Readers' Submissions

The Bionic Man



In the pre-dawn darkness I pedal through the school gates, knowing that it lurks silently, unmoving, waiting for me. Its one eye glowing neon green, its luminosity drawing me inexorably forward. I approach it with the grim resolution of a man surrendering himself to his fate. I lightly place my right index finger upon its shining surface and wait. Have I done it correctly? Will my quest be fulfilled? After what seems an eternity, but is really only no more than a second or two, a disembodied female voice begins to speak. “Bahn teuk sam rak kha”. Yes! I have once again successfully logged into the school’s new high tech biometric “time clock”. It seems I have just the right touch, not too soft, not too hard. A few months ago we switched over from a written log book to this modern marvel. Gee, I guess I can’t have my friends sign me in and out anymore. I don’t know if there was a problem with Thai teachers showing up late and leaving early, but only your fingerprint can activate this little device. Welcome to a Brave New World here in the Land of Smiles!

It wasn’t long after that we all received IDs and passwords for logging onto the internet. Are Men in Black busy monitoring each and every keystroke we make? Since I am neither visiting porn nor subversive websites from my office computer, the point is moot. It is no secret though that a special branch of the army is busily monitoring the web here in Thailand in an attempt to ferret out “disloyalty”. Did I say Brave New World? Did I say Brave New World? Perhaps 1984 would be a better choice.

Of course not all this new technology is designed to peep into our private lives. In fact I wouldn’t be alive and kicking to write this if wasn’t for some cutting edge medical wonders. Since coming to live here in Thailand, my life has been saved three separate times in the state of the art cardiac surgical theatre at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. In my arteries I now sport four of the tiniest…and most expensive pieces of plastic you could imagine. In that sense I truly am the Bionic Man! Ain’t life grand?

I suppose one of the most ubiquitous pieces of technology in Thailand is the cell phone. In all honesty I rarely use one. I am not really much of a conversationalist on the phone. I don’t yak just for the sake of flapping my gums. I prefer to do my talking face to face. It is handy though to have one just in case of an emergency. My wife was able contact my cardiologist as we raced through the night during my last cardiac episode.

There are some pretty fancy phones available. What up and coming bar girl doesn’t have a mobile without every bell and whistle available? I however have the plainest vanilla phone imaginable. No camera, music players or internet browsers. I don’t have a bunch of pop ring tones. It is simply a telephone. It will probably last me forever…if my tee-rak doesn’t destroy it! My darling wife has bad luck with cell phones. Well, I shouldn’t really say bad luck. What I mean is that she simply can’t take care of one. She’s gone through three of them in the past three years. They have been dropped into water, smashed to bits by our son, dropped, stepped on etc. And as for lost chargers…let’s not go there please!

I know that among the imponderables I could be contemplating this question is rather silly, but…I cannot for the life of me understand how the umpteen thousand shops that sell mobiles make a living. They are usually packed cheek to jowl in every street, shopping center and mall. They all sell the same damned phones at identical prices. With no real competition, how do they all survive?

Inquiring minds want to know!

I am certainly no technophobe. I am fascinated with technology. I am not a complete moron, yet why is it that I often struggle with every stinking instruction manual in the universe. I am embarrassed to admit that I am incapable of programming my VCR. When anything goes out of whack with my computer or some software, I flounder about looking through a troubleshooting guide…usually in vain until I find a friend to come over to demystify the problem.

In my defense, I feel compelled to state the obvious. As far as I’m concerned Windows and every other Microsoft product sucks! If Apple had simply licensed out its operating system way back when, it would be a Macintosh world now. When we moved to Thailand, we only had room to take one computer with us. Since my wife grew up with a PC, we decided to take her Dell here, leaving my dear Mac behind. Much of the computer grief I experience could not happen on a Mac. Oh well, if I ever strike it rich (LOL) I will buy myself a nice new Powerbook. Until then I will soldier on. I really do need to install Linux one of these days!

Often times the most obvious things need to be explained to me the way you would to a small child. Here’s a recent case in point. Whenever there are pictures in one of my submissions, I send them “embedded” in a Word document with no problem. For some reason when I tried to send a recent piece (Cupid to the Rescue!) as a Gmail attachment, it was simply too large. Maybe it was because of my new camera. My old Sony Cybershot recently bit the dust. Its replacement has almost three times the resolution. I tried everything imaginable to send the damned thing. I took the pictures out of the story and tried to send them individually. No luck. I finally e-mailed my buddy Stick and asked for advice. Reduce the size of the files he said. But how I asked? He sent me a URL to download a program which would “solve all my problems”.

Right! Apparently he overestimated my ability to understand what I perceive as “techno babble”. Needless to say I couldn’t figure out anything. Finally, after half a dozen exchanges of e-mails Stick finally told me what I needed to know. Resize the pictures, making each one 500 pixels in height and then save them as JPEG files. Finally the sun shone into the depths of my brain. I deleted this new bit of software and fixed everything in Photoshop. Voila! While I can only do the most basic of tasks in Photoshop, I do understand how to accomplish a thing or two. I do my real photo “touchups” using Picassa (a Google product) which is so easy even I can use it without courting a brain aneurysm!

I know that many of you out there who are more technologically accomplished are laughing your heads off, especially if you are a few decades younger than I am. Be that as it may, at least I know all my Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes!

Stickman's thoughts:

I'm with you on mobile phones. I have the shittiest oldest phone of anyone!

As far as having to clock in at school, oh God, I hate it when companies insist employees have to do that…