July 2, 2013

Coming to Terms With My Technological Ineptitude

A CD player as a car stereo. Svenska:...
English: A CD player as a car stereo. Svenska: En CD-spelare som bilstereo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are many unpleasant things about aging, most of which are too obvious to need mention. One I used to think I might escape is the technological ineptitude that often seems to come with age. Don't get me wrong - I know people a generation ahead of me who know far more about technology than I ever did. It is just that it seems that many people eventually stop keeping up with technology as much as they grow older. A recent experience showed me that I'm now one of them.

I had been having problems with my car stereo for some time: a damaged speaker that has been sounding progressively worse, a deck that puts out so little power that I cannot hear anything if the windows are down and I'm traveling at a high speed, and a general lack of responsiveness with some of the controls. The car is starting to show its age, and I decided that it was finally time to replace the stock equipment. I finally stopped procrastinating and had the equipment replaced. What an interesting experience it was!

The small town in which I live offers few options in terms of places that do this sort of work or even that sell car stereo equipment. Really, there only seem to be three, and since I had heard nothing but bad things about one of them, I eliminated it right away. The first shop I went to was not even remotely helpful. The only person working talked down to me as if I was a small child and continued to push what he had on sale even after I calmly explained that it was not what I wanted. He did not seem to want me to look around the shop at all. It was almost as if he was surprised that I did not immediately defer to him and tell him I'd buy whatever he wanted to install. Needless to say, I left.

I had a much more positive experience at the next shop. They came out and looked at my car (which the first guy had no interest in doing) and walked me through several options. Agreeing on inexpensive replacement speakers was easy. It was the replacement deck options that made me feel clueless. Most of what they had were touchscreen systems, and the big selling point seemed to be that everything was designed to integrate with one's smartphone or tablet. The young guy helping me seemed unable to comprehend that I had no interest in playing Pandora over my car stereo, using various smartphone apps while driving, or storing music on my 4-year-old cell phone. I was finally able to convince him to sell me a basic deck without any screen.

When I was a child, I remember not understanding why my grandparents seemed uninterested and even confused by new technology. I get it now. When you are used to something working a particular way and you are comfortable with how it works, you need to see a clear benefit to changing it. Sometimes there is a clear benefit; other times it does not seem to be so clear. I wish my grandparents were still alive so I could tell them that I finally get it.