My uneasy friendship with machines | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

My husband cannot believe what happens to me and my computer; he claims it’s supposed to never happen at all. You see, he presumes everyone thinks and does things like him.


In conflicts I have with my computer, Vergel, like a prejudiced in-law, invariably sides with the machine, presuming it’s my stupid fault. “You must have pressed something,” he admonishes. “How can the computer do anything by itself, uncommanded?”


But I swear that I’m not anywhere near the delete button when it happens, and that things do have a way of disappearing from my computer. And yet Vergel finds it for me, sometimes in another file or in the little wastebasket at the right end of the squad of icons at the bottom of the screen.


Anyway, he finds it except in one recent case, and there’s a perfectly good explanation for it: He made the lost material vanish for good with all his tinkering.


Of course, he’ll never confess. He is supposed to know enough about the computer. Between him and it, it was, he’ll tell you, “love at first touch”; he has been e-mailing since 1992. I, on the other hand, have never been comfortable with machines of any kind, and I suspect the feeling is mutual. I would never have learned to drive had I not gone to the States, where everyone has to.


I came fully prepared for the written Texas driver’s test; I had just about memorized the handbook. But in the practical test, especially in parallel parking, oh, was I bad. Somehow my car ended up more perpendicular than parallel to the curb. I begged the officer for another chance. He replied, eyes on the hard evidence, “The way you did that, Lady, I reckon we’ll be here all day before you get it right.” All the same, he gave me my license, not because I aced the written test, but because I looked pitiful on my last month of pregnancy.


But for all my years of driving in Texas and Manila, I’ve never bumped any car or people. But I did scratch the car a few times on my own garage door, and that’s because Dad liked to tease me, “Unlike cars or people, the door couldn’t get out of your way.”


When I bragged about how lucky I was to always find a parking space, it’s Vergel’s turn to mock me: “When they see you they know, and they give you all the space you and they need.”


Retired from driving


Much to everyone’s relief— Vergel’s and both the walking and motoring publics, according to him, and my own, admittedly—I’ve long retired from driving.


More recently, I have also retired from most household chores, especially those that involve the use of machines. Except for mixers and beaters, kitchen gadgets terrify me, to the frustration of my friend Bebe (now gone), who was the master of them all.


They did everything at her bidding and made her life as a housewife easier, she said. She shredded vegetables in different shapes, she ground things to size, she made her own noodles.


She had an intelligent vacuum cleaner; it had all sorts of attachments, which filled a whole closet. It could suck, blow, shampoo, wet, dry. It did floors, carpets, curtains, and even beds and pillows. I bought some of the same gadgets and got her to show me how to work them but never felt suited for it.


When Bebe got her first computer, she didn’t stop until I got my own. “You’ll just love it, Teresita!” We were writing then for the same weekly. She tutored me until she lost all patience and respect for me. She wrote down a detailed practical chronology of instructions, from turning on to turning off—and wished me and my computer well.


It took some time for me to do MS Word, which is really nothing more than typing. To this day, like the alien E.T., I only use two fingers and thumb on each hand. If I need to use more fingers from the same hand, as when I have to move the document to one side, I’m suddenly all-thumbs.


Nearly three years into this column I’m finally onto other writer-helpful computer options. Still these are slow in getting absorbed in my brain, and slower still in finding expression in my motor skills, which, I’m convinced, are impaired to begin with.


Now my age is adding to the challenge.


I’m not as bad with my cell phone, but, as lousy as I am with the computer, I can’t write any other way anymore. And since I love to write and intend to do it for the rest of my life, I should get better.


In any case, the computer and Vergel better lighten up on me: I’m not quitting!




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