that it gets a little confusing. Now, for some reason, I look at the calendar application in the Apple mode. Jane and I have been syncing calendars, her entries turning up on my iPhone. Might as well see if they’re turning up on my MacBook. Damned if they aren’t. Problem is, there are a whole bunch of events called ‘new event.’ It’s this Jane’s doing? Or is it mine? Doesn’t matter. I’m just obsessive compulsive enough to have to delete these things.

I’ve dillydallyed here. Time to turn the computer off, then back on, and go into Windows mode…where the voice recognition software works infinitely better. Turning on Windows sets off a frenzy of updating. This software and that software and the other software, all critical updates, all asking you to either save or run. I really feel like running myself.

What I can’t do is really face the screen. Yes, my feet are in the air, but the laptop screen is way off to my left side. Have I done this in the past? The computer stand rests on a V-shaped base, and I can’t recall how I got the two legs arranged in relation to the chair the last time I did this. Of course, I am actually in the chair, pushing and sliding the thing. Naturally, it starts to tilt.

Which will knock my Nook e-reader on the floor, sending me into predictable self-recrimination. I consider it a mark of great personal development that I foresee this and steer around it, placing the Nook on the rug beside me. Actually, I press tilt. Yes, really. The chair levers me, dumptruck style, into the standing position. I swivel, sit back in the wheelchair and have a go at the computer stand. Surely if I slide it forward, then twist the arm with the laptop back this way….

Something is happening with my wheels. Mind you, I never think about them. Most of the time, the wheelchair just clicks and responds. But now, one wheel is on the fitted carpet and the other is on a Persian rug which it has grabbed and bunched. I am determined to remedy this immediately, but the portable trackpad is slipping from the computer stand. Why? Because to examine the bunched rug, I have backed one of my rear wheels into the thing. I turn around. To maneuver the joystick, I have to put the trackpad in my teeth. It tastes like what it is, metallic and unpleasant.

The rug looks like some teaching aid from Geophysical Forces 1A…tectonic waves buckle the landscape. Problem is, I can’t see how to unbuckle the rug. So, in a rare moment of thinking outside the box, I actually increase the wave, rolling the rug back on itself, then smoothly unrolling it back into place. Isn’t that cool?

I now return to the thing I started half an hour ago. How to play HBO on my Apple TV. Why would anyone care? Because I will not be defeated. All this technology, much of it designed to make disabled life easier, has a way of making me drown. And I don’t like that feeling. Thing is, as far as I can see, this is some young person’s idea of how to watch movies on an iPhone.

I cannot even grasp this concept. The requisite receptor neurons in my brain do not exist. People do not watch movies on a screen that is less than five inches long. Besides, Apple TV has an option called HBO. Which doesn’t contain the show I want. And why do I want the show I want? Because I foolishly researched the reviews on my, you guessed it, computer.

This printer, when I return to it in the office, is now blinking with an ugly orange exclamation point. Which emphasizes some disaster, apparently. But upon closer inspection, simply reveals itself to be a sort of advisory. Need to align that new ink cartridge. This is all it is telling me.

What life is telling me is something else. That existence is far too complex. That the machines really are taking over. And so it does surprise me that despite all my bumbling, when I put my iPhone in a certain place, not too far from my office, it does actually relay a signal to the TV. Jane and I watch the show. Which is marginal, we feel. Another episode? Possibly. But now it’s time to go to bed.

Unfortunately the electronic remote control to my bed lamp – a definite aid for the paralyzed – doesn’t work. The light does not click on as it should. Jane and I try several remedies. None work. Until I give it one more try. And it lights up. It’s been a long day.

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