Main bout - Joe versus electronics

Friday, December 19, 2003

Technology may soon pass me by, I'm afraid.

But I'm not going down without a bruising, no-holds-barred battle.

You have no idea how overjoyed I was to master resetting all the clocks in our house.

Every clock we own has different rules for changing the setting. The clock on the microwave sends me messages.

"You have pushed the wrong button" scrolls across the digital window. I see that one a lot.

OK. So now I'm lord of the clocks.

Our fancy new thermostat on the wall in the hall was more of a challenge.

Excuse me. It's a humidistat.

I have to be careful these days. Almost anything electronic is smarter than I am. And have you noticed how touchy these gizmos with computer chips on their shoulders are?

Our fancy new humidistat has several interesting features. I'm pretty sure if I read the owner's manual I would be impressed by what they are.

Of course, the main reason for having a humidistat is to control the humidity. The humidistat, according to the expert who installed it, will automatically calculate the proper indoor humidity needed to maintain the best comfort level.

Well, goody.

What I didn't know last week, however, was whether I had ever actually activated the humidistat. I worried. Was our new furnace spewing out randomly moistened air?

Our hallway has two recessed lights in the ceiling. When they were installed in the 1950s, I'm sure they were the height of modern decor. But the plain fact is you can't see squat in that hallway.

So here I was, holding a flashlight suitable for signaling astronauts under my arm and the humidistat manual in one hand and trying to poke the right buttons with the other.

I am pleased to say that later -- OK, 30 minutes later -- I figured out that the humidistat had already been properly set.

Well, what a relief.

I was feeling a little grim about my technological shortcomings until I was out in the car Sunday morning running an errand and heard on the radio that Saddam Hussein has been captured. I grabbed for my cell phone to tell my wife to turn on the TV. Fifteen minutes later, after pulling off the road, I managed to actually dial my cell phone. I could have gone home and turned on the TV myself in under five minutes.

When I got my wife on the phone, I told her the big news, and she said she would watch the TV updates.

A few minutes later, my cell phone rang. I figured out which button to push to answer the phone. It was my wife.

"How do you turn on the TV?"

I am not making this up.

After giving her instructions, I continued on my errand. A few minutes latter, my cell phone rang again. It was my wife.

"How do you change the channels?"

Men, be careful. I know some of you are snorting in your shredded wheat right now. Please do not make a big scene. I don't need your wives mad at me too.

There is a happy ending to this tale of technology. Maybe.

I had to go to the office Wednesday night. When I got home, my wife was sitting in her favorite chair. And the TV was on! She was watching a "Law and Order" rerun.

Good grief, I thought. I've unleashed a monster. And she has the remote control!

Said my wife: "How do you find the music channels?"

Life as I know it will never be the same.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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