TECHNOLOGY: New system a headache

To borrow a line from Charles Dickens, “It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.”

I’m talking about modern technology. At 88, I know I’m addressing mostly seniors who wonder how they ever got along without a cell phone, as an example, but often are frustrated when electronic devices — computers, printers, telephone problems, home security systems, etcetera — malfunction. Usually, we become impatient, even angry, and sometimes react irrationally — as I did the other day.

Unlike Donald Trump, I normally don’t mind apologizing when necessary, but a public apology for my stupidity? Painful as it is, I feel obligated to do so. Let me explain. It’s complicated.

Less than six months ago I changed my home security system. A few days ago, after receiving an incoming phone call, my home office began blurting out a loud, sustained clicking noise — click, click, click, click! What triggered it, I don’t have a clue. But by unplugging my power cord temporarily, thus disabling my computer and who knows what else those tangled cords behind my desk connect to, I was able to stop the clicking.

Strangely, not every incoming call activates the sound. Nonetheless, the problem persists and after a second phone call to CenturyLink, a technician came to my house and after checking my phone box suggested the problem could be my security system.

“You might give them a call,” he said.

The white panel box installed in my laundry room has no company name, no phone number, just two buttons — Emergency and Home. Clicking on Home got me Security (with an icon of a bull horn suggesting an alarm) and Services. I clicked on Services and got a message saying “Feature not available.”

I searched my house for hours looking for paperwork, a contract, a business card, a phone number, to no avail. Given a six-month credit, automatic withdrawal from my bank for monthly payments had not started. Security signs in my yard were from the previous company. Meanwhile, the intermediate clicking continues, so I sent e-mails to family and friends not to call on my land line. Having exhausted all hope of finding a company name and/or phone number, I went to my small white box.

I clicked on Emergency. A huge mistake!

No person on the end of the line, merely a screaming alarm and buttons — lots of them, including a panel with numbers inside small squares. I know my password, but misfired several times.

Within three or four minutes, a large fire truck arrived in front of my house and two responders were knocking on my door and peering through a glass pane. A third fireman was unlocking my lock box for a key.

“What’s your emergency?” one of them said.

I can’t recall how I answered, but I do recall the dour expressions on their faces as they wordlessly turned to leave. So embarrassing. Days later, I found the phone number, called the company and am waiting for someone to come and solve the clicking problem.

I would hope those fine young people who knocked on my door and others like them who only a few years ago helped prolong my wife’s life when they responded to a real emergency, will accept my apology for that stupid false alarm.

So embarrassing.

Jack Hawn


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