Thursday, February 19, 2009

'Beings' or 'doings'?

Please give me a little thought this morning. I need a clear mind . . . a ready understanding of technical jargon . . . a good head for figures . . . an appreciation of the latest advancements in the world of IT.
Does all that sound like me? No, I agree, it doesn't. Which is why I'd really appreciate a little positive thought!

In a few moments I'm off to Regent Street to buy my birthday present. It's not really a luxury as it's something I need, in fact I suspect that I'll only just be in time in making this purchase.
In case you haven't guessed, I'm off to the Apple Store to buy a new laptop.
I feel a thorough traitor to the good friend who has been so tolerant of my errors and abuses over the years. But facts are facts, and there's no doubt that the screen is giving up. It is now constantly split (the top half being considerably darker than the bottom), and sometimes the bottom goes out of function completely and is only restored by a lot of wiggling . . . and much positive thought! I'll be taking it with me in the hope that they can transfer all the files, folders and photos to the new one. I'm also hoping that they'll be able to allay my fears as to how I'm going to connect my printer to the newcomer - the software that came with the printer was lost years ago.

So . . . feeling distinctly disloyal (but secretly a little excited!), I'm off in search of a new friend. If it is half as wonderful, tolerant, hardworking and reliable as its predecessor . . . I'll be very lucky.


Oh dear, all that positive thinking didn't really help the situation. Do you want to know about my adventures at the Apple Store? Read on . . . !

It was just as I feared . . . a computer geek's heaven . . . my hell!
Is it too fanciful to hope that, when going in search of an Apple, you'll find yourself in a tranquil, welcoming orchard? This was no orchard. It was a jungle!
Do you know the Apple Store? There's glass everywhere, even a glass central staircase, and, at ground level, what seem like hundreds of benches beside which AppleMac devotees drool in ecstasy over the latest software. More like an inter-planetary temple than a mere shop, it left me feeling distinctly alien.

I stood by the glass staircase, thoroughly bemused. Finally it dawned on me that all the eager-faced young men in turquoise T shirts were there to help you. Not one of them looked a day older than twenty-five, some had ponytails, some had whispy beards or moustaches, they all had the gleaming eyes of the true devotee.
Seeing me standing there, one of the helpers approached.
"I'd like to buy a White Book," I said (having been briefed by a friend that it's distinctly 'uncool' to use the word laptop).
He looked at me with kindly tolerance, "Do you know what you want?"
"I've had one for years," I replied, a little piqued, "what I need is a new one - and I'd be grateful if you'd transfer the files for me."
He showed me the gleaming, new display laptop. It looked very beautiful. Smaller, slimmer and sturdier than my existing one. I began to feel very disloyal.
"Will you want a carrying-case?" asked my helper.
I told him that I had a carrying-case. Which I had. My National Trust bag makes a perfect carrying case for a laptop.
"I also need help in linking up my printer to the new computer," I explained, "I seem to have lost the software."
"Have you a wirebox?" my helper wanted to know (I think he said wirebox, it was something to do with wire).
I began to feel even more befuddled.
"No . . . "
"You could use an external modem and connect it by . . . "
"No . . . please . . . " I interrupted, I don't understand all that. I just want to connect the printer."
My young helper looked at me with pitying concern, "You could really do with a training session."
Hey, what was this . . . ? I didn't want a training session! I hadn't come for a training session! Events were spinning out of my control.
"I just need a new laptop . . . "
"Stay here," he said, "I'll go and see what I can do."
As one handling a recalcitrant dog, he led me to a pillar and told me firmly to stay put!
I stayed by the pillar for what felt like half-an-hour, and must have looked totally out of my element, for another young man in a turquoise T shirt came up to me.
"Are you all right . . . ?" he enquired.
I told him that one of his colleagues had instructed me to stay by the pillar.
He chuckled, "Well, you'd better stay there. He'll be back!"
And he was. This time he was carrying a box, it was my new laptop.
"Are you paying by credit card?" he asked.
I told him that I was paying by cheque.
"We don't accept cheques," said my helper.
"I can cover it by a credit card?" I insisted.
“I’m sorry, no cheques.”
"All right, then," my fighting spirit had finally ebbed away, "I'll pay by credit card."
"Do you know your PIN number?" he enquired.
This was the last straw!
"Now, look here!" I retorted, recharged by indignation, "I may not know much about computers, but I do know my PIN number!"
A little taken aback by this unexpected outburst, my helper grinned, and apologised - after which, our relationship improved considerably!

It is now three hours later and I am home again . . . reviving my shattered self-belief with the
ministrations of a stiff brandy!
I'll do nothing further today. Tomorrow, who knows, I may take that beautiful new laptop out of its ornate box and see if I can come to terms with its complexity. If I succeed . . . well, that would be marvellous. If I don't . . . . advice and help, please!!!

After today's experience, I've been thinking about this fundamental difference in the way men and women look at computers. And it struck me that it has a lot in common with the way they view cars.
To a man, a car is an object of beauty and power. He values its engine, its capacity, its appearance and its potential.
To a woman, a car is a means of getting somewhere. She values its reliability, its comfort and its durability.
The young man at the Apple Store saw the computers as wondrous creations in their own right. I saw them as a means of producing something.
For men, cars and computers are 'beings'. For women, they are 'doings'.
The male attitude would seem to be the purer, but, or so it seems to me, there's a mighty gap in understanding between the two lines of thought!

Vive la difference? Perhaps! But I'm naming my new hard-drive 'Gemma' in the hope that we girls will stick together!