Geezer-Gaffes: Learning From
HUMILIATION

It's been suggested that I list the things I have learned as a GeezerGeek. Or, if that doesn't get me going, that I recall the most humiliating experiences occurring to me in the cyber-context. Given the fact that learning is more successful when combined with a strong affective component, I would have to conclude that my learning has been remarkably reinforced by strong emotional reaction. Logically, it would seem to follow that I have l earned well. But what have I learned? Technology eludes me still, but I have understood that I must stand up to it if I wish to continue. Standing up to it means, in my case, not breaking out into a sweat and going bonkers when something unexpected occurs on the screen or fails to occur on the screen.
In the beginning, I had two basic problems: I couldn't get in and I couldn't get out. Things haven't changed all that much, but what has modified is my attitude. That changed suddenly when I discovered a way to turn my tormentor into the tool that it is. Realizing that I wanted to use the computer to write, and the web as a research and publishing implement was the liberating element. Having access to the technical and artistic expertise of my good friend, The Instigator Geek, was the engine to all this self-release. This has given me the power I needed to survive the onslaught of awareness accompanying my prolonged exposure to geekdom. The dawning that crept into the process was of the peculiarities of my personality, all of which were pessimistic prognosticators. That I had no business doing this was finally laughingly obvious to me, as it had been for so long to others. The best I could hope for was to be considered quaint, thereby enlisting the sympathies of the more adept. Certainly, Geeks have been exceedingly kind and tolerant toward me.
In repose, I imagine I can pass for a normal. Give me a bee in my bonnet and I rapidly become a maniac. Here's the picture--pay attention. I don't see, hear, or think well. More often than not, I'm having a bad hair day. That's the quaint part. When anxious or excited, surges of energy come from nowhere, bringing manic determination and obsessive commitment to whatever it is I've gotten locked into. At this juncture, there's little to do but let it run its course. Should anyone, during such an episode, bumble onto the scene or become a problem-solving object in my eyes, they're in for it.
Example. With chagrin, I recall the way in which I treated Matt, the gentle Geek (and I'm using the term with the utmost admiration and respect). I gave him an awful time shortly after I had signed up on his internet service. I had arranged to visit their make-shift office, hoping to get some configuring help with Merlin, my in-tow Mac laptop. It was early in the morning. The address given to me on the phone the day before by the good Matt turned out to be in one of the old historic houses downtown. I think the fact that I had known the person who owned (and I thought still lived in the house) threw me. I rang the doorbell, and looking back, I can see that I started to crank up with a manic mix of disorientation, anxiety, and paranoia. When no one responded, I rang again and noted with disdain that there was no sign indicating this was a place of business. Silly and suspicious was the state in which I left the location. Once home, I called the number and got their machine. Unfamiliar (as in from another planet) with the unconventional work hours associated with any respectable geek endeavor, I escalated into agitated indignation.
When I finally got Matt on the phone, I let him have it. I wound up my ludicrous litany of ignorant and offensive remarks by asking him if he was "legit." He absorbed it all with a maturity uncanny for his 20 some years. He suggested I come again, and this time he would wait outside for me! This brilliance on his part assuaged my asinine demands. From the shady character I had assigned to him, he now took on the nice boy next door guise, especially after he successfully explained his presence in my friend's house.
We went in. The old saltbox dwelling was adapting as best it could to its new function as a wired warehouse. From "George Washington slept here," to "Mouse Potato," a zine that has this as its motto: "Wasting your life away--one web page at a time." Life's quite a stretch isn't it?
I handed Merlin to Matt with the request that he configure the setup and download Netscape. I think he had a moment of panic and said, "Jeez, I don't have an extension cord!" (nice try boy next door.) Not to worry, here! I proudly produced the extension cord that I always pack with Merlin and his modem. Conversant now with his destiny, Matt plugged in the cord. I had little discomfort with the fact he gave me the next two hours of his life doing things people are supposed to do for themselves. His partner came in. Bernie, as he was introduced, was dressed less casually than Matt and carried a briefcase. He, no doubt, was the business end. If I had been Matt under these circumstances, I would have rolled my eyes at Bernie in mock (maybe not mock) desperation and pleaded silently with those same globes to be rescued. Either Matt didn't do this or Bernie thought, "you're on your own dude," but there I continued to sit until downloading and day was done.
More confessions in future issues.

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