Monday, February 23, 2015

The Luddite versus the Megabyte

“Great news!” the email from my CPA’s assistant informed me.  “We’re going green and paperless this tax season!  Click here to download and print your necessary forms at www.blah, blah, blah”.

“Register online to receive your W-2 forms from this payroll company!” another email reveled joyously; who too, had apparently jumped upon the save-a-tree bandwagon.  “Click here!” I was prompted to access the website and divulge all of my personal data including my social security number to be transmitted to God knows where (a “cloud”?), so as to minimize paperwork.
(Yeah, NO.)

But by the third letter in my email inbox regarding the extraordinary importance of all things digital from yet another source (of EIGHT previous employers!) who blissfully track my Residual checks for payment of re-run television episodes, and who were equally lauding the vital preservation of paper (versus the protection of my private information?), I was prompted yet again to “click here!”; visit a website, set up a user name and create a password.
Again:  yeah, NO!

As I’m currently the possessor of a list of nearly fifty disparate (unrelated) websites with passwords (that aren’t even actually WORDS); handfuls of security question answers in case I have a “senior moment” (seriously, I had to think for a second to even recall what I ate for breakfast yesterday); not to mention a gazillion different user names (none of which I can remember without a cheat sheet), I chose to “click THERE” and simply turn off the computer.  
Granted, this Luddite (me) started this blog in a quiet effort of trying to make sense of the world as it pertains to my moderately eccentric, occasionally neurotic and rather unusual life in the “glamorous” world of Tinsel Town; but frankly I don’t ever recall clicking a hearty universal “OK!” as to the approval of scattering my personal information regarding every single penny (if you will) that I’ve ever earned, all willy-nilly into megabytes across the stratosphere of the internet for any bored hacker to access after he or she has lost at a multi-media role-playing game and would like to tap into my finances to digitally purchase ogre-repellant armor for their fierce warrior ostrich avatar.

Yet facing the rather undeniable and formidable future of the ridiculous technological crappy hoops that we are all apparently destined to jump through , I chose to take a step back and looked scholastically to the past for guidance.
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  ~Benjamin Franklin (1789).

Granted our ‘new Constitution’ in the USA of “Reality TV” and “Non-Fiction” programming has most certainly taken over the air-waves (an unfortunate amendment to my personal delicate dietary constitution of ingesting quality writing/acting/directing);  additionally I’ll likely have to continue to slam on the brakes of my car (even though I drive like a slow-poke granny) as throngs of ear-budded pedestrians mosey like utterly oblivious cud-chewing cattle whilst jay-walking/texting with no regard to their personal safety; and yes, worst of all for a Luddite like myself, at some point in the future, I suspect that I too, will have no choice but to be Borg-like assimilated as a cybernetic organism into the Collective, as apparently “resistance is futile”.  (Hey, my aversion to current technology has absolutely nothing to do with my love of watching old repeats of “Star Trek:  The Next Generation”!)
But by golly, as an eternal optimist, I still felt that there existed a few Luddite battles well worth fighting for!

Conceding to a potential “middle ground” of the Luddite versus the Megabyte, I surrounded myself with all due necessary paper documents as to my legal claim regarding my rights as a temporarily laid off Actor with the Unemployment Department. 

“If all of the other out of work people in California can figure this out, I can do this too!” I rallied my spirit as I attempted to complete the online EDD form from my home laptop.
I’d logged in successfully!

I’d found my World Wide Web Official history of existence and employment!
I was sooo on my way to completing said form! 

Only TEN more pages to go (after half an hour) of confirming the initial questionnaire that I’m indeed a US Citizen; no, I’m not involved in Military Service; no, I’m not a primary share holder in a major corporation; nor I am not currently attending school, nor am I an ‘illegal alien’ (I’m not yet a cybernetic Borg!), when suddenly I found myself abruptly stymied by Page Five regarding my income...

Yes, I got paid by Sony Pictures.  Yes, I received multiple checks from NBC Universal.  But where was the little computer online box to record that I haven’t physically worked on those shows for eight (or twenty) years or even visited those Studios?   And where, oh where might I find a teeny tiny two-space block wherein to reply that yes, I received income from a previous on-camera performance on a cable show, wherein I was ostentatiously compensated for the whopping amount of seven cents?  (Yes, that would be BEFORE taxes, of course.  The US Government took three cents.  No joke!)
Quite frankly, I was loathing this whole Internet ‘meshugas’ once again. 

And so yet, with another defiant “click THERE”, I shut down the computer and unplugged every cable.
Perhaps there are some battles that you just can’t win...

But by golly, this Pen would still attempt to be mightier than the sword of the Megabyte, darnit!
So in true dramatic Hollywood fashion, I went Postal!

Wandering about my CPA’s website the next day, I finally found a “Contact us!  Click here!” link (FFS); and promptly alerted the assistant via email that I’m still a stead-fast Luddite; sans scanner, sans printer; and if they wished to continue my yearly business since 1991, they would most necessarily appropriately print out my designated paperwork and kindly forward said proper documents through snail-mail.

Additionally (not particularly sure when I grew a set of menopausal metaphorical testicular balls), I brazenly attempted to tackle the Unemployment Office via landline all the way to Sacramento, CA to open a new claim with the EDD; as despite my Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited University, I’m still apparently too phenomenally digitally-stupid to accomplish the task on my own.
“Do you have any disabilities?”  I totally lucked out with the world’s most patient Government employee “Sarah”, who gently guided me through the process for the next forty-five minutes over my landline telephone.

(Do I have any disabilities?  Umm... Would that include technological challenges?  Am I ‘disabled’ when my tablet suddenly refuses to send an email, yet promises that all information is either stored in an inaccessible outbox or on a “cloud”?  Or am I ‘disabled’ when my laptop opts to take a nap, and spins an endless visual wheel cog whilst I sit for twenty minutes?)  
“I wear prescription glasses and occasionally contact lenses”, I thought it best to confirm to Sarah, lest the Government fine me an additional three cents.

With my (ever-so-reluctant) appointment rescheduled (four times over) as to the appropriation regarding the technological up-grade of my landline and laptop to fiber optics by a complete stranger re-wiring my bat-cave, I steadfastly ponied up the street for a chocolate shake (with whipped cream!) and brought home a Swiss cheeseburger with french fries to properly sturdy myself as to the oncoming futile resistance...

After all, I wholeheartedly deserved a reward as I’d accomplished a preliminary extraordinary week of tidying, dusting, vacuuming - as well as Dirt Deviling obscure areas - and by all accounts, I’d achieved the perfectly designed, properly desired, Hollywood fa├žade of successfully disguising my (in this case, “house-keeping”) less than-ideal flaws. 
And thus, sans the red carpet, sans the paparazzi, I welcomed (fifteen minutes of fame early!) my very own Oscar into my Tinsel Town abode.   (OK, seriously?  What are the infinitesimal odds that for the second consecutive year during the week of the Academy Awards, The Universe presents me with an “Oscar” in a supporting role of upgrading my home?  Pinch my cheek, and call me Meryl Streep!)   

Spelunking with his bald (just like the golden statuette!) bright head-light above his full beard (not at ALL like the golden statuette, but very rock-n-roll Hollywood) as he explored every cavernous nook and cranny of the clusters of my inner-sanctum dust-bunny walls and closets in search of phone jacks, I sat rather anxiously on my pristinely covered bed as my award-winning Oscar casually tossed half of his cable equipment from the bowels of his service truck onto my comforter.  (My retinas are still burning from the visual assault upon my beloved Sanctuary...)
“Do you mind if I move your dresser?” Oscar asked politely as he propped open a drawer and hefted my heavily-laden firmly-implanted 1988 “Brobdingnagian” behemoth of a bureau away from the wall.  (Uck!  I didn’t even want to THINK about what he might find lurking behind that particular curtain of Oz!) 

But two hours and forty-five minutes later, having escaped the possibility of drilling a hole through the wall behind one of my regal bedside lion sculptures poised upon its Corinthian column, and with only a staple gun to secure my fiber-optic cable running from an outlet in my hallway up and over the door, right through some seriously fierce dust-bunny congregations (Hello?  Who looks up there?  Had I known, I would have Swiffered!); Oscar firmly affixed and relocated my land-line to a better and more secure location closer to my new (second) “wireless” computer modem.
Frankly, this Penny is rather uncomfortable with “change” (pun intended), but I’m truly (slowly) attempting to adapt to the new Constitution of Technology.
Don’t get me wrong kind readers; I’m certainly not racing out to purchase a smart phone any time soon as I’m still ridiculously befuddled by the world of data plans, megabytes, fiber optics and what-not; nor am I in any rush to leap into the baffling world of social media.  (God love you all, but to each, his own!) 

And granted, it totally sucked that whilst loyally Luddite-ishly tearing out a crossword from a perforated Simon and Schuster book of 300 challenging puzzles, I suffered a wee paper-cut on my pinkie...  (TRAITOR!) 
But at least I managed to complete all of my snail-mail tax forms, joyfully drive to the US Post Office, and with Certified Mail ensuring my vitally secure signed-for delivery; my eventual refunds shall be successfully processed and electronically deposited into my checking account sans any further “Click Here!” promptings.

And as to Oscar?
Well, I’d like to thank the Academy of fiber optics, as I just discovered that for the first time since 1988, I have “call waiting” on my landline!  (I don’t yet know how to properly use this feature, but perhaps eventually I can assimilate?) 

Forever bordering tentatively on the collective Borg,
~One Penny of the Millions

P.S.  Logging on this morning, I was joyously surprised and happily overwhelmed to discover that a similar post to this one (that I published two years ago in January titled “OOOGH!”), had received over a hundred hits in just one day last week from somewhere in Europe.  Thank you, my fellow Luddites!  We shall neither be ashamed nor admonished for feeling digitally-challenged!