Friday, January 16, 2004
From the archives:
It’s just another day in my electronic hell.
For almost as long as I can remember, the electronic gizmos that are supposed to make my life easier do anything but. Most of the time they barely function.
Computers, cell phones, radios, televisions, VCR’s, DVD’s, MP3’s, you name the acronym and I can name the problem. All these new technologies and toys haven’t created a brave new world for me. In fact, I would like them to all go away. Call me Ned Ludd.
My problems with electronics can be well documented. My new cell phone, bought to replace an old cell phone that rarely worked, didn’t work. It would spontaneously turn off. When it stayed on, the software would crash. Or it couldn’t find a signal – in downtown Vancouver. I ordered a replacement and… it didn’t work. And the replacements replacement didn’t work. I’ve given up. I accept. I am now only sporadically available on my 4th new phone.
The computer that I bought last year is completely wonky. It reboots itself at the most inopportune times. Blue screens of death are an hourly occurrence. Streaming audio is but a dream. Burn a CD? Curing cancer would be less frustrating. I’ve given up. I accept.
My satellite receiver and TV have little quirks that replacing them did not solve. I accept. Radios don’t work. DVDs skip. And my cordless phone calls Nigeria on its own, which is funny until you get the bill. The least it could do is call collect. I accept, I accept, I accept!!!
It is not just my own personal electronic devices that seem to go on the fritz. Recently, I was picking up a few things at my neighbourhood grocery store. As my bag of organic nacho chips was passed over the scanner, the cash register froze. The cashier pushed a few buttons and the till was up and running in no time. I thought nothing of it until the next night when the same scene was repeated. Hey, I like nachos.
About a week later, I was back at the same store and as I stood in line, the entire cash register system went down. Every single till! The store was forced to shut its doors. I’m not sure if they ever got their system up and running again as I am afraid to go back and hurt their business any more.
The next time I needed nacho chips, I went to the big Safeway up the street. About half of my hundred or so items had been scanned when – you guessed it – zap! The till went down. The cashier apologized profusely and offered me a $20 credit for my inconvenience. I giggled to myself.
Just last week I was on my way to a party. Not wanting to drive, I decided to take the bus. Vancouver’s transit system now employs fancy electronic fare boxes that are about 50% slower than the old manual system. I dropped my Twoonie into the box and waited for my printed transfer/receipt to pop out. And I waited. And I waited.
“I’ve never seen that before,” said the bus driver.
“What?” I asked.
“The darn thing has locked up.” she replied.
“Wow, strange, I’ve never seen that before either,” I said, as I took my seat, filled with guilt. Everyone who got on the bus after me got a free ride. You’re welcome!
Over these decades of frustration and grudging acceptance, I have always wondered why it is that I have these problems. Is this payback for something I did in a previous life?
I decided to do some research on the Internet. And just a few crashes later, a website offered up the reason for the electro-hell I have been experiencing all these years: It turns out that I am something called a SLIder. I have SLI.
SLI is Street Lamp Interference. It is so named because many people with the condition are able to make street lamps flicker or blow by simply walking by. According to webmaster “Eel” (how cute) at www.geocities.com/eel_411/sli101/ SLIders disrupt many other things, like TV's, VCR's, and computers. Sounds familiar.
Those with SLI find that their power is more disruptive when they are in a bad mood. This is not good, as the just having SLI puts me in a bad mood. So, the more I stress, the more oddly the device will act. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill.
Personally, have never really noticed streetlights going out when I walk by, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever had a light bulb last more than a couple of weeks.
There is a warning on an SLI website that warns those of us with this electro-mojo to use it only for the causes of good.
“Treat others with respect, strive for peace, and don't allow anyone to corrupt your mind or soul with evil or hatred. Be careful, any form of electrical energy CAN be dangerous if handled recklessly or without concern for other people.”
Yikes. Could George Bush classify me as a weapon of mass destruction? Perhaps I could offer my destructive services. Just stick me in a patriot missile and send me towards one of the axis of evil lands. That’ll put a stop to Saddam’s late night nacho chip buying at the Baghdad 7-11.
I promise that when I’m in a foul mood, I will, for the good of society and your personal safety, do my best to avoid hospitals and air traffic control towers.
Perhaps there are some other benefits of having SLI. With this power, could I not save time during rush hour by changing traffic lights to favour me? This dream was soon dashed as I continued to read Eel’s website:
“One other note...please do not try to change traffic lights. You could accidentally cause serious harm, or even kill someone.”
What a spoilsport.
I read on in the hopes of finding a solution to this disorder. A way to cleanse myself. A way to de-electro-curse my body. Eel offers this helpful advice:
“Being a SLIder myself, I must say IT SUCKS! However, we can adapt to it. Try hypnosis, whether self-hypnosis, or the traditional method. In fact, anything that puts you in a relaxed trance will probably help, whether it's meditation, yoga, or even simply taking ten deep breaths when you get stressed out.”
Great, I’m a self-employed TV producer and I have to reduce my stress? How about a nice bottle of Scotch. I wonder if medicare would cover it?
For now, I will live with SLI and try to remain calm. So far, it seems to be working. I’ve actually made it to the end of my story without the dreaded “blue screen of death” destroying my document. Zaaap.