On being … just as likely

By Ingrid Sapona  

I’m not the most tech savvy person, nor am I the least tech savvy. That said, any tech skills I have I owe to my friend – I’ll call her Dee – an engineer and an absolute tech wiz. For as long as I can remember, I’ve relied on her for advice and hands-on help with all things tech-related. She’s that rare combination of knowledgeable AND able to explain things in a way that’s understandable. 

Unlike some tech folks who would just as soon take over and “fix” things, Dee explains what she’s doing as she works. She knows me well enough to know that I’m interested in trying to understand so that I can be – or at least feel – a bit self-sufficient. She gets that if I have at least a sense of what might cause some application to crash or misbehave, I’m less likely to worry that I’ve done something that’s caused irreparable damage.  

Our mentor/mentee relationship has advanced to the point that if I email her about a problem, she usually lets 24-36 hours go before she responds. It took me awhile to realize that her delay isn’t just about her being busy. I’m pretty sure she holds off because she knows I’m going to keep trying different things in the meanwhile. And – sure enough – sometimes that pays off and I manage to solve the problem on my own.  

I’ve come to realize there are a few things that are almost always worth trying before panicking. For example, if an app or program starts acting wonky, uninstalling and reinstalling the software is worth a try. I think the rationale for this is that perhaps the software version I’m running isn’t up-to-date. Another good trick is to simply reboot the computer or device. I’m always surprised when that fixes things. I guess it’s the computer equivalent to taking a deep breath. And if, after four or so attempts, it’s clear that rebooting isn’t doing a darned thing, it’s time for what always seems silly, but is surprisingly curative: unplugging the device and counting to 30. I once asked a tech person who had suggested doing this why this might work. This person (not Dee) said he thought that unplugging electronics and waiting 30 seconds or so gives the electrons (or whatever) a chance to return to a more neutral state, ready to start anew. Though that might be a bunch of hooey, it sounds reasonable to me and it works more often than you’d think.  

Not too long ago I had a problem with my phone. I was listening to an audio book through a pair of headphones (the original kind – ones attached by cord) when all of a sudden, the audio just stopped. The audio book was playing fine when I took out the headphones. I then tried playing some music. Again, without the headphones I could hear it just fine – but I got absolutely no sound through the headphones. So, the question was: is the problem the headphones or the phone’s audio jack? I did the few things Apple suggests to diagnose and/or fix the problem, but nothing worked. If none of the suggestions work, Apple says to bring the phone in so they can look at it. Ugh… knowing Apple, I suspect the fix – however simple – would not be inexpensive. (I didn’t bother Dee about the phone because fixing hardware isn’t her specialty.)  

Frustrated that I couldn’t listen to anything at the gym or on walks, I went in search of an old phone to see if I could listen to audiobooks on it. I downloaded a book and plugged in my headphones. I could hear the book just fine, so clearly the problem isn’t the headphones. Using the old phone (which doesn’t have a sim card so I can’t make calls on it) to play audiobooks seemed a reasonable solution – at least while I debated about whether to bite the bullet and have Apple fix the phone.  

By week three, the inconvenience of carrying around two devices had me re-thinking about just getting the phone fixed. When I made up my mind to make an appointment to do that, I thought I better try one more time because I’d sure feel stupid if I went to the Apple store and they found it worked fine. So, I plugged the headphones into the phone, tapped on an audio book, and sure enough, I could hear the book through the headphones. The same with the music app – I could hear songs through the headphones perfectly.  

Though I’m tickled that the headphones are again working with the phone, the whole thing puzzles me. I desperately want to understand why the sound suddenly stopped – and why the mere passage of time seemed to fix the problem. After much consideration, I have come up with a rationale: it’s the work of gremlins.  

I know what you’re thinking: my explanation seems to lack a certain scientific basis. Ok – so maybe it was a solar flair. Sounds better (or more plausible) to you? Maybe. But if you ask me, phones that mysteriously fix themselves seem just as likely the work of mischievous gremlins or maybe the Easter Bunny. Who can really say…  

© 2024 Ingrid Sapona




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