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Article: Electronically Handicapped - Electronics are great, but sometimes we forget about the old fashion "hands-on" methods

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Electronically Handicapped

Are we so inundated with electrical devices we’ve forgotten how to do certain tasks without them? I believe the time has come when common sense values and electronics have crossed paths to change the way some people assume things are done. Yes, we’ve become electronically handicapped by the very means that are supposed to make things better.

Expecting those electronic wonders to always be in working order is one thing, but not knowing what to do when those devices fail and having to resort to good old fashion “hands on” is where the problems and frustrations begin.

Case in point: a guy calls and asks if I can fix his speedometer. He explains he wouldn’t be able to drive the car to the shop, because he has no idea how fast he’s going. I suggested he just stay up with traffic or download one of the many apps displaying mph. This led to even more hysteria because he was afraid of an electronic bug affecting his phone. Instead, all he wanted was one of those “I ain’t holding ya to it” estimates. Not knowing the reason why his speedometer wasn’t working, I gave him a rough guess on the cost of the various components related to a speedometer problem.

He then tells me, “Let me know when the part shows up.” I asked, “What part?” Now I’m confused. Finally, it came down to one question. “Sir, even if I knew exactly what component or problem you’re having, how are you going to get the car here? Tow truck, or do you want me to come and get it?” I asked. Absolutely no tow trucks, and he didn’t want anyone else to drive his car. Instead, he was going to check “YouTube” for a video on how to fix it.

At the top of the list of people who have become electronically handicapped would be this lady: She called to tell me her door locks stopped working, and how she was trapped in her car for several hours until her husband showed up. (He unlocked the door with the key from the outside.) I asked her, “Why didn’t you just unlock the door from the inside?” Her answer, “Sir, I pushed the button several times but it never would unlock the door.” I calmly asked (although I was secretly bursting with laughter), “Why didn’t you use the mechanical lock knob or push the manual lock lever in the opposite direction?”

The tone of her voice was enough to tell you she was more than a little shaken up over the whole door lock ordeal. Thinking I could ease her obvious tension, I suggested that she could have rolled the window down, but that just spurred her anxiety even more. She couldn’t understand why I would suggest such a thing; she would have had to start the car in order to do that. Since the windows were up, the fear of carbon monoxide poisoning was an even bigger concern.

Pretty soon, there will be a generation that won’t understand or even care to know anything about some of the old technologies. That is until they’re face-to-face with a situation calling for some nostalgic common sense and mechanical know-how. We’ve modernized the family car into a nightmarish electronic wonder, which has caused a lot of people to lose touch with the basic fundamentals of its operation. Not only is it more complicated electronically, but it’s also becoming more reliant on GPS and computers. Take for instance the autonomous car or the lane check systems.

Here’s something else that I don’t understand: We still call a manual shift transmission a standard transmission. There’s nothing “standard” about it anymore. It was the standard for decades, but not anymore. Now it’s rather rare for new drivers to even know how to operate a stick shift.

We’ve all become so complacent with our modern electronic conveniences that opening a garage door by hand seems barbaric in some way. I know I’m guilty of it myself.

One time after a rather long and frustrating day at the shop, I came down my driveway tapping my finger on the garage door remote button. The door refused to move. Not to be outwitted by a garage door remote, I sat out there bashing the button and cussing at the door… determined to get that blasted thing to raise one more time. Eventually, the wife comes out and opens the door from the inside button, standing there with that typical wife look of disbelief, staring at her goof ball husband having a heart-to-heart talk with a dead garage door remote. Her response was priceless, “The battery is probably dead in the remote dummy! Just get out of the truck and open the door!”

Even now, you see people who don’t have a clue how to use their turn signals. I doubt they know the proper hand signals. Of course, that would mean rolling down the electric window, which probably doesn't work either. What about the tire monitor systems on cars these days? How many people know how to properly use a tire pressure gauge? Then again, why? We’ve got electronics to take care of that stuff.

A vehicle operator seems to require less common sense these days as the electronic world has already accomplished these tasks with minimal to no effort with things like voice activated entertainment to navigation controls. Why, we even have crash avoidance systems and air bags to keep us safe. More to the point… less personal responsibility for your actions; make it the car’s responsibility.

I grew up in the time when road maps were in every glove box. Folding one back up from the passenger seat while giving directions could be a contest of wit and skill to say the least. You paid attention to the road signs and observed the different land features as well as points of interest that were pointed out in the map details. These days, you listen to this voice on the navigation system that says, “Turn right in 500 feet onto exit 227.” Why, I’ll bet you didn’t even notice you passed the world’s largest ball of string a mile back. It seems the navigation voice failed to mention anything about all those roadside features the folding map could tell you about. Just goes to show how much we have become dependent on these electronic devices.

So, you say, “Yea well, I might be a little electronically handicapped, but I’m not as bad as ya think. I could handle living like they did a hundred years ago. No battery needed to start a horse.” Oh, really? A century ago anyone over 10 years old could hitch up a two horse team to a buggy for an afternoon trip to town and knew how to deal with their horses’ temperament. Can you? Back then, that knowledge was passed down from father to son. These days, well, you’re more likely to Google the answer than ask Grandpa.



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