There’s a conspiracy designed to make me feel inept. For years I drifted along with complete assurance that I could master those few new things that presented themselves — whether it was adjusting the speed control on the car or packing purchases into boxes with no sides at CostCo. Buoyed by this success, I had the confidence to register with Auction Sniper to win auctions on eBay. This spiked the amount of calls I get from friends begging to be mentored when they’ve found a slightly used wok they simply must have.
It’s upsetting, therefore, to find that I am not keeping up as successfully with changes that are supposed to add ease and comfort to our highly stressful and challenging lives. It took three tries before I spotted the tiny black button you have to push to open the rear door of a Zipcar. The manual that came with my digital camera offers helpful instructions like, “With a PictBridge printer, you can easily print pictures with DPOF.” (Nothing is easy when you don’t know know what a DPOF is because you skipped the preceding 145 pages of a booklet longer than Moby Dick.)
If men were once what I sought to understand, what baffles me now is my computer. In times of technical trouble, my husband and son have been serving as first responders. Then they’ve tired of running with the virtual defibrillator and have taken to responding to my cries by yelling back, “Just reboot.” Their obvious disdain brings back memories of being single and the repeatd efforts at making it work with seriously unavailable men, causing my friends to advise, “You should move on.” (Obviously, rebooting is the new moving on).
There is, happily, one aspect of the computer that defeats all three of us, leveling the playing field. Rebooting has proved to be ineffective when trying to decipher the verification code, or “captcha” — that vague and shadowy series of letters and numbers, deliberately obscured, required before you’re permitted to send an email on a site.
The captcha process explains itself with, ”We need to know that you’re a real person.” (How about asking all those unavailable guys?) It’s impossible to copy the code because even with 20/20 eyesight, you can’t make out if you’re looking at a W, two N’s, a zero or an O. The second series typically shows letters that no longer overlap, but have slashes through them. This confuses those of us “real people” who understand that something slashed out is being canceled. By now, our self-esteem is totally dependent on figuring out if we’re looking at a C or a G.
My suspicion is that Captcha is a conspiracy foisted upon us by ophthalmologists.
Editor’s Note: After retiring as a television comedy writer, Sybil Sage has brought her creativity to mosaic art, designing one-of-a-kind vases, picture frames, candlestick holders and planters. Her newest item is her prizewinning, custom-made cremation urns — for pets (the pet URNity) and for people (the e URNity). Visit her at sybilsage.com