Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Gadget Grief

Devices and gadgets throw me.  Upon acquiring a new anything, Dave will begin his explanation to me of how it works with, “You just have to…” and I glaze over.  I barely listen.  Is it because it’s too hard or because I don’t want to know?  The latter, I think, but why is that?  I’m not stupid, but where Dave and my kids are buoyant with the fun of figuring out the possibilities offered by a new phone or computer, I avoid new technology as if it were infectious…which, of course, it has proven to be.    In avoiding the challenges posed by clicking and dragging, I have clung to my compact gray Samsung flip-phone.  When those comfortable with innovation tell me about some clever new app, I whip out my phone and show it off, proud of its endurance.

But phones are not the issue; anything with working parts is. Driven by a desire for coffee during a recent stay with my son Tucker, his wife Lisa, and my new grandson, Paul, I took the elevator to the lobby of their building to confront the coffee machine. I know myself and expected this task, designed to be simple for anyone, to be a challenge.  I studied the lay-out of cups, lids, stirrers, coffee packets, and the machine itself.  Step-by-step directions were listed along the top of the machine and, separately, on a card to the side.  Like a fool, I read only those on the side.

As instructed, I centered the cup under the spout and, with the push of a button, a door opened.  No problem.  I selected a flavor, Boston Dark Roast, and placed the pod in the depression indicated.  I could tell it wouldn’t fit, not even close.  But I smushed it down, pressed the brew button to close the door, and no surprise, it wouldn’t close.  In fact, it was stuck.  Great. 

Sometimes you have to ask for help.  I’m not like a guy who won’t ask for directions, but in this, well, I knew I shouldn’t need help.  Still, I had no choice; I wanted that coffee.  So I peeked around the corner to enlist the doorman, a large, affable fellow in a navy uniform.

I’d had the foresight to slip the pod out of the machine before fetching my helper.  I watched him go through the steps and felt the full weight of my idiocy when he tore open the wrapper, slipped out a tea-bag like packet, placed it neatly in the depression, and pushed the button to start the brewing process. Sigh. Yes.  I’d missed that bit about the wrapper and apparently I don’t know a wrapper when I see one.   Plus, I noticed that removal of the wrapper was listed as a step on the directions on the machine, but not on the card.  Let’s blame the card.

I wish I didn’t always feel so sheepish, so stupid, when I don’t know how to do something. How much more daunting, though, when ignorance is one’s embarrassing companion while wrestling with baby supplies, when proper care of an actual baby is at stake?  My children were born in the early eighties, and at that time, strollers and carriages had not evolved much since I was their passenger.  And I cringe to think of the rigid plastic car seat with stiff brown vinyl padding in which I nestled my precious ones.  Comfort had not been considered in the design, and I wonder how safe those seats actually were.

Now, car seats and strollers are mechanical marvels, engineered for balance and safety, yet lightweight, comfy, and easy to fold.  On my most recent visit, Tucker and Lisa assured me of this ease while giving me instructions before Tucker left for work and I dropped Lisa off for an appointment.  Driving in Boston was part of this plan, something I’d undertaken only minimally before, and I tried not to obsess on the fact that I’d be loose among that city’s notoriously reckless drivers, responsible for both my children’s car and their baby. 

As Tucker, Lisa, and I reviewed and practiced stroller skills, buttons, straps, and inserts, maps, directions, and parking garage exits and entries, I was surprised at my relative calm.  They provided me with a card to tap the keypad to the garage and a fob for the keypad to enter the building. They also gave me the key to their apartment, but having re-entered successfully that morning after fetching my coffee, I knew I was solid there.

After Lisa fed Paul, and I re-stocked the diaper bag with wipes, diapers, and extra outfits, we were off, down the elevator and into the garage to locate the car.  Once car-side, I had a chance to practice removal of the baby and carrier from the stroller base while Lisa was with me, available for questions.  Paul was wide-eyed but quiet as I pushed buttons and tugged at his carrier, which remained firmly in place.  “Sometimes it helps to do one side at a time, sort of angle it a bit, then lift,” Lisa suggested.  Just so.

Next, into the car.  Just try to maneuver a baby carrier into a sedan, keeping the carrier level for the sake of the child while hovering awkwardly over the mount, seeking the right position, jiggling it some, jiggling a bit more, teeth clenched, lips pursed, sweat sprouting on your brow, as you crane to hear a resounding click, hoping it’s not something giving way in your back, but merely reassurance that the baby and carrier are locked safely in place.  Finally, the yearned-for sound.  Thank god.

Driving someone else’s car is always disconcerting, much less wheeling out into unfamiliar city streets, but it was mid-day and most people were at work so no one honked as we crept cautiously along.  We arrived at Lisa’s appointment without incident and parked.  I pulled on the door handle and the door was locked.  I pressed the unlock button, but no go.  I chuckled as if I didn’t feel like a total ass and tried again.  “I can’t get out,” I told Lisa. 

“Just push the unlock button,” she said.

“I did.  Didn’t work.”

But I tried again.  Click.  All set.  Oh Lord.  I pictured Paul and me, having successfully negotiated the mean streets of Boston, successfully touched the card to the key pad, successfully parked in a convenient spot in the garage, but ultimately stuck, underground, in the car, waiting for Lisa or Tucker to come home.  Grim.  We were well stocked with formula and diapers though, so if it came to that, Paul would wait in comfort.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that.  After dropping Lisa off, I re-traced my path, grateful for the maps Tucker had printed out just in case.  I turned right onto the ramp to the garage, touched the card to the key-pad, waited an anxious moment or two for the gate to rise, and silently celebrated when it did.  I found a convenient parking spot near the entrance to the building, and with my heart in my throat, pulled the handle of the car door.  Nothing.  Oh please.  I pushed the unlock button and tried again.  Yes! Glory!

I’d thought ahead, planned my strategy, and had the good sense to unlock the trunk, remove, and set up the stroller before trying to extricate the baby and the carrier from the back seat of the car. 

“Hey Sweetie.  Hey little Paul,” I cooed quietly at the sleeping child. No wonder he was snoozing; this was exhausting. 

I pulled up on the gray button to release the seat, wiggled and angled it, and transferred it smoothly to its stroller mount.  Hung the diaper bag over the stroller handle, slipped my pocketbook over my shoulder, walked to the building, touched fob to keypad and entered without drama.  Took the elevator to the eighth floor and stepped out, just around the corner to the apartment.  And then, I had a thought…a cup of coffee would be nice.  But dare I?  Shouldn’t I strut my victory march right on down the hall to the apartment?

Maybe.  But I’d earned that soothing cup of warmth.

So, I backed up the stroller and re-entered the elevator, Paul peacefully sleeping throughout.  As we descended, I mused that ignorance is forgivable, a step necessary to learning. 

Upon touch down, I waved at the doorman on the way to my nemesis, centered a cup in the machine, selected my Boston Dark Roast, tore off the wrapper, placed the pod in the depression, pushed the button, and watched the steaming black thread of coffee fill my cup.  When it was ready, I retrieved the cup, snapped on a lid, and with spine straight and proud, the baby and stroller sliding smoothly before me, marched back to the elevator.