"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Of Sharks and Rainbows and iPad 2

When I delivered the bags and boxes of mail to the small post office in Hope, Alaska, last week, I met Diane, the new substitute postal clerk.

“This is my first day on my own,” she said.  “Bear with me.  I’m definitely on a learning curve.”

Ah, the learning curve.  Such a gentle term to describe how to chart the learning process.  It begins at the bottom and rises, usually quickly, as you understand and import the basics.  Then, like an arcing rainbow, it curves sweetly to its apex and culminates in a metaphorical pot of gold.

At that point, you’re ready to venture forth into the world, armed with new knowledge and skills, prepared to awe everyone.

The iPad2, dark and doing absolutely nothing but resting on a keyboard by Logitech.
Crapiola!  Serious crapiola.  Let me tell you how it happens in the real world.  I’ll use myself as an example, myself and my new iPad 2.

I got the iPad last May.  When the clerk at Best Buy placed it in my hands, I said, “I sure hope it comes with instructions."

“No,” said the young man, “It’s all online.”

“But I don’t even know how to turn this thing on.”  He showed me where the black button was that gave life to the dark screen.

I gave him my best gray-haired, widow-woman look.  “Then what?”

I’m not very adept at interpreting facial expressions, but I was pretty sure I saw a generous dose of oh-god-help-me-get-out-of-this, along with a hint of pity.  I’d been down this road before with technology geeks.

When I got home I figured out how to charge the iPad’s battery.  Then I waited anxiously for it to finish so I could start building my learning curve.

Voila!  It's turned on.  Now what?

That learning curve soon resembled a stock market graph on its worst day.  I decided I’d wait until I had more time to delve into “iPad 2 for Dummies” and “The Missing Manual for iPad 2,” both of which I’d purchased before I left Anchorage with the new iPad.  I did manage to set up an account with iTunes, which was necessary before I could purchase any apps.  Then I promptly forgot my user name and password.

As the summer rolled along and the guilt built exponentially, I decided that an up-coming stint of house-sitting in Halibut Cove would be the perfect time to become an iPad expert.  A whole month, just me and Gerri the Cat, no other humans around.  By the end of that month, my learning curve would arc sweetly, as beautiful as any rainbow ever seen.

I would take it with me to Churchill, Manitoba, in November and blog skillfully about the polar bears staring at me through “bear proof” windows.  My photos would jump from the screen, my words astound, all would be well with the world.  Even the polar bears would be impressed.

Then came one of those 2 a.m. realizations.  These iPads are not entire unto themselves.  I think.  That is, I THINK they must sync with a parental computer before an app can appear on the tablet.  That caused a big problem. 

Now I had to learn enough to get the Pages app, iPad’s word processing program.  I also needed a photo editing app.  And Angry Birds.  Had to have Angry Birds.
Angry Birds on a mission to rescue their kin from a smuggler. 

Tuesday I got the iPad from its place of rest, along with the Dummies book, and planted myself in the living room, ready to begin a smooth sweep up the learning curve.

Two hours later, I had a free version of Angry Birds on the iPad.  I also had a blood pressure graph that resembled a stock market graph on its best day ever, and blood about to squirt from my eyes and ears.

The confounded iPad looked for all the world like it was frozen.  I’d get a window (oops) message box on the screen and couldn’t get rid of it.  I turned it on and off a dozen or more times, but every time the iPad came back on that wretched window message box was still there.

I called Apple’s "award-winning" customer service.  It was closed. 

I tried online.  My 90 day software assistance had expired a few days before.  I called Best Buy and was on hold for 40 minutes before I gave up.  I called a friend in Hawaii who had an iPad, but she’d never experienced my problem.  

I hung up the phone and pushed myself away from the computer.  That exposed my left knee.

I pictured myself holding the iPad horizontally with a hand on each edge and lowering it smartly across that knee.  Fortunately, I remembered that I had to go to Anchorage the next day.  I could take it to Best Buy and get some answers.

The next day I was about 40 miles from Anchorage when a sneaky thought crossed my mind.  The young fellow had showed me how to turn on the iPad.  He hadn’t shown me how to turn it off.  I looked at my cell phone and had an idea.  I reached for the device.

I turned it on, then held the button down for a couple seconds.  Yes!  I had just learned how to turn it off!  AHA!  I hadn’t been turning it off when I fought with it the night before; I’d simply been putting it to sleep.  Of course the window was still there when I woke it up.  I did not take the iPad into Best Buy.

You should note that I’m not mentioning how I discovered the talented “home page” button.

There’s more, much more, but I’ll spare you.  By last night I’d managed to download Pages (83 minutes to download), a photo editing program, some more Angry Birds, and one app I bought by mistake.
The crenelated wall of a fortress.

There is no panoramic, sweeping curve in my learning process.  With my sudden spikes of insight, the broad plateaus where I accomplish nothing, and my frequent face-plants, my learning graph looks suspiciously like the crenelated wall of a fortress.

At other times, the saw-toothed jaw of a shark comes to mind.



  1. ahh, technology - you've got to love it! Way to hang in there.

  2. Don't feel bad. These new-fangled inventions are scary. I give you credit for buying one and then actually having the nerve to try to use it!!

    I can't stand talking to computer support technicians. I'd rather take a beating!!

    Good luck as you keep learning.