Where to even begin?

The title of this column came to me as I sat here, mind idling in neutral, trying to decide on a topic for today’s piece when my glance fell upon the short pile of small spiral bound notepads stacked next to the pile of books on the table next to me. It had started with one, but now there are three, and I keep thinking that I really need to get rid of them and start anew with a clean new pad. The problem, however, is that the information contained within their messy pages runs the gamut from esoteric to potentially vital and can all too often be found nowhere but there.

As I have grown older and my base of operations has narrowed down to what I call my “nesting area” that contains my recliner, electronic devices, TV, books, and knitting, it has also devolved into my “thinking area,” the place where most questions, ideas, information and such come to me, sometimes fleetingly, and often tend to disappear just as quickly unless I jot them down right away. Hence the notepad and pencil.

And so it has come to pass that ideas, names, phone numbers, upcoming appointments, and thoughts both profound and profoundly stupid are recorded for future retrieval.

You know how you can save something almost forever and never need it again ... until just days after you finally toss it? Same thing with information.

Entered willy-nilly and without form or reason are snippets of random thoughts and information, on one pad or another depending which one happens to be within easiest reach when need occurs, and on whatever surface still has a blank area at the ready.

Names of books I might want to read, authors I might want to look up, ideas for future columns, and phone numbers. Quickly jotted appointment dates and times. Shopping lists or menu ideas for immediate use or future entertaining. Trash and treasure of all kinds, penciled in, crammed onto pages of disparate other info and/or ideas, on both sides of pages with no rhyme or reason, all too chancy to toss. And then, not to be outdone, my nightstand also holds a treasure trove of information, both in an old address book minus its front cover and a long, narrow page from an old “to-do” pad, filled on both sides with literally dozens of various passwords and access codes. I have learned the hard way to use pencil instead of pen with these since nothing is forever these days.

All of this has slowly but inexorably become the norm as I have grown older and my once prodigious memory is no longer able to keep up with it all. The information is still safely on file in my brain, but the files sometimes take a bit longer to access, hence the need for clues and cues.

I can remember when as long as you knew your name, address, birth date, phone number and social security you were good to go. Even in college, albeit in the 1970s, my social security number served as my all around ID number. Then came the internet, quickly followed by internet scammers, ID theft, and it all went to hell in a handbasket.

All of this sort of came to the forefront last week when my new laptop arrived. My children felt strongly that, given my age and my admittedly low-tech abilities, my electronic devices should all, for ease of mastery and operations, belong to the same family. And so first thing last Saturday morning I showed up for my appointment at the Apple Store at Providence Place Mall loaded down with my iPhone, my current iPad that was no longer speaking to my iPhone, my old iPad whose memory needed to be wiped out before disposal, and my new Mac. Having learned the hard way from previous experience, I also brought along my long list of passwords.

After questioning and before being allowed to enter, the guard at the door explained that setting up the Mac (still in its unopened box) needed to be done online as time in the store would of necessity be limited. My right eyebrow was no doubt halfway up to my hairline as I gave the guy my best steely-eyed gaze and ever-so-politely declared, “I hate to play the age card here, but I am 79 years old, very low-tech, and I had a terrible experience trying to set up my previous iPad after being told it was ‘intuitive.’ I don’t ‘intuit’ very well, and I don’t want to do this online.”

Long story short, the very nice, patient, knowledgeable tech (a part-time college student) took care of it all for me. Now, when my son and grandson arrive from N.Y. tomorrow, they will finish the set-up, inserting whatever codes and passwords are necessary for connecting the new Mac to my Wi-Fi, introducing it to my existing printer (deep sigh of relief here), and if my old mouse is indeed compatible with the brand new Mac as expected, I will finally be up and running on all Apple cylinders.


Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.

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