Computers, I decided a long time ago, exist for the sole purpose of making me feel incompetent.
I work in an office full of people who don’t seem intimidated by their computers. Children in nursery schools and great-grandparents in nursing homes appear comfortable with their computers.
But every time there’s a glitch on my computer I’m sure it’s my fault.
My self-confidence takes another big hit a few weeks ago when I try use my laptop to send an e-mail to my wife’s iPad and get a message back from someone or something called Mailer-Daemon saying, “Sorry, we were unable to deliver your message.”
In the next few days, several other messages to friends and relatives bounce back with the same results. I immediately assume that’s because I’m doing something wrong, although I don’t entirely rule out the possibility that they have put up blocks to keep my messages from getting through to them. A lot of my friends and family members don’t like me very much.
And then I discover that I’m no longer accepting my own e-mail, either. By that point I’m so unsure of my computer skills I’m wondering if I somehow have managed to block myself.
So I go to the website of the company that provides my e-mail service and click “help,” which provides several possible fixes, none of which I understand. Not only am I failing, I’m failing with the answers right in front of me.
For the next several weeks I badger anyone who appears to be under the age of 30 for help. Some of them suggest changing my password, so I try that. Once an hour. But none of the young people I ask has any idea what the problem is. Which makes me feel a little better about myself, but doesn’t solve the problem.
“You need to get a new e-mail address,” my stepson advises.
So I get a new e-mail address, which works every bit as well as the old e-mail address, except that it has the added feature of me not being able to remember what it is. Not that it really matters, because by now there are so many Post-it notes with new passwords plastered on my computer I no longer can see the screen.
Finally I break down and contact a professional consultant, a young guy who speaks fluent geek. He studies the situation, spends an hour or so on my computer, looks up stuff on his smartphone and then declares, “Beats the heck out of me. I don’t understand it.”
It’s been a long time since I felt so good about myself.
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