Let Inga Tell You: Please just keep it to words of one syllable

Before my engineer husband tries to explain anything technical to me, he says, “I think you might want to get the yellow pad.”

He, of course, means an 8x11 lined legal pad that we buy by the kilo, since he also asserts that when I die he’s going to insert a multi-pack of them into my coffin for my use in the hereafter.

In his dream of the hereafter, somebody else is helping me with my technical problems besides him.

I have a multitude of really good skills in a number of areas. But techno stuff? The synapses just don’t fire in sequence. Interestingly, I’m reasonably good with cameras, which Olof insists is because I actually like cameras and photography, unlike virtually any other technical gismo, all of whom I have a total hate-hate relationship with.

I did master my new iPhone, but only after I spent the first 12 mornings of ownership at the AT&T store on Pearl, yellow pad in hand. (I refuse to allow that the rapid turnover of employees that week had anything to do with me.)

While I’ve never had learning disabilities per se, I think I’ve always suffered from technical dyslexia. Or maybe that’s dys-technia?

Fortunately, I’m trainable. But I need the yellow pad and laboriously detailed instructions. There are no givens in Inga Land. Olof, along with my long-suffering former co-worker, Dave, have tried to maintain that most techno gadgets are designed to be intuitive. You play with it, you figure it out, you don’t need a manual. Hah! Let me rephrase that. HAH! For some of us, there IS no intuitive.

As for my computer, Olof insists I can’t break it. Maybe not, but I can get it to the point where I can’t get it to work again either. In my world, that’s called “broken.” You’re typing along, minding your own business, and suddenly everything on the screen looks different. Sweat breaks out on my forehead.

Olof would also insist that computers are made up of ones and zeros and operate by logical rules, but I know differently. Technical gadgets sense fear and take advantage of it. Sometimes you just have to get the upper hand by threatening the machine into submission. Windows Live Mail only shaped up when it knew I was going to replace it with Outlook.

Olof also maintains that the biggest problem I have with electronics is that I have the frustration tolerance of a gnat. I am forever vowing that whatever gadget is giving me trouble is simply going to end up in the pool. It’s kind of become a code phrase. “So, is it in the pool?” Olof will inquire when he comes home from work knowing I’ve been thwarted all day by my computer.

Olof says I have to learn to stay calm when frustrated. Why? What’s the point? I think hurling epithets at mechanical devices is a perfectly reasonable and healthy reaction.

Of course, a third reason I hate technical apparati is that I hate being dependent on other people to help me fix them. Olof, bless him, is endlessly patient but I know that when he pours his third Scotch he’s getting testy. This is especially true when he’s trying to teach me something for the first time and has to wait while I painstakingly record instructions like this:

Turn on power strip on top of desk.

Turn on power button* on computer. The computer is the black box with the white top on the floor to the left of my desk chair and says “Dell” on it.

(No snickers please. We also have another box that is called a “firewall” that is NOT the computer, or at least the one that will make my monitor come to life.)

*The power button is on the top of the Dell box on the right side. If the light comes on, it’s on. No light and you probably didn’t turn on the power strip. Or it was already on and you accidentally turned it off.

(I always include troubleshooting instructions in my notes.)

At the bottom left of the monitor screen is a blue ball with an orange and green and blue and yellow checked flag. It’s really important because it is also how you turn the machine off again. Well, correctly anyway.

No sound on speakers? Make sure the little green light on the speakers is on and that the Iomega thing isn’t plugged into the power strip instead. Still no sound? The kids may have turned off the volume using the speaker icon-y thing at the very bottom right of my screen . Click on it and slide it back up to the middle of the scale. (Make note to tell kids: don’t ever ever do that to me again! I had no speakers for a week while Olof was out of town! )

How to open the disk drive: Could they have hidden it any better??? Right below the little slot thingeys


is the disk drive. On its right side, totally un-obviously, is a thing that you push and out pops the disk drive. Would a label have killed them? Un- marked panels that open secret compartments should be left to Nancy Drew books!

I can only hope the hereafter is more user-friendly. Or that they sell yellow legal pads.

— Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life every other week in La Jolla Light. Reach her by e-mail at