Friday, March 19, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #4: It's Skype-tastically Scary!

I am not a technological genius; in fact, in any given elementary school I’d be willing to say that ninety nine percent of the children can operate a computer with much more competence than I. This gives me hope for the future, as it seems that a proficient grasp of computers and other technologically advanced skills will most likely help them succeed in adulthood. Of course, the other one percent too busy sniffing glue in the corner will probably end up appearing on some futuristic ‘The Jersey Shore’ making more money sniffing glue on camera than I could ever dream anyway. Point being, operating a computer in any capacity beyond pressing the on button, opening Firefox or Word and downloading photographs in iPhoto generally confuses me. Lucky for me, I have a friendly (annoyingly persistent) nature where people (coworkers who are tired of listening to me curse while I slam the ‘esc’ key) help me out when I encounter trouble (YouTube will not load an off-color Japanese commercial).

I suppose my lack of computer knowledge is based on the fact that I haven’t been a member of the elite “Apple” club since my freshman year of college when I insisted to my parents that I needed the teal Apple laptop because it somewhat matched my eyes and had a handle that when used gave off the impression of a very cute, very kitschy plastic purse. When I first met my husband freshman year of college and asked him to my dorm room to help me edit a paper, it was saved on that very computer. In retrospect, perhaps this is the reason he was oblivious to my over eager laughter, meticulously labored over outfit and hair tossing that evening, and why it took us nearly nine years to actually start dating. He was a studious lad, and I was the girl who bought a computer not for it’s operating capacity, but for it’s ability to mimic an accessory. I was a MAC and he was a PC, and if technology has taught us anything, their respective software is simply not compatible. Error. Does not recognize format. Cannot open…file.

Shortly after freshman year, I gave away my teal Barbie Dream House handbag and insisted upon a Dell. And though I had two different computers over the past eight years, both just so happened to be Dells. Don’t get me wrong, the Dell was perfectly fine, but in a Steve Jobs world, any Dell user is bound to have a little bit of I- Tunes, I- Pod, I-Photo, I-Movie, I-Phone, I-have-problems-interacting-with-others-outside-Second-Life…envy. Admittedly, I longed to be a part of the cool crowd: those who spend hours lounging in coffee shops, scarves draping across their neck, dark rimmed glasses around their eyes, typing what they believe to be the next great American novel, designing a flashy graphic for a local advertisement, or even editing their self-shot documentary. Besides, in my business, you are a virtual outsider without a MAC. Instead of editing, designing, scripting, etcetera from home, anyone without a MAC is generally stuck pulling late hours at the office, beholden to their work computer, cursing their very (in the media world) politically incorrect PC.

Knowing this, my husband, dear and generous soul that he is, surprised me with the most perfect wedding gift: a brand new MAC laptop. It is silver. It has a large screen. It has Garage Band. It is not suspiciously missing the “E” key. It doesn’t sound like an ancient alley cat having an asthma attack every time I leave it on for more than two hours. But what is most important, it has Skype.

Of course, this is where my real computer amateur status shines. Since I can’t fully understand how Skype works outside of the Jetson household, I am slightly distrusting and wary. I suddenly empathize with my eighty something year old landlord, who, while talking on a cell phone, screams into the receiver as though the cord is actually a piece of string attached to another cup somewhere. I want to tell him that if I wasn’t deaf before his phone call, I sure as heck am now. But instead, I laugh. Pull the phone away. And walk two rooms over so that the volume of his voice is at a more comfortable listening level.

Yet, while on deployment, Skype has become an incredible blessing. Though he is thousands of miles away, I can see my husband’s smiling face, bolstering my spirits and lending me a great deal of comfort. When the last time you spoke to your husband he was walking toward the jet to embark on a six-hour flight across, essentially, nothing, the ability to see his face safe on the ground is beyond relieving.

Occasionally, though, the picture is so pixilated it looks like he is melting. Occasionally, the audio will slow or it will freeze on a rather awkward looking expression. Occasionally, he will catch me at four thirty in the morning. Where he is, the warm sun has been shining for eight to ten hours painting a sunny glow on his skin; where I am, the moon has been hanging out around the corner for a couple of hours waiting to club me with a baseball bat.

When you haven’t seen your husband’s face in so many days, the last thing you want is for him to see you at four am, looking less like the bride he married and more like an after photograph on

And then there’s the camera. You see, I am a baby of the eighties and a middle-schooler of the nineties. Technology was just starting to really kick off, and as it did, and less people could really understand exactly how it worked, it provided perfect fodder for horror movies and frightening television shows. Poltergeists coming out of televisions, cameras snapping photographs that disfigured faces, movies so cursed that seven days after watching, one was forewarned they would die a gruesome and horrible death. And once webcams became more readily available, they earned an association with things like 1800 numbers and young ladies whose fathers were not successful in keeping them away from such accoutrements as clear heels and face glitter.

Since I have difficulty understanding this technology, I am completely convinced that the web camera is going to turn on me one night while I am sleeping and somehow broadcast my image to the world. And I am not a pretty sleeper. I am restless, I snore, and I kick things.

Yet after a few weeks, I was able to put my fears at ease and acclimate myself to this new technology. That is, until one fateful night when my fears were realized.

St. Patrick’s Day, a day of celebration, a day of feasting, a day for any of us that can claim any Irish lineage, (or let’s be honest a day where anyone can be Irish if they sport the appropriate shade of green). Bolstered by a few too many glasses of wine and the relative stress of being far away from loved ones on such a contagiously happy holiday, my best friend laughingly fills me in on newest trend that is sweeping college frat rooms everywhere. Chat Roulette. Perhaps the majority of people reading this have heard of Chat Roulette, but seeing as I am incredibly naïve, (and fully entertaining my Irish heritage at the moment); I agree to check out this new wave of the future. For anyone that doesn’t know what Chat Roulette is, well, it is basically an updated form of the AOL chat rooms that were so popular in the 90s. Except there is a modern caveat, people can see your face through your built-in camera.

Laughing, we log on to the site, fully expecting some instructions and not completely serious about actually entering this sordid little game of chance. Truthfully, we actually have no idea what we’re logging into, but bolstered by gleeful encouragement from my friend’s brother, we decide to check it out.

Within seconds, the small and inquisitive face of a child appears. I scream and duck below my counter.


Fumbling, laughing even harder now, and knocking over glasses in the process, my best friend hits a button she believes will pause the video feed. But it doesn’t work, and as I pop my head up from beneath the counter, I hear the shouts of some rather bawdy college aged kids.

‘We are from RIO!!!’ we hear them shout.

The only thing we can think to say back to them is that they stole our Olympics. And then they cut us off within seconds muttering that we are too old.

‘We just got denied!’ I giggle, ‘Internationally denied for being old ladies!’
She laughs harder and as we are just about to click off the browser, our nightmare emerges: an extremely graphic, close up shot of a naked man. In real time. Doing some not so nice, not so Disney appropriate activities.

This elicits screams from the two of us, as we run around my apartment screaming, “MY EYES! MY EYES!” and “TURN IT OFF! DEAR GOD TURN IT OFF!” to the other, each too afraid to approach the computer for fear of getting too close.

My friend inches towards the screen, covering her eyes and mouth as though it were a dead body. I see her peek through her fingers enough to find the exit button. She clicks off the site and falls to the floor in a heap of hysterical laughter. I am rubbing my eyes with such a fervor that one might think that I was trying to scratch my cornea in hopes to erase such a truly frightening image.

Oh no. This is NOT what my husband had in mind when he purchased this computer for me.

I think of him flying in a jet. I think of him in a flight suit. I think of him with that devilish smile as he stands on the tarmac and looks into the sun. I think of him, and OH JESUS AND FRED, WHY CAN I NOT BURN THIS IMAGE OUT OF MY HEAD!!??

Eventually we calm down enough to switch over to Skype, call her sister, and coo over her new baby. This helps to healing process, we say to each other while still snorting with laughter. See, these are the types of things that happen to a girl that understands the importance of coordinating technology to ones features, but is completely oblivious when it comes to the actual capabilities of said instrument

The next day as I concentrate on typing a pitch on my computer, my Skype pops up and announces my husband is online. I eye the ring tone box suspiciously. I stare into the camera, eyebrow raised in defiance, daring it to misbehave. When I click answer, I hold my breath. I know it’s going to be him on the other line, but I fear that I’ve somehow compromised the security of the Internet wires, and my computer will somehow retaliate for me forcing it to go through the trauma of pixelating the images of the previous night.

And then he pops into the window, my darling husband. Dressed in a flight suit and smiling, he literally looks like a movie star dressed up for a 1940s era role.

“Hi, honey, can you hear me? Can you see me?”

“Yes! I can!”

And as I settle into comfortable conversation with him I remind myself that next time I have a question about how to use my camera, my computer, a program, or an internet website, I’m not going to try and figure out how to do it myself.

I’ll just ask a third grader.


Jess said...

I totally hear you on the 4am skype encounters. Tim is on tour right now, and somehow, the lighting in those hotel rooms always makes HIM look like a shining beacon of light. grumble.

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