Read the instructions first? Really?

Now comes the time for getting acquainted with our new products.  Assembly instructions.  Operating manuals.   Warranties.  Oh my. It’s not just the digital camera, the cell phone, the hand steamer, the bagless vacuum with three different filters, it’s also the computer which had to be replaced in an ill-timed holiday rush.

Because of gifts received and necessary purchases and appliances that broke and even furniture (good old Ikea) there’s a stack of booklets on the table screaming, “Read me.”  I say,  “Fat chance”  and keep walking.  

The simplest gadget of all – the hand-held steamer  –  is the one so far that refuses to cooperate.  It has two attachments – a brush and a lint thingy – meant to keep the steam a safe distance away from delicate fabrics. The attachments won’t attach.  We resorted to reading the three page booklet -obviously translated from another language.  It says, specifically, “Slide the attachment into place.”  There’s no possible way to “slide” anything.  If it’s going on there, it’d be more of a “snapping” into place.   We tried snapping.  Then forcing.  The parts don’t fit. 

So I filled the reservoir and steamed away without attachments, carefully keeping it away from the silk blouse I need to wear immediately. It spat at me.  

At this point I’m farther along with the new computer than the so-simple-a-child-can-do-it hand steamer. 

Top of To Do List before the new year:  Must sit down and read all instructions. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

© Anita Garner 2009

Who’s Using A BlackBerry?

That’s not the real question, of course.  We know lots of people who use BlackBerries, including President Obama, and we’ll probably learn during the  wall-to-wall inauguration coverage whether he’ll get to keep his, what with all the security concerns.

Switching from a regular cell phone to a BlackBerry is a big decision for me.  Could a BlackBerry be my new tiny dream machine?  Here’s what I hope it’ll do:  Handle most of my communications needs while I travel a lot this year.

I don’t love my clunky old laptop and in a hotel I use it mostly for emailing and looking up addresses on the Internet.  I’m told a BlackBerry can handle these duties and then some.  If I get a BlackBerry, is there a model with a screen big enough so I can actually read the Internet display?

Texting is another quandary. I’m not a texter, but might be if I can actually find the letters of the alphabet.  Since a BlackBerry has a keyboard, that might just do it. 

The dilemma is – which model to get and how much do I need to spend to get the features needed?

I hope to avoid buyer’s regret – or future BlackBerry lust –  by knowing which features I’ll wish I had, if only I’d paid for them at the start. 

Help me please.  I’m suffering from BlackBerry-Indecision-Paralysis.

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Putting On A Cell Phone Show

Every cell phone is a potential camera and a potential record of something embarrassing we’re doing right now.  Strangers can hold up a phone and send a picture of us anywhere. But that’s not the most intrusive thing cell phones can do.


Worse are the performances we’re forced to watch against our will.  Lately everywhere I go, cell phones are treated as stages, with the holder of the phone putting on a show.  The trouble is, I didn’t buy a ticket nor do I want to get in for free. 


I just came back from Starbucks, a confined space, where several people in different corners of the coffee emporium were busy working on productions that were too big for the room. 


One man paced back and forth between tables.  Another was loudly talking into his phone about something he needed everyone to know about him.  He tossed around the word “millions.”  This guy reminded me of the olden days when one man puffed up a story like that while acting as wingman for his buddy at the bar. 


A woman raised her voice telling someone on the other end of a conversation what an awful week she had. She named names.


A man pushed open the door, stood in the center of the room and shouted into his phone, “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”  He turned around to scan the line waiting to order.  This was no quiet little glance.  It was a large whoosh of a turn. Then he spun back around, and projecting like one of the Redgraves, he said, “Go ahead.  Get started.  Ten minutes.  Yes.  Start now and I’ll be there.”


All of these performances break two rules of show business.  Rule number one:  If you’re going to draw attention to yourself, don’t be boring.  Rule number two: (If this isn’t a rule it should be.) Be sure you have a willing audience. Willing does not include people who are stuck next to you because of coffee cravings.  


Do you ever wonder who’s on the other end of these conversations? One day, while I waited in the market checkout line, the man in front of me talked into his cell phone loudly enough for the people in the back of the store to hear, while the checker scanned his stuff. 


At first I thought, oh he’s letting his mate know he’s successfully completed a shopping list, but because of the responses, that notion was dispelled.  It was clear he and the person on the other end of the call were making a plan to do something tomorrow but the guy in the store couldn’t seem to think a thought without repeating it into the phone, so there was not only boring conversation, but also a recitation of products.  


Evidently some new rules were written since I read my manual.  Here’s the revision: If we own a cell phone we must talk into it at all times.  Loudly. And while we talk, we must pace up and down in a small space, the smaller the better.


While talking, imagine there is a camera pointed at us, recording our lives.  A producer may need this material one day.  I’ll leave you with a transcript of that supermarket conversation, and you decide if this is a reality show you’ll want to watch.


“Yeah.  Beans. Okay.  Tomorrow.  Rice.  Nine sounds good.  Tomatoes.  You off all day?  Bacon.  Nah, I’m going in first. Potatoes.  Just for a few minutes though.  Onions.”  


Ó Anita Garner 2008