I retired from the phone company after 34 years of troubleshooting and repairing the various gadgets and gizmos they use to make sure your phone works and your calls go through. I liked the job, for the most part. I actually started with the Bell System and ended up in Ma Bell (AT&T) after the breakup in 1984. Along the way, I managed to get involved in computers, both large and small, in and outside my work. This has been a blessing and a curse for me. My sister knows what I did for a living and calls on me for my expertise when she is having problems. Or when she thinks she is having problems. Or when my aunt is having trouble. Or when people my sister is remotely associated with are having troubles.
I don't mind, I suppose. Too much. Like everyone else, I like to have my ego stroked, get a compliment, or be appreciated. And I do like helping people out when I can. But it is also frustrating. Because most of these problems are minor, or more annoyances than trouble, and usually avoidable. Of course, when related to me by my sister they can sound like disasters of the greatest magnitude.
For instance, the other day I get an urgent call from my sister; my aunt is having phone trouble again. Now, I know that she lives in an old house in the older (oldest) part of town and her wiring is not up to date so I was worried that she had a similar problem to one I (and the local phone company) corrected a few weeks ago. Especially since the description of the emergency began with "She can't make calls..." But since my sister soon added in the information that it was through a phone call that my aunt told her about this, I became suspicious that I wasn't hearing an accurate description of what was wrong. I was right.
After a few queries, I learned that the "major problem" was that my aunt couldn't erase the messages on her answering machine. Since I was planning on driving downtown the next morning to vote early, I told my sister this was no emergency and I would take care of it in the morning.
When I stopped by my aunt's house in the morning, I immediately found the problem. It wasn't that she couldn't erase the messages. It was that she didn't know how to erase them nor did she know how to stop the beeping that alerted her to the messages in the first place. As she explained it to me "I pushed every button I could see!" Of that, I have no doubt. She also told me she had to sleep on the living room sofa because of the beeping. Since she naps there every afternoon, she was fairly comfortable so that didn't concern me. I noticed that she had 3 messages waiting. I pressed the proper button and played them all and deleted each in turn resulting in no more beeps and a "0" for messages waiting.
By this time, you might be thinking that I have an idiot for an aunt. Not so. She's actually pretty bright. But she is a month short of 91 years old and things that seem simple to us have taken on a greater complexity in recent years. It's my sister I worry about, she's nowhere near 91. But I also noticed that the answering machine's button labeling didn't help. The button to play messages was labeled "MBOX A/Stop" and was right next to a button labeled "MBOX B/Stop". The "Delete" button was not close to these two buttons and the labeling was so small I nearly needed a magnifying glass to make out the word. So my next project is to re-label those buttons in a way that makes sense to my aunt. Hmmmm, how about "Play/Stop" and "DELETE" in somewhat larger letters?
It's bad enough to have a sister with a constantly pressed Panic Button, I don't need gadget makers to compound the problem.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago