I can’t decide if my age is beginning to show through my experience with electronics or if everything is now cheap and has terrible user experience design. Maybe both.
Around this time last year I got my first phone without a physical keyboard. I told myself, “All the kids are doing it – you have to live in the future sometime.” I’ve survived with it, and I can write emails with it in a pinch, but there’s no instance where I think to myself – “oh, let’s write for pleasure by swipe-typing.” That’s not a thing. If for some reason I do come up with an idea for a song while I’m on the go, I desperately paw through my belongings searching for a pencil. That I could commit the words to the screen with my fingertips rarely occurs to me.
I sit on the El with my laptop out and I realize I am now that demographic of older professionals with their outsized laptops on the train. Of course, I’m one of the only ones with blue hair, but that’s only a surface-level difference. I used to be the only person in all creation with a laptop on public transit, and that was my teeny netbook of old.
I felt that way today in the Verizon store. That phone with no keyboard has been gradually declining to accept a charge for its battery, and yesterday it finally gave up. “0% 0% 0%,” it flashes at me hopefully when I plug it in. That’s it.
That lead to longer than I like to spend in a retail environment spent on a physical, corded handset in the Verizon store, because no one at the store could even troubleshoot a one-year-old handset that won’t charge. It was sort of embarrassing – I felt like I was being punished. EV came with me, and she could not understand how I could be on the phone and need to stand in one place. After three levels of support, they decided I was telling the truth about it not charging no matter what I tried.
I remember some point in the past where I would hear about other people with their randomly-crashing computers and iPods that weren’t up-to-date and phones with bad charging ports and laugh a little laugh to myself. “They’re not using their stuff correctly,” I’d think, “or they just aren’t willing to understand how to fix them.”
Yet, here I am.Everything’s broken – blue screen of death on one laptop, deadly whirring on my MacBook, iPod won’t play songs all the way through, phone won’t charge. I expect my things to be pretty durable, but I’m not careless. I’m not the guy with cracked screens and missing keys (except that one EV pulled off my last MacBook – rookie parenting error, that). My relative care doesn’t seem to matter – I’ve gone from constantly connected and in-control to constantly on the risk of going completely incommunicado and at the whim of a bunch of circuit-boards.
All of that feels troubleshootable. If I had more hours and more time to try clever solutions I feel like I could fix half of those things, maybe more. But troubleshooting is a younger man’s game. Or, at least, a less busy man’s game. I don’t have time for that, and I don’t actually have time for any of these things to be broken, either.
I’m just afraid it’s going to make me that guy, who keeps buying the newest gadgets so he never has to deal with having an older one. It’s not my style. I’m a creature of habit and comfort. I don’t even like typing on a screen. I just want things to be as reliable as they were five or ten or fifteen years ago when I’d use them until they were just too slow to bear before upgrading.
Maybe I’m that guy already.