Monday 20 November 2017

New technologies leave me longing for the old

MY printer has anger issues. Serious ones. It nearly bit me this morning. I have a theory that technology picks and chooses who it wants to be nice to and it's never me.

Hate to be a victim but bring back the old Olivetti any time. I knew how to fix those better than a Grade-A mechanic does cars. I always had a spare ribbon and a smooth word for it.

My children are my new mediators. They tried to placate the printer but it still tried to bite them, chewing up every second page.

"You're new," I told it. "You're not supposed to do this."

Since the days when my dear old ex set up my screen to offer a 'save' option every 10 minutes and I refused it, since it took a full 30 seconds, I have been at loggerheads with anything with an on switch. It turns me off. The minute a good-looking guy talks laptops I'm wincing and feeling sleazed. I hate the stuff and it hates me.


I know that's why my history with mobile phones reads like a homework excuse. "You lost it again?" "The dog ate it?" In my case they're true. The former five times. The latter only once. But she did chew it, so the screen went fuzzy and finally black.

For six months I didn't know who was calling me.

A friend rang me on a honest-to-God landline and I told her my woes.

"Look up cat and printer on YouTube. It's you."

It's worth watching and it is me. I got to be cat woman. Well, it's a man doing the voice but it's dubbed. Definitely based on me nearly losing a finger this afternoon to a vicious printer paper-feeder.

I know time is going on and I know it's going on without me. My boys know what to press and what to say to it.

They'll always have a smooth and happy life and never miss the end of a vital recording because the clacker didn't do the right thing at the right time. This is why I watch VHS tapes still. You can trust them. They're wobbly but they are like typewriter ribbons. You can see how they work. This is why I listen to vinyl. You can trust it. It's true sound coming out of the speakers, not compressed robot speaky-weaky.

This is why I still read books and papers made of paper and not spindly kindly things. I love that technology leaves me to the countryside and lets me look at cows, as well as working for offices in central Dublin. I love that today I looked up termites, a plot-spoiler for a '40s movie and an article on medieval nuns. But I still go to a library to take out books and I still love handwritten cards and notes.

Emails are like virtual onions and garlic. They look affectionate but there's no flavour.

Maybe my printer knows all this and that's why it tried to bite me. I am not its real mother. She's a huge machine in a Hewlett Packard factory and makes 1,000 babies a week.

My one was abandoned too early in its childhood and is taking its issues out on me. I'm doing the same to it. Especially when I took it back to the shop and the seller said: "Well it's new. It takes a while."

I thought the thing with new things was they work better than old ones. Last night I had a coffee with a friend who had to take an important call and kept cutting off the caller.

"Sorry," she said. "It's this new phone."

"Ah," the caller had been irritated up to that point. "I understand."

This explains everything. I've a lot to get over, but so does my printer. Maybe with the right interpreter we can find a way into each other's centuries.

Suzanne's experience with life and its machines is documented in Heart Lines, her biography, to be ordered in bookshops or online at Londubh Books

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