My husband is an intelligent man, but he just can't get the hang of his new iPAQ. Yes, he has a manual and he knows how to read, but his time is precious and he's sick of gadgets. In recent months he's had to deal with a new laptop computer and a new cellphone, and I'm afraid the iPAQ is going to push him over the edge.
These things are supposed to help busy professionals stay organized and enhance their productivity, but I don't see that happening. What I see is a lot of frustration and a lot of back-and-forthing with the IT guys at the office: "This #%*&@! thing isn't working again. I can't access my e-mail." A whole new problem seems to crop up every few days.
The other day, my hunk o' burnin' love plugged his earpiece into the iPAQ and phoned me to test the connection. "Can you hear me now?" he asked, just like that annoying guy on TV.
He was lucky I didn't hang up on him. You don't need an iPAQ, dear. What you need is to get your life back.
Must we really be at everyone's beck and call 24/7? Is it absolutely necessary to check our e-mail every twenty minutes throughout the day?
I don't think so. I'm advising my husband to ditch the electronics and go back to the DayTimer he used for years. Back in those days, he never had to wait until Monday morning to catch the IT guy and ask how to enter a phone number into his database.
Both of us used to be wild for gadgets. We were always the first kids on our block to pick up the latest CD players, cell phones, and so on. But after you've read a hundred manuals and fiddled with as many electronic gizmos (okay, the truth: we never read the manuals unless we couldn't figure something out), the thrill dissipates and you actually begin to resent anything new because it means learning a whole new way of doing things.
We like to think of ourselves as adventurous, but when you get a new cell phone every year and a new computer every couple of years and toss in a new digital camera or a new DVD player or even a new telephone answering machine every now and then, it just becomes too much. It seems like every month you're replacing an old gadget -- that you understand how to use -- with a new one that must be figured out and then set up before you can begin using it.
Oh, I can geek out with the best of them when it comes to my computer. Because I'm a writer, I've made MS Word my personal slave. And because I do a lot of research online, I've learned how to make Google sing and dance. I know HTML and I'm au courant when it comes to jazzing up and promoting my website and this blog. But I use only about 10% of the features available on my Nikon digital camera and I have only six numbers programmed in my cute little cell phone. And my DVD player? When I want to watch a movie I have to ask my teenage son which buttons to push.
I think they keep adding more bells and whistles to electronic gear so they can call stuff "new and improved" and get more shelf space. But I'm ready to get back to the basics. Why don't computers, digital cameras, and cell phones come in plain vanilla models for people who are sick of spending so much time (and money!) on things that are supposed to simplify and organize their lives?
Did you know that the hip crowd has fallen in love with Moleskine notebooks? I realized that a couple of weeks ago when I dropped by Borders with my 22-year-old son and casually mentioned that I needed to buy a new notebook.
"What kind?" he asked, looking around the store, eager to help.
"A nice, sturdy one with really good paper."
He gave me a doubtful look. "You don't mean like a Moleskine?"
That was exactly what I meant. The kid was shocked. How was it that his mom knew about Moleskines?
Uh, because your generation didn't exactly invent them, sweetheart. Did you know that Ernest Hemingway's constant companion (well, other than that bottle of scotch) was a Moleskine notebook?
I ended up buying a jazzy little red leather notebook instead of a Moleskine. It cost $30, but the paper feels wonderful under my fountain pens, and that's the important thing.
There's a great article over at ApartmentTherapy that advocates getting back to the basics with a good notebook and pen. It's a shortie, but several of the comments are thought-provoking, as well. Pop over and read them.
By the way, that's my little red book pictured above. If you clicked on the photo already and viewed the larger image, you probably noticed the last three lines on the page, which were the inspiration for this blog entry:
Too many electronic gadgets in my life. Need to get UNWIRED.