STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF

Perhaps you’ve heard of the musical making up the title. The 1962 show, set against a circus backdrop, focuses on a character named Littlechap. Each time something unsatisfactory happens, he calls out “Stop the world” and addresses the audience.

Since Father’s Day is nearly upon us it’s my privilege to let that title become my mantra as I deal with all sorts of “unsatisfactory” technical difficulties. Years ago, about the only technical difficulties we had was the message displayed on the television screen whenever something went wrong at the broadcast station or with the network. Rest assured when we saw that message, we knew it was not our TV set causing the problem.

But technology has progressed at such a rate even the savviest expert is challenged to keep up with all its changes. And when you’re older, like me, most of our friends and many of you dear readers, there often are times when we yearn for the good old days when life was simpler before technology took over.

My cell phone, which I mainly carry in case of an emergency – quit working! That’s ironic in itself because I have an intense dislike for the thing. After numerous trips to the store where I bought it (before they closed during the coronavirus pandemic), several telephone calls (from another phone), email chats with the cell phone company and replacement of the sim card three times, the conclusion was the sim card reader failed. I waited a week to be sent a new phone. When the package finally arrived, I discovered an empty box except for a return envelope and some bubble wrap. I had to send my old phone back to the manufacturer before they would send me a new one. That took two more weeks and another round of contacts to get it working – sort of.

Friends have said to me, “Oh, I couldn’t be without my phone!” Many people have become so reliant on their phones they have trouble putting them away. In fact, this problem has given rise to a word: Nomophobia – the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use it.
Remember when there was just one telephone in the house? It was there if you needed it and didn’t dominate your life!

The set-top-box for a television in my home office wouldn’t activate the TV. After several calls and emails the answer was: “Disconnect the coax cable and power cord, in that order. Wait 20 seconds. Reconnect the cords. It will work!” But it didn’t! After a technician’s visit and subsequently connecting four “new” set top boxes, it does finally work – by “disconnecting the coax cable and power cord, in that order, etc.” nearly every time we want to watch that TV.

Remember when there was just one TV in the house with “rabbit ears” or an antenna on the roof? You could watch TV whenever you wanted for free! You didn’t have to subscribe to an expensive cable service. And, currently, if you’ve chosen not to pay for cable you didn’t need a high-definition indoor antenna that, unlike the dependable mail carrier, only works when there’s “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night.”

An iPad, great for talking with and viewing our son’s family in Denver, has locked us out! I didn’t do something regularly so it evidently views me as a criminal element and we can’t open it. It’s at the bottom of the trying-to-get-it-fixed list.

Our email got hacked earlier this year. Nearly everyone in our computer mailbox received a plea for help from us. When our family, friends, former work associates and folks we may only have emailed once replied – we were blocked from seeing their response — they were asked to go to Walmart and purchase $300 worth of gift cards so we could “buy something nice for a niece.” We’re both only children — we don’t have a niece! The hackers are technically savvy but thank goodness they haven’t a clue how to write a declarative sentence, a convincing appeal for money or how to use spellcheck! The hackers, however, did do some damage to our “send” and” reply” email functions. Trying to get that repaired was as difficult as a Greek puzzle. Finally, we opted to change our email address. That sounds simple enough but it resulted in creating an all new mailbox and contacting creditors, banks, insurances, medical facilities ad infinitum.

I guess I shouldn’t complain, even the Queen of England got locked out of Windsor Castle recently with three security guardians in the car with her. Today’s technology easily can give us a sense of false pride. It creates the impression we are secure in our ability to manage our environments and our daily lives. But the coronavirus has reminded us that we need to learn the wisdom of insecurity and the value of embracing with humble trust our lack of control.

Finally, if the Earth did stop so I could get off, I would be lost in space with more technical difficulties to deal with than I have now. So, like Littlechap in the musical, I’m addressing you, my audience, about my “unsatisfactory happenings.”
Pardon me, but is that my cell phone ringing?

Vince LaBarbera

Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer