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Daze of My Life/No Assembly Required, ButÖ

by Kenneth B. Lourie

All right, now that Christmas is over and the traditional gift exchange has likely passed as well, itís time to sit down and attempt to figure out how to use all this stuff: the electric razor, the one-cup coffee-maker, the microwave oven and the DVD player. Simply following my instincts would be great, if I had any instincts to follow. But as with my non-sense of direction, I need help figuring things out if Iím planning to integrate these new high-tech gizmos into my rather low-tech lifestyle.

Thankfully Iím not stupid, just stubborn. So I suppose itís possible (theoretically) that I could succeed without really trying, if I were to take some time to actually read the instructions/directions. But that takes patience and interest in the outcome, neither of which I have in any great abundance, especially when it comes to hands-on. Typically, Iím pretty much hands-off. Perhaps if I spoke a second or even a third language, reading and then rereading the multiple pages of words and diagrams in multiple languages would reinforce the simplicity and usefulness of these modern conveniences. But I donít.

What I need is a tutor who would accompany these gifts into my house to teach me with the spoken word - not the written word - how to assimilate this new technology into my rather old-school lack of sensibility. Some categories might be: cell phones, computers, hand-held electronics (palm pilots, MP3 players, digital and/or video cameras, etc.), in-home electronics (stereo, video, audio, television, major appliances, etc.), and one other catch-all-type category to include any miscellaneous product that includes some kind of microprocessor, transceiver or computer chip. With this kind of comprehensive coverage, I think I could probably learn to use and not abuse these new implements.

As I exist now, other than turning on the computer to access e-mail, changing light bulbs and programming the VCR to record a program when Iím not home, Iím fairly useless. I am very good at performing household-type tasks, however, like laundry, dishwashing, shopping, bill-paying, animal maintenance and ordering food to take out, but I do know my limitations, and theyíre pretty limiting. I do work and play well with others, Iím extremely reliable and predictable(to a fault); and like my golden retriever, Bailey, Iím very adaptable to my environment.

When it comes to the receipt of some of these gifts we are fortunate enough to receive, the effect on my anxiety level is as if I knew that a giant asteroid were careening out of control heading toward my house and that thereís nothing I could do about it - short of hiring Bruce Willis, that is. I know itís going to hit, and I know thereís going to be some damage. I just donít know how long it will take to recuperate from the collision.

Sometimes - heck, often - I feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. What I do best seems to be needed least. I havenít exactly outlived my usefulness, but I do seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Iím just not compatible anymore.

Well, at least I can still write about it. Thatís something, isnít it?

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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