In this, the age of technology, there's no surer sign that you've "arrived" than if your work emails are deemed important enough to carry an automatically generated confidentiality disclaimer at the bottom. You've no doubt received such emails, concluding with a vague threat like:
"This message is private and intended solely for the use of the addressee. No one but the intended recipient may read, forward, transcribe, act on or even inhale deeply anywhere near the information enclosed without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball. So don't get any funny ideas. This computer will self-destruct in ten seconds."
These disclaimers may seem severe, but they convey a strong message from companies that unauthorized persons should not have access to employees' sensitive emails containing highly confidential lists of flatulence jokes and embedded YouTube videos of cats scuba diving.
By contrast, my emails convey a very different message, the message that I am not to be taken seriously, that I'm hopelessly out of date, that the only appropriate response to receiving an email from me is pity. I say this because, much as I hate to admit it publicly, my primary email provider is… America Online.
You remember AOL, right? It's the company that back in the 90s used to send out dozens of promotional CD-ROMs to anyone who could conclusively prove that they had a mailing address. The operative theory was that with so many CDs flooding your home, the odds were good that at least one of them would somehow find its way into your disk drive (note: the same principle explains human reproduction).
Well, AOL is still around, supported almost exclusively by those of us too lazy or technologically challenged to switch to the far superior services from Hotmail, Yahoo or Google. As a result, sending an email from an AOL address has become today's Internet equivalent of showing up to compete in the Tour de France riding one of those old-fashioned bikes with the giant front wheel.
Over time, I've grown accustomed to the resulting lack of respect from my more tech-savvy friends, colleagues and elderly relatives. But now I'm worried that the same disdainful attitude may have infected my computer as well. Looking back, I think the trouble started the day my AOL prompts all inexplicably began appearing in Spanish.
Now I admit my memory is far from perfect, but I was pretty sure I hadn't recently learned Spanish and then adjusted my settings to reflect my new fluency. Thankfully, I was able to find the page on AOL where I could click a box to switch everything back to English. It was refreshing to know that correcting such an obvious error was so easy. It almost makes up for the fact that doing so made absolutely no difference, and all my AOL prompts continue to be in Spanish. Frankly, I'm probably lucky they haven't all switched over to Klingon.
But I suspect that, as a result of this episode, my computer simply decided to take it easy. Its one-time lightning-fast performance slowed to a crawl; not only does it take more than 20 minutes to boot up, but frequently when I become particularly demanding and, say, try to open a new browser window, the computer's immediate response is… nothing. For upwards of a minute or two the computer just sits there, humming away, filing its virtual nails as I grow increasingly impatient. Then, just as I'm about to put my fist through the monitor, the screen jumps to life, as if to say, "Oh! Did you want a new browser window? Sorry about that here you go!"
I guess the reason I haven't done much to solve the problem is that these performance issues only came on gradually, steadily worsening over the course of a few months. In this way I'm like the frog that's placed into a pot of cold water on the stove and, no matter how hot the water gets, the frog just sits there, ignorant of the danger, passively waiting for a new browser page to open.
Which is not to say that I've done nothing at all. At one point, thinking that my computer woes might be the result of some sort of cyber-infection, I did purchase and install a range of programs promising to rid me of all spyware, adware and viruses. The new programs had an immediate effect my computer now runs slower than ever.
Well, now I've reached my limit. From now on I will no longer let my computer push me around just because I generally demonstrate less technological competence than a chimpanzee catching termites with a stick. I'm going to solve my computer problems by attacking the source and doing something I should have done a long time ago. I'm going to start learning Spanish.