I No Longer Speak the Language

I’m feeling old, incompetent and frustrated. 

Over the past few days, my devices all failed me. The TV wouldn’t stream, my cell phone wouldn’t text, the printer refused to print, my tablet failed to download an Audible book I’d bought and Alexa informed me that she couldn’t answer any questions because she couldn’t get online. 

I felt abandoned. My only working connection to the outside world was my desktop computer, which, unaccountably, was still able to email. Oh, and my old, reliable landline, of course.

What was going on? Did I have one problem or five different ones? When Netflix and Amazon Prime refused to let me stream, both provided a long explanation, but I didn’t understand a word of it. That’s usually my difficulty with anything less basic than my landline: the vocabulary is beyond me. If I could find a class in Computer as a Second Language, I’d sign up immediately. 

I had no idea what was wrong until my tablet finally informed me that my wifi had been disconnected. I didn’t do it, though the cat could have. But where was my wifi and what did it look like? My husband set it up when we moved into this retirement community 18 years ago, and I’d taken it for granted ever since. He died and wasn’t around to answer questions. 

Finally, a vague memory came back to me. Some years ago, Comcast replaced all of the modems in my community with new ones that gave us many more options on our TVs. It was possible, I thought, that the modems also supplied us with wifi. 

With that in mind, I used my landline to call Comcast, my internet provider. I was booted around from one recorded message to another in a seemingly endless Q&A designed to identify my problem. Finally, the system offered to connect me to a human being, but first it would have to text me a code to repeat into my phone. 

Comcast didn’t offer to email the code or even snail-mail it. My only option was to respond to a text, sent to a cell phone that couldn’t send or receive texts. Back when everyone spoke 20th century English, this would have been called a Catch-22. I hung up.

I made an appointment to have our local IT people make a house call, but I’d have to wait almost a week for that, so later in the day, I tried Comcast again. This time, instead of asking the automated system for tech support, I said I needed repairs to equipment, and it again promised me a human being if I’d follow directions. I was to unplug my modem, then plug it in again—in other words, reboot it (a term old enough that I understood it). In 10 minutes, the system told me, it would call (on my landline) to see whether the strategy had worked. If it hadn’t, I was once again promised a live human being to talk to. 

I plugged and unplugged and then began to test my various devices—and they were all up and running! 

I’m no wiser than I was, and my digital vocabulary hasn’t improved, but I have a new motto: when in doubt, reboot.

If only there was a way to do that to my aging brain.