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Downloading a Headache

by Roberta McReynolds

The selection of my birthday gift was taken care of a full 17 days early. It’s a good thing, too, because it took me nearly two weeks to figure out how to enjoy it.

I suggested my own gift this year, before my idea-drained husband even asked. Not only did that surprise him, but from his reaction the request was nothing he would ever have dreamed I might want. I asked for an iPod. First of all, I don’t listen to music very often. There’s also the minor detail about having no idea how to use an iPod. Why the sudden change? I have been focusing on setting aside time for meditation. Just imagine the privacy and ease of using ear-buds without disturbing anyone around me and still possess mobility. I could also envision myself using it for inspiration while painting and writing, or using an upbeat rhythm to motivate me to exercise. (I’ll settle for two out of three.)

Once in the store, I selected my iPod Nano within two minutes. That left me browsing for the next 20 minutes over cute little protective cases with wrist straps or belt clips in multiple fashion colors and patterns. Mike asked a few questions about the battery, but I don’t remember much else. I think in retrospect, I should have asked the nine-year-old in line behind me for enlightenment. I’m positive she was knowledgeable enough to talk me through everything, provided she could manage to use language simple enough for me comprehend.

I eagerly tore through the packaging to examine the contents and gazed at the silver-toned, futuristic looking iPod with awe. When I opened the tiny pamphlet, I was astonished to see how basic the instructions were. Each button was clearly labeled with a matching diagram: menu, play, pause, next, etc. I flipped the paper over and read through a brief list of ‘How To’ functions, including on, off, and reset. I felt my first pang of concern after I searched through the packaging for instructions to lead me step-by-step through iPod installation and complete enlightenment of deep mysteries like downloading music and photos. My hands came up empty.

I was familiar with the USB cable, so I bravely plugged my iPod into the PC and hoped I was on the right track. The computer came alive and began connecting to iTunes and charging the battery. A wave of relief washed over me. I was even delighted that iTunes was generously loading 11 songs to get me started. How very thoughtful of them, don’t you think? Other than taking three hours for the battery to charge, I felt gratified.

When I was able to disconnect the ‘umbilical cord’ and try out my iPod, I marveled at the way it responded to my fingertips when selecting a song. It detects movement across the ‘wheel’ in the center and magically shifts through the list. I picked one of the free selections and waited for music to flow through the ear-buds. I’d estimate it took approximately 1.5 seconds to jerk the ear-buds away from my eardrums and search for volume control. The sound level had been set on ‘teenager’ instead of ‘grandmother’. I expediently located the control, turning it down as far as possible and noted that, for a senior citizen, I certainly hadn’t lost much sense of hearing yet.

After a minute or so, I selected another song … then another. None of the 11 songs I had initially welcomed were anything I appreciated or desired to hear ever again. Learning to find music of my own choice would be my goal the following day.

While I am not expertly proficient with technology, I’m reasonably intelligent and a quick learner. Definitely not as fast as 20-30 years ago, but the brain cells do still speak to each other when it’s essential. That being said, this year’s birthday gift left both hemispheres of my brain shouting words through their neurons that my parents never realized were in my vocabulary.

I eventually figured out how to get music and photos of my own choice, but it took longer than I care to admit. If you aren’t getting songs from iTunes, it is a good idea to create a special folder on the PC’s desktop to receive music. That meant, of course, that I had to learn to right-click on the desktop and follow instructions to make a folder. It went well, but not without elevated stress levels. I managed to send music to the folder, as well as export (or was it import?) the contents to iTunes. I tried to take notes so I could repeat any success I had, but found myself backing up through multiple windows and eventually lost track of the correct pathway. The songs went to my iTunes playlist, which I didn’t even know existed. The program automatically synchronized the music, whatever that means, and sent it right to my iPod. That wasn’t so bad!

Trying to add two favorite photos onto the iPod was more difficult. It probably wouldn’t have been so miserable if I had any clue how to answer iTunes’ questions. I fumbled about through files, looking for help. When I attempted to read the iPod manual online, my PC displayed a message in a neat little box explaining it didn’t know what program the manual had been created in and couldn’t open it. My PC then wanted me to choose a program from a list of selections. Now if the computer doesn’t know what program to use, how on earth does it expect this gray-haired human to know? I switched tactics and somehow managed to push the right buttons in the proper sequence. Two pictures ended up right there in that tiny machine, along with 18 songs I enjoyed, plus those 11 songs I strongly disliked more with every passing hour. I felt so accomplished when I inserted the ear-buds and heard gentle music, just when I needed it most.


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©2007 Roberta McReynolds for SeniorWomenWeb
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