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Tech woes made me the achiever I am today

If it weren’t for my incredibly slow and frustrating computer, I’d never get anything done.

And I wouldn’t be the fit, aerobic god I am today.

Take this morning, for example. I was waiting for an Excel spreadsheet to open, and instead of fidgeting, checking my e-mail and weighing the advantages of resuming smoking after a 33-year layoff, I put the time to good use.

I placed an endorsed check in my wife’s desk, ran into the kitchen to pour some diet pop and threw away an empty container of low-fat, raspberry yogurt, the off-brand we buy — I think it’s Madonna Farms — to save a few pennies here and there.

By the time I got back to the computer — it takes quite a while for the foam on the diet pop to settle — the spreadsheet was open and ready for action.

I call this a learnable moment. Instead of allowing myself to become frustrated by my contrary ram and insubordinate processor, I got three things done, burned some calories and put my Adult Attention Deficit Disorder to good use.

That, my friends, is a constructive reaction to a negative situation.

I’m not sure what things would be like if my computer actually responded to my commands in the here and now. I might become even more sedentary and just sit there opening folders, saving files and bookmarking pages — boom, boom, boom.

The next thing you know I’d be one of those tech-savvy gamers with Bluetooth things wrapped around an ear, two Smart Phones on the belt and videoconferencing capability at my fingertips.

Personally, I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to technology. Just last week I ran into the kitchen yelling “my computer hates me!” “my computer hates me!” Our son was plugging away at his homework and I wouldn’t blame him if he thought, “And this, so help me, is a role model?”

When you’re my age and an electronic gadget doesn’t work the way you think it should, it can become personal. It’s as if there’s a digital god who’s prone to evil spells, and likes a little sadistic fun in his spare time.

I imagine a control center somewhere, an underground bunker manned by outsourced Pakistani operators, where the activities of the digitally challenged are monitored.

“Code Red, User 61235Z286 is online,” the techie says, in the Pakistani tongue, of course. “Back off the computer speed, dial up the egg timer for each command and then have two people call him at once on his cell phone.”

I’ve made the tech dude’s day.

“He has no idea how to use caller ID. He made an appointment with himself to read the instructions last week and still doesn’t know how to put one call on hold to take another. Let’s see if he drops the cell phone trying to get it out of the belt holder.”

I’m not entirely computer illiterate; it’s just that I operate them on a fourth-grade level.

When my computer is running especially slow, I take immediate superstitious action. Despite repeated previous failures, I’m convinced that emptying the trash and closing all windows will speed things up.

This is like my mother saying “a little fresh air will be good for you” or one of my ancestors hanging a talisman outside the thatched hut to ward off pogroms.

When all else fails with my computer, I hit the f5 button several times, unplug the modem, count to eight and restart. It seems to almost always do the trick, at least for 15 minutes.

There are other benefits. I get up, stretch my legs, file a few papers, and, while I’m at it, check to see if the foam’s settled on the pop I poured in the kitchen.

It’s less expensive than smoking.

David Knopf, managing editor of The Excelsior Springs Standard, has written columns for publications in Oklahoma and Missouri since 1985, and currently writes them for The Kansas City Star’s 816 section.

By David Knopf • david@esstandard.com

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