I don’t think of myself as ancient. Yes, I am at an age where I either forget, deny, or deduct ten years when mentioning how old I am, but in my head, I’m still clinging to the last remnants of my youth. But when it comes to technology, I admit, I’m often befuddled. As soon as I somewhat master (yes, I’m using that term loosely) one thing, a new version comes out and once again, I’m lost.
One example is updates. I’ve decided not to do them anymore. A few months ago, I started getting daily popups insisting that I update my laptop. I kept hitting the option to delay the update for another 24 hours, and then ignored it for about a month. Finally, I thought, gee, I guess I should do the update already since I didn’t have anything urgent to do on the computer that night – or ever, actually. I figured it would take about an hour. Four hours later, the only thing scrolling across the screen were words saying they were sorry it was taking so long, an unexpected problem had occurred, and I needed to be patient. Within an hour, the screen went completely black and I could no longer see anything on my computer. For the next few days, I tried and tried to revive my computer – I could get the sign-in screen, but then, nothing. So I finally brought my computer to a repair place. They said I’d have it back in two days. I asked them if while they were at it, could they get rid of Windows 10 which I despise, and bring it back to Windows 7, which I liked very much. So I’m sure that was part of the reason it took five days instead of two. While I was thankful they got it up and running, it really wasn’t the same. And within a few weeks, the screen started jumping around and flashing, so I brought it back. The repair guy told me it was probably the screen, but I realized that to fix it was way too expensive for an older computer. He suggested just getting an external monitor, which stopped the problem at the repair shop. So I did, and it didn’t work at home (surprise!), so I ended up deciding to just get a new computer. Of course computers have so many bells and whistles now, I knew I’d never figure them out. I don’t need a touchscreen, I don’t need a stylus, I don’t need anything beyond the basics. Which also brought the price way down. Several weeks in, so far, so good, but I still need to get everything from the old computer onto the new one – I think another trip to the computer repair shop is inevitably in my future.
Next example. I went to a conference out of state recently. It was almost a six-hour drive, and I was so relieved to finally get there – what did we do before Google Maps? I was so exhausted when I finally got to the hotel, I just wanted to collapse in my room – after racing to the restroom, of course! Now, I’ve been to hotels many times that have key cards, so this shouldn’t have been a problem. I found my room, and eagerly swiped my card down. Nothing. Hmm. I swiped my card up. Nothing. I swiped it up and down multiple times. Nothing. I tried pushing the card into a nonexistent slot. Nothing. I repeated everything I had already tried. Nope. There was an arrow facing down on the front of the card, and I kept muttering at the card that I was following directions, but it refused to cooperate. Finally, I caved – I admitted to the Universe that I could not do a simple thing such as open my door. I started heading to the elevator, fighting back tears of frustration, when a fellow hotel guest magically appeared by the elevator.
“Please,” I said pitifully, “can you please tell me how to unlock the door to the room?”
She nodded her head in understanding and sympathy. “I know, right? You’d think the arrow on the room key meant to swipe down on that side. But you have to flip the card around, even though it doesn’t make sense.”
I thanked her profusely as I raced back to my room. Sure enough, after flipping the card, I had entry to my room! Huzzah!
Later that night, I returned to my room, entered without problem, and sat down to watch some TV. I turned the TV on, and it was on a Spanish station. I tried changing the channel. Nothing. I looked at the channel guide and tried again. Nothing. This went on for at least ten minutes and I turned the TV off. Then I tried again. Somehow, magically, the channel finally changed. Eventually, I had it somewhat figured out, meaning I just stuck with the same channel for the rest of the weekend.
The end of the conference was the day we fell back – timewise. And don’t get me started on why we can’t just stay year-round on Daylight Saving Time. Since I had a lengthy drive home, I didn’t want to spend most of my drive in the dark, so I wanted to have my car ready to go after the last seminar. So I grabbed my suitcase and hurried out to my car so I’d be ready to go and beat the mass exodus out of the hotel. I went back up to the room to relax for a few minutes before it was time for the class. I swiped my key card, as I had done so expertly all weekend. Nothing. What the heck? I tried again. Nothing. Then I saw one of the guys who was also attending the seminar, storming down the hall. He said his key card wasn’t working either. As we headed to the elevator, I was relieved it wasn’t just me this time. I mentioned something about the time change and his face lit up – he realized that we were being locked out of our rooms due to the change in time. While we were on the new time, the computers were somehow still set on the old time, meaning we should have checked out already. At the front desk, they supposedly fixed my card so it would let me into my room. It didn’t, but that all eventually got straightened out after more frustration.
Thankfully, Google Maps once again got me home without any major issues. But honestly, when I can’t even open a door or change the channel on the TV without feeling like a hopeless incompetent, maybe time is changing a little too much.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
When I park in a large parking lot, I try to park towards the back, away from other cars, mostly because I can add in a few extra steps that will show up on my Fitbit. But also because I prefer being away from all the drivers who frantically drive up and down every aisle looking for parking spots not more than 10 steps away from the doorway, who will wait behind your car and honk to remind you that they’re there until you back out, even if you haven’t had a chance to buckle up yet.
So today, I created my own little slice of the world when I parked my car as far from the entrance as possible while remaining in the same zip code. When I returned from running my errands, I discovered that a behemoth was parked next to me on the driver’s side of my car, in spite of the fact there were plenty of other spaces available. The person driving this monstrosity had apparently made sure there was plenty of room on the driver’s side of their vehicle to exit comfortably by parking all the way to the right of their allotted space, and slightly over the line. I’m guessing they didn’t have a passenger, unless it was Flat Stanley. I stared at the distance between their vehicle and mine, trying to calculate how much I had eaten for breakfast, and if I’d be able to hold my breath and squeeze through the tiny opening and into the driver’s seat. While the temptation was great to continuously slam my car door into theirs, you will be proud to know I didn’t succumb to my baser instincts and I did manage to slither into my car, with no damage to anyone’s vehicle.
But come on, people! Unless you have ten kids, do you actually need a vehicle as big as a tank? And if you do have ten kids, try to have a little consideration when you park the thing. Because next time, I might be eating a bigger breakfast before I head out and then we’ll both be in trouble!
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
Once upon a time, I could eat just about anything I wanted. Pizza, spaghetti, bagels, Good Humor ice cream bars, lemon meringue pie… And I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t feel sick. And I was happy.
The first food limits were self-imposed when I stopped eating meat at the age of 13. While my decision came about due to my love of animals, I had also noticed that I felt awful every time I ate meat. Who knows if this was physical or psychological, but either way, that was the first food-related restriction. It seemed to bother other people way more than it bothered me. Everyone worried about what I could eat. And where I’d get my protein. And that I’d end up with anemia. This was back in the Stone Age when there weren’t the myriad alternative meat options there are today. Every time there was a family get-together, there was the wringing of the hands as to what they could feed me. I always tried to remind everyone that their entire meal did not consist of dead animals. That there were plenty of other options on the table. But the panic ensued for many years.
Thankfully, after college I moved to Los Angeles, where veggie burgers were found in abundance, and fresh fruit and vegetables were available year-round. And there were other kindred spirits who made me feel that I wasn’t so alone in the world of carnivores.
Pasta was always a great option as well. My favorite was Fettuccine Alfredo, the ultimate comfort food. Carbs slathered by creamy, cheesy goodness melted into one coma-inducing blob of deliciousness. And I still didn’t gain an ounce.
And just around the time I was congratulating myself for still being within ten pounds of my wedding weight, wham! The need for surgery arose. And things started to change. First was that my blood pressure went sky high and never completely reverted to the very normal numbers I had always enjoyed, in spite of the various medical combinations my doctors prescribed. Obviously, diet and exercise were important. So I learned to live within the boundaries of a sodium-restricted diet. Everything began tasting like cardboard. And, I gained ten pounds. So food tasted worse to me, my options were starting to shrink while my stomach and thighs were starting to grow.
Then, sugar became an issue. I didn’t drink sugary sodas, and I didn’t often eat dessert. But I did drink orange juice in the morning. It was my special treat each day. But I grudgingly switched over to low-sodium V-8. Which I now really enjoy, but in the beginning, it made me very grumpy. And more favorite things got crossed off the list.
But I still had my pasta. And I still had my cheese. So I made some adjustments to my diet and carried on.
Then came the thyroid surgery. The surgery I hadn’t been worried about. The surgery that left me without a speaking voice for six months. The surgery that changed so many things about my body, I’m still reeling. But the main two changes were that I got sick every time I ate, eventually realizing it was the gluten that was the problem. And within one year I gained over 30 pounds. So in spite of the fact that I had to cut out my beloved bread and pasta, the weight was piling on faster than I could put food in my mouth.
I exercised. I counted calories. And nothing changed. Finally, I got really strict about what I was doing and over the course of a year and a half, I lost 20 pounds. I was so proud of myself. And I kept it off in spite of so many stressful things happening in my life. Then, out of the blue, last year, the weight slowly started creeping back on. And within about two months, ten pounds came back. NO! I screamed each time I got up the nerve to step on the stupid, traitorous scale. What the heck? I hadn’t changed anything that had been working, and yet those sneaky calories were still somehow sabotaging my best efforts.
I did some soul-searching. There was still one delicious thing left in my diet. I could eat it straight out of the fridge when I was hungry. Melt it on a corn tortilla for breakfast. Shred it over a boring salad and make things tasty. But, it does have lots of calories. And fat. And has addictive qualities. My beloved cheese. The last holdout from my previous carefree life. But in the interest of health and weight control, I researched cheese substitutes. I bought several that were sliced and some that were shredded. I took a nibble of the sliced “cheese” that was supposed to taste like cheddar. I shuddered. I tried the shredded “cheese” over my rice pasta – it wasn’t too bad, melted. Then one of my friends informed me the slices also needed to be melted in order to be food-like. And it’s true. Especially if you add some avocado on top of it.
So far, the scale has rewarded me by going down one pound. One whole pound, imagine that. I’ve given up the last bastion of deliciousness and one pound has melted away. OK.
So, I’m going to try to get some more exercise in my daily life and see if that helps. Some recent studies I’ve read give me hope. One is about the correlation between sleep and weight loss – I could get behind that one. I’m ready to sleep almost any time of day. Especially if I blink too long. Another study said something to the effect that taking a bath might be equivalent to a half hour of walking. Sign me up! If sleeping more and taking baths could get me to my normal weight, you probably won’t see me until the end of July.
Meanwhile, nobody better mention taking my avocado away from me. I’m a woman on the edge.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
Like everyone else, I’ve got election fatigue. It feels like this grueling election cycle has been about 4 years long, and the divisiveness it has created has made things pretty much unbearable. Friends, family, social media “friends” who have never met are barely speaking, or openly fighting with each other. Everyone I actually know has talked about exhaustion, the inability to process what is happening, and the desire not to focus on anything for any length of time. I’ve been thinking about this – when my brain actually works – and it suddenly came to me. Yes, of course the election has done this to us, but it’s not only the election. Several other factors have converged to make us lose our minds.
Think about the timing. Election Day is about a week after Halloween. The holiday where the entire point is about eating as much candy and sugary things as possible. Adults either sneak candies from their children’s stash, or buy extra bags of candy that they hide throughout the house. Either way, the sugar highs fog our brains, hype us up, and make it nearly impossible to concentrate.
Then, two days before the election, when we’re already in a mindless, frenzied state, it’s Daylight Saving Time. We “fall back” meaning it gets dark at lunchtime, and this is hyped by reminding us at least we get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday. Nobody’s body adjusts to this in time for Election Day. We’re tired. We’re cranky. All we can think about is sleeping and seeing the sun again while we’re awake.
Add it all up – negativity beyond our endurance levels that has gone on for years, sugar highs that are probably worse than usual because we need to self-medicate by shoving Reese’s Pieces and M&Ms down our throats, and our internal timekeeping mechanisms have been completely thrown off by a totally unnecessary change of time that spirals us all into a terrible depression. It all equals an electorate unable to know what exactly they’re doing when they stumble into the voting booth!
Hopefully, we’ll recover in time to make responsible decisions. But this could explain the results of prior elections when we’ve all wondered what the heck happened (see the 2000 Presidential election, Florida, hanging chads for a perfect example).
So clear your heads, skip the sugar, get some sleep, and vote responsibly. Our future depends on it. After all, we can’t always blame Florida when things go wrong.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
If you’re a fairly regular reader of this irregular blog, you know that things never go smoothly for me when I travel. Usually, the issues pop up either at the airport or once on the plane. While both of these happened during my most recent trip, there was a new wrinkle that brought home the fact that people’s jobs shouldn’t be taken over by non-humans. I’ve always believed that, but keep reading for the fun details.
So, I recently traveled to Texas from SC. I made sure to book a nonstop both ways to avoid all the frustrations that come with hoping your plane leaves on time, hoping that the gate for your connecting flight is in the same zip code as the gate you arrived at, hoping your luggage makes it to your connecting flight (if you have to spring for checking your luggage which I rarely do unless I’m gone for a month – which I haven’t been), hoping the connecting flight leaves on time, and, well, you get the picture.
When I made my reservation, the only seat available on the flying tin can was a seat in the very last row in front of the restroom. Since I had no desire to pay $40 for a seat a few rows up, I reserved that seat. So imagine my surprise when I finally made my way to the back of the plane and found a rather large, older man firmly planted in the seat. The flight attendant was standing right behind him in the aisle, watching everyone trying to shove their overstuffed backpacks into the teeny-weeny overhead bins. The rest of us who had carry-ons had to gate-check them since the bins on these bus-sized planes aren’t large enough to hold a cell phone, let alone a small suitcase.
Anyway, I very politely asked the flight attendant if I was indeed at the right seat (I knew I was, but didn’t want to rile anyone up – there was no room for riling on this plane). The man said he thought my seat was across from his, indicating two empty seats. The flight attendant asked to see my boarding pass which was on my phone. It took forever to get my phone to access my boarding pass, but once I did, she made a hmmph sound and told me to sit in the empty seat across from the man until she figured things out. She was starting to stress about a couple who didn’t speak English and somehow had managed to board with a huge, quilted duffel bag which was half the size of the plane, which they were trying to cram into the minuscule overhead bin.
Wouldn’t you know it, but the moment I sat in the empty seat, a man made his way to the back of the plane and stood in front of me expectantly. “Your seat?” I asked, resignedly. He nodded and I squeezed into the area next to the restroom in the back of the plane, waiting to see what happened next. The flight attendant made her way back and told me as soon as everyone was on board, she would get me a seat in the front of the plane. I said that was fine since I didn’t really care where I sat, I just wanted to get a seat already. A few more minutes passed when suddenly, the man in what I knew was my seat literally jumped up, popped the overhead bin open and grabbed his cane, and excited announced, “This isn’t 5C!” He then barreled down the aisle to the front of the plane. I stood in shock for a moment, and then calmly reclaimed my seat.
I had a great visit in Texas, doing lots of Texas-type things with friends and family. Then came the flight home. First, the line to get through security at the airport was long and snaky. Anticipating this, we had gotten to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I finally got to go through the X-ray machine with my hands in the air, and went to reclaim my carry-on, purse and shoes, when I saw that my carry-on was being held hostage next to the screening person. Fortunately, the TSA guy who was checking things out was young and cute and funny, so I wasn’t too stressed out. After he checked out the shopping bags of the girls in front of me who somehow didn’t realize they weren’t supposed to shove a nearly full bottle of water in their shopping bag to go through security, it was my turn. I asked what they thought they saw. He asked if I had a candle. Why, yes I did. I was very proud of having gotten a great deal at a store at the mall that had everything half price. He opened my suitcase, started undoing the great folding job I had done as he rummaged through my things, trying to find the candle, and finally found it. I told him it was Vanilla Cupcake which he thought sounded great and I told him which store I had bought it at, asking him not to confiscate it since he could go find one for himself there. Lucky for me, he laughed.
My plane boarded on time, which was a thrill, and I discovered that this plane was even smaller than the previous one – more like a flying minibus where you had to kneel to board if you were taller than 5’6″. I busied myself looking out the window. After awhile, I realized I had been looking out the window for an awfully long time. Finally, the pilot announced that we were waiting for the first officer. We all looked at each other – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering if this guy had partied too hard the night before and had slept through his alarm. About ten minutes later, the pilot finally announced that the first officer had arrived at the airport – on another flight that had obviously come in late. Great scheduling on the airline’s part. About a half hour later, we finally left.
So we got back to SC about 45 minutes late. I had parked in the economy lot which is a bit of a hike from the airport, but it was a lovely day and I was just happy to be back. I got to my car, pulled out my ticket to get out of the lot, and drove up to the machine to pay. I inserted the ticket in the slot. It shot right back at me. A mechanical voice told me the ticket was invalid. What??? I checked the ticket. It was the right one. It wasn’t bent, it wasn’t damaged. I made sure it was perfectly straight and inserted it again. Same thing. Third time. Same thing. No people in sight, although there are still booths. So I pressed the help button. I heard a ringing sound and then a recording came on telling me I should leave a message. Believe me, they wouldn’t have wanted to hear my message. There is a second lane for credit cards only. Fortunately no one was behind me in either lane, so I backed up and tried the next machine. It spit out my ticket and told me it was invalid just as heartlessly as the first one. So I resigned myself to the fact that I might never be able to leave the parking lot. I backed up, turned around, and parked once again, muttering to myself as I stormed back towards the airport. But then I looked up to see two older ladies in uniform, smoking and yakking in front of the booths on the other side of the street. I had never seen a more welcome sight. I was so busy ranting and raving, I don’t think I said anything intelligible other than the fact I needed help getting my car out of the parking lot. I proceeded to add that the airport had no right to take people’s jobs away by automating things when people still need other real-live people to help them. They thanked me for my concern about their jobs and finally, I was able to leave. The woman did tell me my ticket was damaged when she also tried to insert it. The damage must have been internal.
And that was my trip in a nutshell. I await the day we can get beamed to our location without need of airports or airplanes. Although with my luck, my molecules would end up scrambled and I’d have no way to complain to anyone.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved