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Un-Excelled

The Struggles of Modern Tech



At 58.6 years, I received a job offer I could not refuse.  As my traveling partner noted, “No one is seeking out your demographic for jobs—even with excellent root work on the natural blondness and skillfully applied concealer in unconcealed places--your value in the generic workplace is limited.  Quick, accept the job before they figure out your depth in the 1900’s!”  I had a post-retirement job I was very happily negotiating.  I only needed excellent people skills, proficient writing skills, and limited computer operation knowledge.  This new job required all the same with one exception—significant digital operations are necessary to complete many operations of the position.  I dutifully informed my future employer he was tapping on the wrong keyboard, but he was insistent I could adapt.

One month into the new job and I am less than adaptive at operations beyond my beloved Word and Power Pointless.  For many years, I have avoided the dreaded Excel method of charts and measures.  No matter how many times I hear, “It is the easiest program to learn, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH,” I can locate the one key-strike that deletes and/or jumbles beyond recognition the neatly applied columns of numbers.  For decades, I have been able to pass on the Excel chore to someone who LOVES to work the endless column of endless numbers.  It is easy enough:  As someone who is speedy at getting almost anything accomplished, I can take mega hours to complete an Excel task.  Usually, someone volunteers to help me and then quickly figures out they can finish it faster than they can teach me the secret code of Excel.

My method of ignorance caught up with me when my new boss looked me directly in the eye and asked, “Can you even work Excel?”  In full truthfulness, I responded, “Of course I can; just not very fast or with columns, numbers, categories and adding up stuff.”  He thought that was really funny and told me to get the report in by the end of the day.  Before I could clarify my truth, he was out the door and I was alone with columns, numbers, categories, and a need to add up stuff.  Not to panic, I did what all old people do when they need technology help—I called my 20-something cousin in a panic and bribe her to come over immediately to HELP!

Dakota is my go-to for most technical assistance. Much like the helpful individuals halfway across the world in a reverse time zone, she is cheerful, efficient and her accent is understandable.  I only get confused when she uses a phrase like, “What operating system are you using?” or “Did you download your work to your E drive and save to your thumb?”  Usually, the answers are “I don’t know and no.”  This does not deter her hope to someday make me operating-systems-literate.  So, we began our unExcelled journey.

As I attempted to keep up with her skillfully dancing fingers, I failed at writing down each step and as always happens, it is the ONE simple button push that makes everything happen.  Her reference to ‘google’ my questions and/or pull up a YouTube video for instructions is not helpful to me.  I do not understand the computer language they reference.  My screen never matches the screen they are showing and typically, as I attempt to print the instructions, the ink is low or the paper is jammed.   As we all know, the cat videos cause the much-delayed continuance of anything productive.

I asked Dakota how she knew all this fancy keyboard dancing.  She looked at me like I was from Jupiter and said, “In my Excel class in the sixth grade.”  It is hard enough to explain to her I never had the opportunity to take any computer class much less remind her that in my sixth grade there were no computers, microwave ovens, cable television, cell phones much less YouTube.  She was concentrating on something called ‘sum’ to add up all the numbers in all the columns I managed to jumble during the day and she fixed in five minutes.  Suddenly we (she) had a perfected Excel document that made me look more competent than I would ever claim.

The weekend was upon us, so I took her out to dinner and promptly forgot anything she so patiently attempted to impart on my aging brain.  She provided me with a sheet of Excel codes to use as I create my next document.  The various combinations do not come with the ‘when you do this, this will happen, do this next’ instructions. Monday will come soon enough and I will face the Excel screen with panic and flop sweat attempting to create a new scrambled document. Dakota is speed dial #1 for the control-z question.

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