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What else is new?

The rapid advance in our modern "conveniences" has left some men lagging. Meet the hindmost

I've just come from having my ears pierced. By my dear wife, let me hasten to add. And it was over such a minor thing.

I had just gone into hock at Sears for a four-horse, rear-tine rototiller. And even on sale we are talking here of a tidy $503.99. What had closed the deal was the salesman's "Anyone can operate it." The one time that dear wife had tried to operate our old front-tiner, the vibration wound her Timex so tight it never worked again. Nor did she. In the garden, that is. She still does odd jobs around the house.

So we were on our way home from Sears with this brand-new $503.99 beauty, half of it in the trunk of the car and half sticking out, when it began to rain. Because we had only a mile or so to go, I asked her, in a nice way, if she would mind running behind the car and holding an umbrella over the part of our new four-horser now being exposed to the elements. My hearing may never be restored.

The reason I bought the fully assembled floor model instead of taking one still in its cardboard box is a long story. Have you got a minute?

Just between you and me - I wouldn't want this to get back to youknow-who-I'm really not as clever at dealing with today's so-called "conveniences" (even when they are already assembled, with batteries installed) as I would like you-knowwho to believe.

I offer as an example the headlights on the car I was recently sold. (I didn't buy the car-I was sold the car. I had driven to the dealership garage to have my radiator checked for winter, and this salesman said, "Have I got a deal for you." So I drove away with this Buick Century Limited. What it's limited to, I don't know, but it certainly wasn't the price.)

Anyway, the first time I turned on the lights, they were on bright. I immediately fumbled around on the floor with my foot for the dimmer button, and there was no dimmer button. Now the cars were flashing their bright lights at me and honking their horns. Some, mostly truck drivers, were rolling down their windows and shouting unkind things at me as we passed.

I'm sure by now you know how sensitive I am. So I pulled off the road, and after much soul-searching and car searching, I fastened an umbrella over one headlight, and I strained the light from the other one through an old "'M' Go Blue" T-shirt I dug out of the back seat. The next day, back at Algoods, where I'd been sold the car, Tom, the patient service manager, showed me how to dim the lights by pulling back on the steering-wheel gadget that notifies opposing drivers of the direction in which you are planning to turn.

Or take our television with remote control. How convenient that no matter how remote we are, we can still punch little buttons to change channels, change volume, turn the set on, and turn the set off. This spares us the travail of heaving ourselves off the sofa and walking all the way across the room. After all, we may have already walked a mile or more for exercise that day, and too much of a good thing is not good for you. Everybody knows that.

While we were watching "Wheel of Fortune" one night, Vanna suddenly took on a billious compl"Probably a touch of letteritis," I said to my dear wife. She said it's the tube and why don't you fix it. In response to my blank stare, she led me over to the set and showed me a little door that opened on to a bunch of buttons. One read "one-button color." An"tone." Still another, "cont."

And so on. By trying each in turn, I almost lost Vanna completely. After which, merely by turning "tint" a hair, my dear wife restored Vanna's health completely. It made me sick. I didn't even know the little door was there. And I'll bet she found it only because she dusts the furniture every month or two.

Or take the two smoke alarms I bought last July. Because I happened to be born in July, my generous wife said the smoke alarms were my birthday present. (That rototiller, she claimed, was my Christmas present. I have since bought a typewriterwhich we'll get to-that is taking care of next year's Father's Day. And after my recent purchase of a bookcase, she is now caught up on her giftgiving obligations through Valentine's Day 1991.)

Anyhow, I installed one of the smoke alarms in the kitchen close to where my dear wife does the burning, and I put the other alarm in the bedroom (the reason being none of your business). After hanging around for some months without action, the one in the bedroom became bored one night around midnight and began to emit a shrill chirp every minute or two. Well, I've slept through-and with-a number of disturbances, but I rose up on the fourth night of this infernal beeping and cleverly, for me, switched the raucous one for the quiet one in the kitchen. When this one, at exactly 3:10 a.m., began trying to outchirp the one I had exiled to the kitchen, I banished both mechanical canaries to the trash. The next day I bought two new ones.

Two days later a friend-whom I now hate-made an offhand remark that one of his smoke alarms had begun to beep to let him know that its battery was weak. Upon which I dashed home, but the trash had already been pickeded up.

Have I told you that the first time I tried to get money out of one of those bank machines it nearly cost me at least three fingers of my best hand? I managed to get my card positioned in the right place without too much trouble. Then I was instructed to punch in my memory code, of course, which I had been cautioned to keep in a secret place known only to me and God. And I had followed the instructions so carefully that now maybe God knew where it was, but I certainly didn't. Thus I was required to take a shot at the number from memory. Which is tantamount to my chances of being appointed head honcho of NASA. But I would give it a shot.

My first shot was 5352. The machine said I'd made a mistake and to try again. So I tried 3255. The machine wasn't any happier, Then I tried 2535. Still no money emerged. And I was reaching in to retrieve my card when this razorsharp door dropped in front of it and nearly severed my three digits. And on the display panel I read, "We'll contact you later."

"You came close enough to contacting me then," I quipped to the machine, loud enough so the first dozen or so bankees lined up behind me would appreciate my ready wit. Upon returning to my car I happened to notice that my license plate number was 6OA3552. I've probably been putting my memory code number on motel registration cards ever since I've been involved with this bankmachine business.

My worst problem to ;ate came from retiring a 1935 Remington Noiseless Portable typewriter and buying a 1988 Smith Corona SD700. The name alone scared me half to death. And this, along with my having been already scared half to death by a machine advertised to be smarter than I, added up to complete mummification before I ever began operating the thing. Operating it? I couldn't even get the sucker out of the carton.

Fortunately, my dear wife figured out how to remove the plastic-foam blockades, but even after she had midwifed the machine ftom the box, I couldn't get the lid off. Women have an instinct, it seems, for knowing where to push down on the back so that the front can be unhinged. (If you want to know why my teeth are so short, I grind them a lot.)

You wise guys with your electronic genes will of course stick your noses in to ask, "But didn't you get an owner's manual, for pete's sake?" Yes, if it's any of your business, I got an owner's manual. And it says my new typewriter has a Memory Code. Well, bully for it. I don't have a memory code. To get the correct spelling of some 50,000 words in its memory bank, I must remember to hit the Code key and then the letter D, for dictionary. For bold print, it's Code key plus 9. Automatic center, Code plus 1. And so on. There's another bunch of stuff I can do if I first remember to hit the Format key.

Call it efficiency if you like, but I used to be able to type with both hands. Now I type with only one, having to hold the manual in the other. Why don't I ask my dear wife to hold the manual for me? Because I wouldn't be typing at all, is the answer. At least not for a few days.

As if I weren't having trouble enough with today's gadgetry, now my editor wants to install a fax machine in my home office, which, she explains, will allow my telephone to tell her telephone what I have written. What they'll come up with along this line in the next 100 years boggles the mind. And for one whose mind is already a bit boggled, it's more boggling yet. Perhaps it's just as well that I may not be around in the next 100 years. . . .

Excuse me, the phone is ringing. I don't yet have a fax machine-it just might be for me.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:coping with the new technology in equipment
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Words:1660
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