When all else fails, pack a paperback

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

Have you ever noticed how much we depend on technology these days? And that sometimes technology fails?

A few weeks ago, my daughter, Amy, and I began planning a visit with her daughter, Melissa, in Kentucky. When I thought of something I needed to do in preparation for the trip or anything I wanted to take along, I scribbled it on a notepad in the kitchen. Pretty soon, the list was building with such notations as: “Charge cell phone the night before leaving, then pack the charger. Download books on the Nook, pack the Nook charger. Charge my hearing aids streamer, pack charger. Take camera and extra batteries. Download latest maps for street pilot…”

“Whoa,” I thought. “Charge this, download that, how would the world function without batteries and chargers and computers these days?” The necessity for such came home to me even stronger when I sat down at my computer to download the maps to the street pilot. Every time I had turned on the street pilot for the last year or two, a message had appeared telling me to upgrade. I ignored it. “I’ll do it next time,” I kept promising myself. Now next time was here. I pulled up the website on the computer and followed the directions. They eventually called for a driver CD that came with the instrument. Not surprising, it was out-dated just like the maps. It didn’t work.

Fortunately, I located a help number on the website. When I dialed the number, an actual, in-person, human voice answered. That was a pleasant surprise. After I explained my problem to the helpful representative, he asked me a few questions. “No problem,” he said. “We’ll get started.” He guided me to a certain point on the Web site. Then he asked for permission to help me download the updated maps by remote assistance. That way, he would connect to my computer and click on all the right places to complete the download. I agreed and took my hand off the mouse. Then I sat back and watched as he moved the mouse, clicked, and moved on until he reached the point where the download started. Then he turned it back over to me. The updated maps found their way from the computer to the street pilot.

I didn’t fare as well with the Nook. The day before we left, I opened it to find it locked. Everything I tried failed. I called Barnes and Noble, from whom I bought it. The rep was to send me a new password, but it somehow got lost in the great e-mail never-never land. I didn’t have time to call back before I left. I took along a couple of paperbacks instead. No charger required there.

The street pilot guided us well on the first leg of our trip to my sister-in-law’s home in Marietta, Ga., then back home. Not technology, but something harmful to humans cancelled our drive on to Kentucky. A virus made Melissa too sick for company.